Hold the Alcohol

Big Brother chanteuse headlines first Clean and Sober Fest

Sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. The classic phrase suggests that rock music is best experienced when stoned or drunk. It’s a misconception that musician Stefanie Keys is eager to correct.

“In my experience, people in recovery, people who are clean and sober, tend to be having a whole a lot of fun,” says Keys. “We’ve lost our lives, and have somehow gotten them back. We’re ready to party. We’ve just learned how to party without the drugs and alcohol.”

Keys, formerly of Big Brother and the Holding Company, with whom she toured for five years, will be headlining the inaugural Clean & Sober Music Fest on Oct. 14 at the Mendocino Fairgrounds in Booneville. The event is the first of its kind in the area, a daylong, family-friendly celebration of music, sunshine and sobriety.

“Sobriety is growing by leaps and bounds,” says Jeffrey Trotter, a longtime North Bay theater director and the producer of the event. “The Grateful Dead always had clean and sober areas at their concerts. There are clean and sober sections at Burning Man. But there aren’t that many festivals where the whole thing is clean and sober.”

As someone who long ago took the path of sobriety, Trotter understands the need for such events.

“It’s basically just a darned good idea,” he says with a laugh. “This could easily be an annual thing.”

In addition to the Stefanie Keys Band, the lineup includes the Real Sarahs, Deep Blue Jam and the Cole Tate Band, along with inspirational appearances by clean-and-sober Buddhist speaker Kevin Griffin and others. Festive AA meetings will be part of the day, including meetings at the adjoining campgrounds on Friday and Sunday.

“Basically, it’s going to be a lot of very grateful people having a really good time together,” says Keys, noting that such events are a breath of fresh air for people who’ve chosen to put drugs and alcohol behind them.

“I’m in recovery myself,” she says. “I’ve been clean and sober for 16 years. I know it’s hard sometimes for people in recovery to go to these big music festivals where drinking and drugs is such a big part of the culture. And for people who are new to sobriety, an event like this allows them to come and have fun, and not have to worry about being surrounded by people drinking and using.

“And the music? The music’s going to be off the chain!”

Sonoma County Library