Photos and review by Stephanie Wells
Music is the way that we connect with people and share our experiences good, and bad. There’s no greater catharsis than standing in a sea of people singing your heart out and that’s exactly what the first ever HeartSupport Festival was like last weekend in Orlando, FL. The Central Orlando Fairgrounds were filled with people for the two day festival to not only see some of their favorite bands but to celebrate the mental health community that has become a haven for so many that founder Jake Luher of August Burns Red created with his team back in 2011.
HeartSuppport is a non-profit online community and free mental health resource. After nights of countless fans sharing their stories of addiction, depression, self-harm, heartache, war and hopelessness, Jake realized that he needed to do something to help his community. He began keeping a table at his August Burns Red shows to talk and connect with people to hear their stories but as the number of people continued to grow he realized he needed help and started the community we know today. HeartSupport started showing up at other community events and music festivals, offering the same ear to listen and resources to navigate your mental health. Last year, Jake’s goal of creating his own festival was realized with the announcement of HeartSupport Fest, with bands like Parkway Drive, Rise Against, The Ghost Inside, and so many others. But what Jake gave us was so much more than just a festival: it was a sense of family and support.
“This isn’t a festival.This is a celebration. And what we’re celebrating tonight is every single person out here.This is your home. This is your music.This is your place. And I know I want you to feel that you’re allowed, because you are. You’re allowed to be human, and sometimes we’re goofy, sometimes we’re awkward, sometimes we’re messy, and sometimes we’re broken.We help each other.And even in the moments that maybe you feel alone.Why I created heart support with my team in 2011.Because I’m here to tell you not.You know, it’s sort of thousands of people that are on that website.Just do me a favor and soak this up and look at the people beside you and understand.This is your home. These are your people. You have worth. You’re allowed to be human, and you’re not alone. Thank you so much for this.” – Jake Luhr