Where Does Mental Health Fit in a Music Scene?

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.

Continue reading Where Does Mental Health Fit in a Music Scene?

Treating PTSD (on an Artist’s Budget)

This is part of a series on mental health and well-being in the music scene.

Put simply, PTSD makes life harder to live. In our cultural imagination, it’s often associated with troops who witnessed something heinous on the battlefield. Starting with the classification of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in the DSM–III — the 1980 edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s main toolkit for cataloging and diagnosing mental disorders — the mental health establishment started to recognize the psychiatric impact of traumatic events. “Battle fatigue” morphed into something the American medical establishment considered treatable.

If you’re interested in reading about the DSM–V’s criteria for PTSD you can read about it on the US Department of Veterans Affairs site. You’ll find that the current criteria is really geared towards people who have lived through a specific traumatic event. This criteria doesn’t necessarily account for the effects of trauma sustained over a period of time, such as sustained child sexual abuse, long-term domestic abuse, or years of experiencing intense homophobia or transphobia.

This guide will cover two forms of PTSD and discuss treatment of each. At the end, are some resources for finding mental health professionals.

It may seems peculiar for a music publication to cover a topic like treating PTSD. While there absolutely no reason to believe that PTSD affects musicians disproportionately from the rest of the population, the fact of the matter is that trauma can be so much of what drives a person to lose them, her, or himself in music or a music scene and that, conversely, a music scene can lead directly to trauma, be that by sexual violence, drug abuse, or something catastrophic like the Ghost Ship fire in Oakland.

So while musicians are likely not disproportionately afflicted by PTSD, musicians are nonetheless affected.

What is the nature of your trauma?

PTSD takes two main forms.

The first is the kind we think of when we think about soldiers, EMTs, and natural disaster survivors. This is PTSD as outlined in the DSM–V and is very much so incident based.

Continue reading Treating PTSD (on an Artist’s Budget)

Basic Resources for Running a Safe Party Space

This guide will always be a work in progress. Email host@groove.cafe with suggested additions or changes. This guide is cursory in nature, and individual points will be expanded as separate articles.

Parties are hard to keep safe, and bad things can happen to them at any time. Last year’s Ghost Ship tragedy in Oakland is — if we do it right from here on out — the most stark reminder of this simple fact we’ll get in our lifetimes.

In the wake of that stunning tragedy, a lot of the official talk around the event focused on how Ghost Ship was an illegal show space. It wasn’t up to code, it wasn’t zoned for living and performance, etc etc. And a lot of us in the scene had a tight feeling in our chests for weeks after, muttering to each other “this could have happened in the space we were in last night.”

And that’s true. What makes the underground music scene beautiful is that it thrives in the face of the fact that conventional structures in society don’t account for us and what we make. It’s called home by people who couldn’t rightfully call any other setting home, and is a haven for art outside of structures of fads, arbitrary norms, or capital.

At the same time, finding this alternative way beautiful is really and truly just finding beauty in marginalization. We are left to fend for ourselves and when it all burns down, we’re met with finger wagging, lawsuits, and 4chan vigilantes. It led to one of those moments when we realized that because we improvise an alternative way of life, we don’t have the clearest ideas on how to really make it safe or sustainable.

It’s another flash of harsh reality, like when we find out about serial predators the complicit let roam, or about the drugs killing our brightest or youngest. These bad things happen in our scene. They destroy people, they strain the mesh of this stressed net that holds out communities up. They can happen any time and in fact they happen often.

This is an important point. The worst thing you can imagine is always around the corner. So we must be prepared.

On the topic of fires, there was one at the current Silent Barn in Brooklyn back in 2015. Silent Barn was zoned for performance, up to code, and insured. Those compliances didn’t stop an electrical fire from taking the upstairs apartments, nor the torrents of water sprayed by the firefighters from incurring substantial water damage.

But good fire safety practices prevented that fire from turning into a disaster and robust community support helped the Barn bounce back. We can and should treat all threats to the well-being of our family members in the underground music scene as preventable, while being versed in how to deal with crises when they inevitably arise.

What follows is a list of links, resources, and thoughts on running a safe party space. This is by no means the official rulebook for running a safe party and should be a launching point for your own research and conversations with collaborators about the shows you’re involved with. It will be added to whenever something relevant comes along.

Continue reading Basic Resources for Running a Safe Party Space