It’s been a tough year for alt-rock fans. Soundgarden and Audioslave devotees are likely still reeling from the loss of vocalist Chris Cornell, who hung himself back in May. Now, just a few weeks ago, Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington took his own life on what would have been Cornell’s 53rd birthday. Yet, while both of these deaths have been devastating to millions of fans the world over, they raise critical questions about suicidal thoughts and mental health in general. In Bennington’s last interview with The Daily Mirror, he left readers with the impression that he’d just overcome a bleak period of depression. What if others around us are battling the same internal demons, and are simply too afraid to speak out?
Suicide may always be extremely difficult and deeply painful to talk about, but tomorrow night at the Masquerade, Sarah Rose (of Sarah and the Safe Word) hopes to honor Bennington’s legacy and foster conversations about mental health in a tribute concert to Linkin Park called “Breaking the Habit: A Concert for Mental Health and Suicide Awareness.”
“We want this to be a fun night, but I hope it’ll also serve as some catharsis for everyone,” Rose says over email. All proceeds from the event will go to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
A Lost Friend
As a kid, Rose regarded Bennington as both idol and confidant. “I used to take the CD insert for [Meteora] with me to class every day in junior high and read the lyrics when I was picked on or teased,” she says. “Listening to it, it was like a friend holding your hand and guiding you through the rough spots.” So when Rose heard about Bennington’s death, she was heartbroken. “I don’t think I’ve ever been personally affected by a stranger’s death as much as I have with this. I just walked around outside my apartment and listened to their songs. I think after a few days, something about it must have registered and I just broke down crying for awhile by myself in my bedroom.”
At length, however, Rose realized that she certainly wasn’t the only one shaken by the news. And Bennington’s death resonated with her on another level — as a survivor of attempted suicide, Rose has been very candid about her own struggles with mental illness and depression. “On a whim, I messaged a few of my contacts at the Masquerade on Facebook and asked if they’d be interested in trying to put something together,” she reveals, “and I was pretty surprised at how immediate and enthusiastic their answer was.”
“I wanted to book this show because of the exposure I’ve had to mental illness and suicide,” says Joe Warren, a talent organizer at the Masquerade. “It has become a big deal to me, and I’m willing to provide help to people who are struggling.”
Likewise, when Rose started fielding bands for the bill, the community responded with overwhelming waves of support. “I think literally over 30 different local bands reached out to either me or the Masquerade asking if they could hop on the bill,” she says. “Some local Atlanta hip-hop artists are making guest appearances during the tributes as well, which is fitting, since Linkin Park came on the scene hoping to bridge the rock and hip-hop communities.”
That outpour of volunteering stemmed from more than just devotion to a fallen idol. Like Rose, several performers on the bill could relate to the dialogues around Bennington’s death about de-stigmatizing mental health. “The subject needs attention,” says Shannon McQuaid of Abide By Lies. “Depression is real, anxiety is real — and just like a lot of people, I’m tired of people being too scared to ask for help, because the world has made it that way. Little steps like this could help people, and I want to help people.”
Indeed, the staggering prevalence of suicide in the US proves that more people need that love than you’d think. In 2015, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the country, and for every person that extinguished their own life, at least 25 more attempted to and failed.* Every band that I spoke to over email could cite at least one dear friend or family member that committed suicide; members of the Sunsets even spoke of a “rising epidemic” bubbling in their area for the past five years.
A Safe Haven
Oftentimes, a tribute show will only features loads of cover songs. And, indeed, every band on Friday night’s bill will unleash at least one Linkin Park tune, if not an entire set. However, Rose plans to honor Bennington with more than just music. Each artist also has their own story to share, on how Linkin Park may have pulled them through high school or cemented bonds with their friends — and Rose has even blocked off time during the show for audience members who want to take the stage and tell their tales, too. “I’ve had a few people send me really heartfelt stories about how their songs got them through rough moments growing up,” she says, “and I really felt like it was important to them to express that — and I think it’ll be unifying for everyone there to hear.”
Like Rose, several of the artists on the bill turned to Linkin Park for validation and solace in the cruel world of grade school. “I went to a private Christian school where I was teased for being bad at everything,” explains Carson Pace of the Callous Daoboys. “I was on the football team and was frequently targeted and harassed physically during practices. LP’s music was a safe haven for me. They expressed exactly how I felt at the time, and even to this day at certain points.”
Of course, as a benefit for suicide awareness, the show will also offer a platform for discussions about mental health. As hostess, Rose will discuss her own experiences with depression and mental illness; Kari Burden, an aspiring mental health counselor, will also lead dialogues about mental health and provide resources for those that need help.
Along with the show and the speakers, Rose will also be auctioning off tickets for MomoCon and Dragoncon next year. She also promises “a really special moment” at the end of the night, which she hopes attendees will stick around for. Above all, however, Rose and the other performers hope that the benefit will provide comfort and support to those who may not know how to where to turn. On the subject of depression, the members of Cinematic urged gig-goers to “be brave and humble enough to ask for help, instead of letting it drive you to that breaking point to where you feel all hope is lost.”
Pace put it another way: “Life is absurd. Sometimes it takes away your heroes for good, sometimes it takes away other things, so be absurd. Do everything that makes you happy, regardless of what your parents or teachers say. Thrashing around and playing incredibly chaotic music makes me happy, so, hey, watch us do it.”
*Suicide stats were taken from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s website, who, in turn, gleaned that data from the CDC’s Data & Statistics Fatal Injury Report for 2015.
Breaking the Habit: A Concert for Mental Health and Suicide Awareness takes place tomorrow night, August 11, at the Masquerade (Purgatory). Doors open at 7 p.m. Admission is $10. All proceeds will be donated to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Facebook: Event page