Vulnerability in songwriting is as old as the folk tradition. So it’s perhaps no surprise that all three venerable acts will take part in the free fifth annual Sound Mind Music Festival in Bushwick this weekend.
“Brooklyn, and Bushwick in particular, is a vibrant neighborhood with rich cultural heritage and an active arts community,” the Sound Mind Festival’s executive director Chris Bullard tells Brooklyn Magazine. “Bushwick has over the years retained its resilience, with a strong commitment to social justice and activism.
From in-person meditation sessions to performances from some of indie music’s most recognizable acts, the Sound Mind Festival will be held this Saturday, May 20, with performances by Iron & Wine, Slim, Hiss Golden Messenger as well as Brooklyn-based Pom Pom Squad and KAMAUU. The all-day event will kick off at noon between Irving and Wyckoff Avenue.
And for the first time in its five-year run, the concert will be presented for free, and attendees will receive one month of access to BetterHelp, included with their ticket. Additional programming will include DJ sets sponsored by House of Yes, holistic mental health events such as yoga and breathwork sessions, as well as food provided by the iconic New York summer institution Smorgasburg.
“I’ve become sort of a mental health advocate by accident,” Langhorne Slim said on the WNYC program “All of It with Alison Stewart” this week. “I’ve gone through a lifetime of struggles with this stuff in my past and in my present and I expect some in my future. And I’ve found the more I reveal, the freer that I feel. So it’s only natural to put it in my music and Sound Mind is a beautiful organization that I’ve turned to for assistance and am proud to team up with them.”
Sound Mind is a non-profit committed to promoting dialogue around mental health through the marriage of advocacy and music by uniting musicians, artists, and forward-thinking organizations. While last year’s event was held in Central Park, the decision to move the festival into Brooklyn was rooted in a desire to support the community while honoring the rich cultural and artistic framework of the borough.
“Whether I was listening to an artist I loved or making it myself, music has allowed me to express my emotions in a way that I don’t get to in my everyday life,” says Mia Berrin, frontwoman for Brooklyn-based Pom Pom Squad. “Mental health issues can often be very isolating and talking openly about them in a communal space provides an opportunity for people with similar experience to connect. I hope that people leave feeling a little more understood.”
Helping to bring the event to life even further will be the panel programming, including expert discussions on a range of topics from mental health in communities of color to the importance of lived experience to mental health in the LGBTQ+ community and more.
“Through these types of dialogues we can move beyond hashtags and branding toward a culture of self-transformation and systems-transformation that can lay the foundation for a world where negative emotions hold crucial value for self-development,” says festival director Chris Bullard. “Our community has support structures both interpersonally and systemically to help foster this growth and transformation in more positive ways.”
The festival will collaborate with three local venues, including Bushwick’s House of Yes, to showcase a series of DJ sets during the day., is thrilled to team up with Sound Mind. Emphasizing the crucial role that local venues can play in sparking conversations about mental health, Anya adds
“We can be open and unashamed when talking about substance abuse issues,” says Anya Sapozhnikova, the co-founder of House of Yes. “We can continue to uphold the philosophy that nightlife is about the music, the people and the self expression versus about getting as obliterated as possible on substances. We can continue to create a space that celebrates the former while practicing harm reduction as much as possible when it comes to the latter.”