Mental Health at Heart of Summer Music Tour
Six years ago, a cash-strapped gay newcomer to San Francisco named Mike Enders had multiple panic attacks in the span of a month and didn't know where to get mental health services.
He also didn't know that his personal trauma would compel him to start a six-city music tour kicking off next month featuring five bands benefiting five LGBT nonprofit organizations that provide mental health services much like what he needed then.
The 41-year old San Francisco resident launched the Accidental Bear Benefit Queer Music Summer Tour, catapulted by the success of his Accidental Bear culture blog that has a daily readership of about 15,000 worldwide.
"Think Madonna's 'Truth or Dare,' but with queer bands," he said during an interview with the Bay Area Reporter.
Enders felt a call to action after the recent apparent suicides of San Francisco travel agent Jonathan Klein in April and gay porn stars Arpad Miklos and Wilfried Knight earlier this year. He has raised over $10,000 from Manhunt and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence to pay for a portion of the travel costs. Net proceeds will be evenly donated to LGBT organizations in San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, and New York City.
In San Francisco, the July 5 show will benefit the Stonewall Project, which provides counseling services from a harm reduction perspective to men who have sex with men. Those services integrate substance abuse, mental health, and HIV prevention and education. Stonewall Project is part of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.
"If someone had the same situation as me, I can understand why they'd feel driven to commit suicide," Enders said.
The tour will feature high-profile gay musicians like Logan Lynn, whose soulful crooning on albums contrasts with his electronic dance performances on stage, and Big Dipper, who is known for his raunchy and provocative hip-hop lyricism and phallic dance moves.
Lynn, a 33-year-old musician based in Portland, Oregon, spoke openly about his 16-year addiction. He said he was traumatized by growing up in a Christian cult and also developed his music career alongside indie rock musicians in Portland like Elliott Smith, who died in 2003.
Lynn has been sober since 2008 and volunteers at Q Center in Portland, which is one of the tour's beneficiaries.
"[Addiction] affects all of us. I think everyone on tour would agree with this and would seek help if they needed it," Lynn said.
Lynn and Enders asserted that there is a dearth of services for men between 30 and 50 and said that most services are directed toward youth and the elderly.
"The youth and seniors get attention because they're so vulnerable. But there's the rest of us who are just trying to make it as well," Enders said.
Enders was encouraged by the turnout at a two-year anniversary party for his blog at Truck in December 2012, where hundreds of people supported Accidental Bear. Big Dipper also played at that party.
Now Enders is hoping that the wide following of his blog, paired with the fan base of the featured bands, will garner enough funds to offset the cost of flying five bands' personnel and gear and to generously fund the organizations.
Noting the isolation felt by gay men in places like Iran, Enders said he wants to take his tour across the world if it's successful enough.
Tickets for the San Francisco show, which starts at 8 p.m. at Beatbox, 314 11th Street, range from $15 (general) to $75 (VIP). For more information, visit http://tinyurl.com/pwvnyhv.