BY CRYSTAL SMITH
SC Contributing Writer
When it comes to a suicide prevention benefit concert, who are the first artists that come to mind? Upbeat pop music icons such as Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, or One Direction? What about metal and hard core music such as August Burns Red, For Today, or The Color Morale? Yes, the screaming, growling, and pulsating breakdowns that sound similar to an exorcism at times is probably the complete opposite of suicide prevention but not according to the iMatter festival.
The metal festival, founded in 2008 by Pastor Scott Lowmaster of the Glad Tidings Community Life Center, was created after a recorded 48 teen suicides were committed that year alone in Elmira, NY. Pastor Lowmaster wanted to bring an extreme awareness to the community by creating a free all day festival for the teens and families of Elmira. Along with promoting awareness, he wanted to bring a message of hope for struggling teenagers.
“Those who were there had no problem standing in the rain as it down poured because they were listening to ‘their music.’ The youth expressed over and over how they were glad to have something that belonged to them. It was a free event that was put together by those in their community especially for the youth,” according to imatterfest.org.
This year, the festival was held on September 7, 2013, in Elmira, NY. A friend and myself packed ourselves up and headed north for the 4 hour road trip. Before the day of the festival I had no idea what iMatter was founded on or even what it promoted. I was just excited for a road trip to see my favorite bands play.
Once we arrived, I was bombarded by several HeartSupport stickers, t-shirts, and hats. My curiosity shifted as the first band took the stage but it was later revisited when I sat in on the Q&A portion of iMatter.
Lead vocalist Jake Luhrs of August Burns Red founded HeartSupport as a place for teens to gather and share their stories and find strength in their weaknesses.
Jake goes on to explain the creation of HeartSupport, saying, “Kids at shows would come up to me and I would hear crazy stories about their addiction or their suicide attempts and how our music was affecting them in a positive, encouraging way but a lot of them would say they did not have anyone or anything to hold on to other then our music so I saw a real need for a place of community where people can be uplifted and helped.”
Another part of the Q&A that struck me was when lead vocalist Mattie Montgomery of For Today spoke of hope. He spoke with such clarity and articulation that it was hard not to be captivated by his message.
He tweeted on the day of the festival, @ForTodayMattie, “I can think of no more destructive message than, “Just believe in yourself.” Let’s be honest, we all need help.”
As the night progressed and the headliners took to the stage there were more messages of support and a message of “know hope.”
It was expressed how each concert goer may have woken up that day feeling lost and alone but now they were not. It was absolutely incredible and I got goosebumps seeing the tattooed, pierced, purple haired, moshing young adults come together to lend support to each other.
This hit me hard especially since I was one of those kids growing up who listened to these bands and was looked at as angry and “emo” but that was the total opposite and I saw it was the same for them as well.
I was in awe of what I saw and what I felt, especially in these days when there is so much hate and violence in the world, because in that moment when the bass dropped and the lights got bright, we were all one hopeful spiritual being.
I will not hesitate to pack up the car with friends for the long road trip to Elmira, NY, next year to show my support to all my favorite bands with a greater understanding that we all need one another’s support and to remember that we all matter.
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