Where Does Mental Health Fit in a Music Scene?

January 30, 2018
by host

Gemini, born Spencer Kincy, is one of Chicago’s all time finest house producers. Given the mixes of his floating around the web, he was one of the genres most singular DJs too.

Yet, it’s been over 15 years since Kincy has had anything to do with music.

Local house music publication 5 Magazine published a series of articles a few years back about the strange fact that Gemini records were getting repressed at a pretty rapid clip, while Kincy himself had basically vanished from the scene. The last traces of him were paranoid fits of accusations against fellow house DJs, and a series of lawsuits raised against the likes of the FBI, the CIA, and the Department of Justice.

Per a 2012 article, “I tracked down Spencer Kincy to an SRO hotel in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood. Though I haven’t been able to confirm his location in the past year, it seems likely he’s still in the area – and still in the same state. The moment was fairly painful for a longtime admirer; suffice to say that Spencer was not in any mind to DJ or make music and seems to care little about either.”

Spencer Kincy’s story resonates with a common one that you can come by any time, in any place, in any music community. Everybody is together doing their thing, and then one day someone drops out. Sometimes that person is sorely missed and sometimes that person doesn’t leave on good terms. Perhaps this person gets effectively forgotten about for several years until some music gets re-released, or we see some posts on a new Facebook account, or hear some bad news.

There’s this paradox when it comes to music scenes. A party can be a haven for our true selves, but it can also be the perfect darkened room to disappear into over and over again. You can indulge your best self or shut out the world’s worst. A lot of times, we’re doing both of these simultaneously. Similarly, we can use these opportunities — with all that sensory stimuli and those wonderful friends — to ignore the attention we should be paying to ourselves. Sometimes, we use all that to ignore the people struggling just mere feet away.

There’s one incident I think back to a lot. It’s not a mental health thing, but it stands out nonetheless. It was at Ende Tymes, I think the last year that I lived in New York. That would be 2014. There was this giant dude dressed in all black, like a lot of people there. He was drinking, like a lot of people there. He was kind of rowdy, and so was the crowd. And then during Vomir’s set, this guy just collapsed. He almost took Vomir’s rig down with him.

That’s the moment I always fear when I set up a show, or go to support my friends, or flee to a dance party to escape my week. It’s that moment when it became clear there were signs to watch out for before something really scary happened. But instead, the scary thing happened and all you can do is clean it up.

This post is supposed to be the seed for several which look at the mental health concerns that, while certainly aren’t particularly more prevalent or profound in our music communities, affect us and our communities nonetheless.

Music often feels like the ultimate cure, and a lot of us are drawn to it for that exact reason. The socializing, drugs, and loud sounds end up being great ways to deal with everything from a bad day to untreated mental health concerns, from complex trauma to the antagonisms from the outside world that make places as ordinary as the supermarket sites of unwelcome human interaction.

How can you deal with that bad shit when enjoying amazing music with your friends just comes up short? What are the options when you have been traumatized by a situation that resulted from taking part in a music scene?

These articles will have a lot of overlap. Some will focus on working with specific mental health conditions, some will talk about specific types of therapy, some will focus on the broader subject of music and healing. Whenever there’s an opportunity, these guides will give some advice for finding help on a low budget or without health insurance.

The first in the series is about treating PTSD. As I have mentioned before, much of Groove Cafe’s initial content revolves around issues that were raised by the Ghost Ship tragedy. Indeed, a lot of survivors from that are struggling with that trauma, and in some cases this manifests as PTSD.

Thinking through that tragedy and its aftermath raised the question “What could a publication offer that would help musicians who find themselves struggling?” I hope these guides provide, at bare minimum, a starting point.

If there are specific mental health or therapeutic topics you would like to see discussed as part of this series, get in touch at host@groove.cafe. I’ll do some research and post an article, or at the very least pass along something relevant I’ve come across.

These are by no means definitive guides to dealing with these complex and difficult issues, but hopefully they provide a starting point. Always feel free to get in touch to relay research, your own experiences, or suggested edits.

Hopefully this series articulates that there is room in our identities as music makers, promotors, and lovers to be the healthiest that we can be. It’s for ourselves, it’s for each other. No one has to live life unwell in order to be a great artist, or to enjoy profound art with the people they care about most.


Seeking Help

Treating PTSD (on an Artist’s Budget)


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