Since its inception, live music, especially rock music, has been about one thing: the artists and performers. That tide has been changing, however, and there has been an influx of performers and artists striving to make good on their platform, and use shows and albums to donate to charity.
“I love playing charity shows. For me, music isn’t about the money,” Patrick Ray of Ann Arbor act Seaholm said. “It’s about doing what I love and making a difference.”
The third annual Sorrowfest, a music festival spanning over three days, attempted to do exactly that. This festival is 100 percent for charity, with all profits made going towards the organization Suck it Suicide.
Sorrowfest began three years ago in Ypsilanti, and it was created as a means for festival founder Dustin Lince to begin to come to terms with the passing of his friend Brannon Wilson.
“I had been doing bi-monthly charity shows for local charities in Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor for the past couple years,” Lince Said. “I decided that my next charity show would be for a suicide prevention charity, so I got a crazy idea to get 12 ‘Emo’-ish bands to play on two stages and do a whole festival out of it.”
Suck it Suicide, the outreach program of the Detroit organization Six Feet Over, focuses on those affected by suicide. Lince decided he wanted to donate proceeds to a local charity, and Suck it Suicide’s focus on the punk and LGBTQIA+ community is what drew him in.
“I donated the money from the first festival to the American Suicide Foundation,” said Lince. “But I realized that with the amount of money this festival was raising, it would be much better utilized by an ‘on the ground’ organization.”
The festival featured 28 bands over three days and took place in two locations: the New Way Bar in Ferndale, and the recently rebranded West Cross Station, formerly Crossroads. Lince used these two venues because they felt like home.
“The New Way has been nothing but good to me since I first started booking shows there,” he said. “I have never worked with an easier venue. We worked with West Cross Street the first year of Sorrowfest, back when it was Crossroads. We couldn’t have the festival there last year, and it was a disaster. It feels good to be back.”
Night one, the only night at the New Way Bar, featured four bands, and had the feeling of a packed bar show, with chants of “Suck it, Suicide!” being peppered throughout the night from the performers and attendees.
Nights two and three was where the bulk of the event happened. Two stages had been set up for this 24-band event, one stage being the standard stage that W. Cross boasts every night, and another right on the floor by the main hallway.
“I wanted a floor stage in order to give this festival a feeling of both a house show and a normal show all at once,” Lince said about how he set up the event space. “Really give the bands and crowds a chance to get as intimate with each other as they wanted, to create something special.”
On this front, performers and attendees alike would agree that this night was unique, and very special.
“I feel like often shows can be very cliquey and closed-off from each other,” Kyle Allis of GUTS said. “But tonight, everybody was just getting along and coming together to support great music and a great cause.”