Writing this post is a little bittersweet for me. By the time you’re reading this, Bled Fest will be officially ended after 15 years of punk rock. I haven’t been part of it for the entire run, but in the 4 years I’ve attended Bled Fest, I have really grown to love and appreciate the community that Nate Dorough and the other organizers have fostered here. But alas, Bled Fest has lost its venue and gone the way of all good things. Here are some of the things that struck me this year.
The first year we came to Bled Fest, nobody wanted to talk to us about suicide. We had a handful of really great folks who did (you know who you are) and they were most of the reason we came back again the next year. Every year was a little better than the last, but this year has blown me away. I talked to so many people, from old punks like us at Six Feet Over to teenagers, who recognize mental health as imperative and have taken steps to help their communities do better in this. This list is absolutely shorter than it needs to be, because I couldn’t possibly thank everyone for all the work they do to make this world better, but here’s a start:
First there’s Nicholas, who serves in the National Guard. He talked to us at length about the culture within the military that contributes to the silence surrounding service-related suicides. Nicholas is an attempt survivor, and at a recent summit about military suicides, Nicholas shared his story in order to open the conversation. He told us that during this summit, he blew an air horn every 65 minutes, which is the widely accepted statistic on the frequency of veteran suicides. To Nicholas, for making it impossible to ignore the issue and opening the conversation up to your fellow veterans: Thank you.
I also met Dom. Dom worked through U of M to help establish Arbor Esports club. If you’re like me and aren’t immersed in gamer culture, esports are competitive video games. He also actively works to make gamer-specific mental health resources available to the members of his club, and those adjacent to it who aren’t necessarily members. To Dom, for making sure your people have what they need: Thank you.
Sarah works with the band Pity Party out of Oakland, CA to provide regional resources to the punk community while they’re on tour. I was able to share a lot of the materials Six Feet Over distributes in Michigan, and in turn she gave me some really rad zines that she designs and prints herself that talk about self-care and finding help. I also saw her perpetrate a multitude of small acts of kindness, and she has the most genuine smile I have ever seen on a human being. To Sarah, for being some otherworldly creature made purely of love that does really cool stuff for her people: Thank you.
Nate Dorough took Big Love’s Educational Festival and built it into a space for everyone, regardless of race, gender, sexuality or creed. This weekend, he ejected someone from the space for using a wildly offensive slur against gay folks. It was definitely Top 5 Most Satisfying Moments in My Life to see someone protecting an inclusive and safe space in real time. To Nate and the myriad other organizers who have dumped hours and sweat and tears and probably literal blood into this event: Thank you. You have made this world so much better. To all of the social workers, therapists, and community volunteers who stopped to talk to us but were too many to count, let alone name: Thank you. Your work is important and needed. We love you.
If you have ever taken care of your community in any way — if you’ve protected your LGBT+ friends, if you’ve stayed up with a friend in crisis, if you’ve driven a friend to rehab, if you’ve volunteered with the crisis line, if you’ve donated to a cause that has affected you, if you’ve ever done anything in an effort to keep your friends alive and healthy: Thank you. You are amazing, and you are loved.
If you have been taken care of by your community, if music has ever saved your life, if you’ve tried to die and stayed instead: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I’m so glad you’re still here to share moments and days like this with us, with me. I love you. We in your community and chosen family love you, and we’re so happy to have you.
If you’re still feeling lost, if you’re still looking for something to keep you tied here, if you have days where you don’t feel like you’re going to make it: We want you to stay. We love you. We will be your community. If you want to talk, we’ll listen. If you want to scream your lungs out, we’ll scream with you. Whatever you need, we will give it to you.
Bled Fest might be over, but the community that grew out of it and the support they provide are not. Nate and the other organizers will find a new venue, create a new event, and hopefully continue to build on what they’ve made with Bled Fest. I’m proud to have been part of this in any capacity—it’s brought me so many friends, opened so many doors for collaboration with other organizations, and given me hope for the future that waits for all of us when I needed it the most. So, to anyone who has ever attended Bled Fest, I give the biggest thank you of all.
This post was authored by Six Feet Over Secretary, Liz Thon.