A friend called me recently to ask if I had heard about a new festival in town called PeteFest. I said I had only heard of it, but that I didn’t know exactly what it was. There are a lot of new festivals in Louisville, and most of them play by the same, general music idea, though stylized to a genre. PeteFest, they said, was something a bit different than the usual. With music as the draw, and a nature reserve as the setting, the point is actually to raise awareness about mental health, which is something that’s been in the national conversation more and more, especially in the music world lately.
Earlier in the summer, I wrote about the loss of Chris Cornell, and, at the time of the writing, I was certain that something else played a part in his death. It just seemed too unreal and unlikely that he took his own life, but as the weeks went by and reports came to light, it was hard to deny that somewhere in that night, Chris decided he was done, and blew the light out. To this day, I’ve not been able to process why, even coming from a guy who wrote songs called “Like Suicide” and “Let Me Drown.” I mean, those songs were recorded 20 years ago, and now he was grown and successful forever, with a beautiful family that he spoke about frequently with nothing but love and wonder. So why take the exit like that?
I know that many people deal with depression, and that can lead to suicidal thoughts. But, the rate of teenage suicide alone is up quite a bit in the past year, and is there a reason? I will admit that this is a subject that I’ve never been able to personalize. I’ve never thought about checking out. Quite the opposite, I speak often about how much fun it would be to live for 1,000 years. Any moments of depression that I’ve had usually go away with a little bit of time, so I don’t always relate, which isn’t to say that I don’t empathize. I’ve had people with whom I’ve been close with take that ultimate leap. Some did it when we were young, and as I look back, I tend to think how much of the weight they put on themselves was for nothing. That much of teenage drama is absolutely unimportant to the rest of our lives. But when you’re in that moment, when you’re down in the hole so far, that weight must surely feel like a mountain. I wanted to shake them back to life and just tell them to wait. That things change and it would all be in the rear-view. But I’m starting to learn that it’s more than that.
We all know there is a stigma on the subject of suicide, but luckily there are people out there with the tools to teach us how to talk about it and help. I’m grateful that there are people, like the ones putting on the inaugural PeteFest — who lost a family member, Pete Jones, to suicide — and who are taking up the task of spreading the word and shining a light on the signs to look for.
I don’t like losing anyone I’m close to or hearing about someone else losing a loved one. The world needs all the helping hands and loving hearts for humanity that it can get as it stands anyway. So, if you want to go, PeteFest will be happening Sept. 8-10 and while there are chances to learn, there’s also music and food trucks. I hear Curio Key Club will be performing Paul Simon’s Graceland in full, which should be worth the price of admission alone. •
PeteFest takes place Sept. 8-10 at Jones Field (840 Dawson Hill Road). Prices and times vary. Visit petefest.thepetefoundation.org for more details.