Four years ago, I was at a terrible place in my life, refusing to accept that I had a problem with alcohol and drugs. In an effort to help, my parents took me Hazelden Betty Ford Center in Plymouth, Minnesota. This treatment facility completely changed my life and taught me what addiction is.
I understood why I couldn’t fit in, always felt anxious and like something was off about me. As a child growing up, I saw multiple therapists, all trying to figure me out. Stepping into Hazelden and meeting with young women that have this disease made feel like I could finally fit in with people. I now have two and half years of sobriety under my belt, and I’m so grateful to have a music festival for people surviving with drug and alcohol addiction to come together.
In an effort to bring people with struggles together, Hazelden in Center City, Minnesota and The Current host an event called HazelFest every year. The festival celebrates recovery from addiction with music. No drinking, drugs or tobacco use was allowed on the music festival grounds, which is something you don’t really notice until you do.
Things kicked off at around 1:00 PM when The Jorgensen Band, a blues/soul band who provided some easy-listening to match with the overcast weather, took the stage. Next up, and continuing the easy-listening theme, was Katy Vernon, a pop/folk singer who originally hails from London. After ending up in the Twin Cities, she developed her sound into one that is reminiscent of early Sinead O’Connor.
After a brief changeover, the Cactus Blossoms took the stage. With a sound & general vibe that reminded me of The Everly Brothers, they not only provided one of the best sets of the day, but created a soft setting that makes you want to curl up in a blanket, read a good book while sipping a good cup of coffee, and watch the sunrise.
Mary Bue, a yoga studio owner from Minneapolis who moonlights as an indie musician, was next up on stage. Her folklore/punk-grunge sound was mood-changing, but in the best way possible, finally getting everyone up off their feet to shuffle around a bit. After Mary’s impressive set, we were offered an always-amazing performance from Union City, Tennessee native Chastity Brown. A banjo-wielding soul singer who possesses a hybrid country-jazz sound, Brown is someone who, if you haven’t seen her yet, you need to see as soon as possible.
The second to last act, MaLLY, a Minneapolis-based rapper who has been sober for 2 years, uses his craft to shed light on current issues in the world. Racism, drug abuse, and politics were all re-occurring themes in his performance, which culminated in a chant of “Fuck Donald Trump!” from the crowd. His personal journey in the music industry has been an impressive one, and it’s truly amazing seeing some musicians shaping their life for the better and staying sober. There’s a lot of drugs and alcohol involved in the music industry and musicians, unfortunately, have the tendency to get sucked into that lifestyle.
The final act of the night, Brother Ali, wasted no time in telling the audience how honored he was to perform at Hazelfest, and even went on to thank the audience for our bravery and strength in staying sober. Just hearing him speaking and watching him perform on stage made my heart warm and grateful to hear his kind words. He spent some time talking about his friend, Eyedea, a rapper from Saint Paul signed to Rhymesayers, who unfortunately died in his sleep from an opiate drug overdose in 2010.
One thing was clear from Brother Ali’s performance: this man, who was often teased for both being albino and a Muslim, wasn’t ashamed to be the way he is. He taught not only me, but other fans in the sobriety community, to appreciate who they are and to love ourselves.
If you know anyone that is suffering from addiction please reach out and find them the help they need.