Dissonance Collaborates with "Passenger Recovery" in Detroit

The two nonprofits look to help build a national network of artist-support organizations

One of our dreams at Dissonance is to establish a national network of like-minded organizations committed to helping artists maintain wellness, share their experiences with mental health and addiction recovery, and advocate for others. 

We are doing that work in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area and, to some degree, in greater Minnesota. Now, we are looking to collaborate with other individuals and organizations pursuing similar missions.

One such organization is Passenger Recovery, a nonprofit founded by Christopher Tait, keyboardist for indie rock vets Electric Six. We met with Chris when his band's tour brought him to St. Paul for a recent show (opened by our friend Mark Mallman) at the venerable Turf Club. 

Sober Green Room Now Available in Twin Cities, Detroit

We whisked Chris away from the venue for a sober green room experience at the home of Jordan Hansen, a Dissonance supporter and blogger. We were actually testing out Chris's own idea. Passenger Recovery has a dedicated green-room space in downtown Detroit, available to any sober touring artist. After talking to Chris, we have decided to begin offering the same to artists traveling through Minneapolis-St. Paul, using a variety of spaces available through our local network. Chris had been on the road for a couple of weeks when we met, and he noted -- as others have to him -- how wonderful it was to get away from the van and the venue for a refreshing wellness break. 

New Tool to Find Support Meetings on the Road

For us, the time with Chris also provided an opportunity to discuss Passenger Recovery's new support-meeting finder called Compass. It's an innovative, GPS-enabled tool to help traveling artists locate Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, National Alliance on Mental Illness, and Refuge Recovery (Buddhist-inspired) support meetings. The Compass database includes thousands of individual meetings, is growing every day, and likely will be expanded to include other types of mutual aid meetings as well. We’re grateful that Chris and his partner -- Electric Six bassist Matthew Tompkins -- did us the favor of making Minneapolis-St. Paul the second metro area to get populated, after Detroit. Check out the beta version of the tool and find a meeting near you, wherever you are.

On our Resources-Tools web page, we now have a link to Compass. The page also includes links for artists to request sober green rooms through us for Minneapolis-St. Paul and through Passenger Recovery for Detroit.

As we think about our dream of establishing a national network of organizations like ours, the immediate aim is to work with Passenger Recovery to create a northern corridor of artist support from Detroit to Minneapolis. We are now seeking like-minded organizations in Milwaukee and Chicago to fill in the major gaps. 

We are also beginning to establish relationships with other more far-flung organizations like the SIMS Foundation in Austin, Texas, and the BTD Foundation in New Orleans. If you are involved in such an organization, or know others who are, please contact us.  Let's build this national network/collective/community together.

Dissonance to host #LifeTake2 Stage at Hazelfest 2018

Dissonance will have an amplified presence at Hazelfest 2018, the one-of-a-kind sober music festival that in six years has grown to become one of the biggest highlights on Minnesota’s summer concert calendar. We hope you'll join us for this feel-good celebration of life, to be held Saturday, Aug. 4, from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on the campus of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation in Center City, Minn. 

For the first time, Dissonance will host Hazelfest's #LifeTake2 stage, expanded this year to accommodate a continuous run of performers and speakers right up until festival headliner Brother Ali performs on the main stage.

One big highlight on our #LifeTake2 Stage will be a 90-minute music and storytelling panel curated by our own board alum and current Hazelden Betty Ford Artist in Residence Johnny Solomon and his spouse Molly, both of the Twin Cities indie rock band Communist Daughter. The panel will feature popular Memphis-based singer-songwriter Mike Doughty; Jennifer and Jessica Clavin of the Los Angeles rock band Bleached; and San Diego renaissance man Al Howard, a songwriter, author and founder of the music collective and record label Redwoods Music. 

We will also hear from and talk to fantastic music artists like Dusty Heart, Tim Patrick and His Blue Eyes Band, and Kim and Quillan Roe of the Roe Family Singers; the inspiring multi-disciplinary arts duo Journeyman Ink from Dallas; comedian Evan Williams from New York City; recovery speaker Roger Bruner; and Sandy Swenson, author of Tending Dandelions, a book for moms whose families have been affected by addiction, in conversation with NY Times bestselling author William C. Moyers of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. We will also have Dissonance resources and t-shirts on hand at the #LifeTake2 Stage, including a limited number of shirts from our recent collaboration with 2015 Hazelfest headliner Caroline Smith (aka Your Smith).

While most Dissonance board members will spend the day facilitating the action on the #LifeTake2 Stage, one -- Katy Vernon -- will be among the artists showcased on the Hazelfest main stage, along with Dissonance friends Mary Bue, MaLLy, The Jorgensen Band, and Davina and the Vagabonds. In addition, our longtime friend and collaborator David Campbell is emceeing the main stage for the fifth straight year. And don't forget the great Chastity Brown and The Cactus Blossoms, performing ahead of headliner Brother Ali.

On top of all that, our friend and blog contributor Jordan Hansen will lead the music for two dance parties in the kids' area. And another friend, Woody McBride (aka DJ ESP), is producing the whole event.

What a day it will be. Outdoor music, speakers, food, exhibits, smiles, hugs and activities for the entire family. We love this festival. It captures what we're all about -- the intersection of art, wellness and community. 

Tickets are just $15 in advance (the best valued ticket of the summer) and available now at They will be $25 at the door, and children 12 and under can attend for free. For more information, please visit the HazelFest website.

Hope to see you there!



   Saturday, Aug 4

Busting Creative Blocks in Sobriety

By Kate Kennedy Spindler

I sit down. I stare at the blinking cursor. ‘Creativity and addiction often go hand in hand…’

Nope. That’s stupid, delete.

‘The creative life requires bravery…’


I get up, put some change in the soda machine, pace while taking a few swigs of caffeine. I write a few more clunky sentences full of boring words and the syntax of a third grader. Every word is painfully, muddily wrenched from my sludgy brain onto the screen. Why do I keep trying to write? What is the point of all this? I have no talent! I’m a Midwestern mom of average intelligence and mediocre abilities. Who cares what I have to say about anything?

Ten years ago, this would have been the perfect opportunity for me to use alcohol, drugs, or food. Creative blocks are uncomfortable, and as a person with addiction, I had zero tolerance for uncomfortable feelings. I, like many I know, became convinced somewhere along the road to happy destiny that uncomfortable feelings were intolerable and would probably kill me. I know there are many more uncomfortable feelings than writer’s block, but in the moment, I can’t think of one.

Back home in my writing corner, I throw a pillow and flounce into a couch. I stomp around the house, cranky as hell. And because I am a bleeding pile of needy emotions (one of my best qualities!), I post on Facebook, “Hahahahha, writing a blog post about creative blocks and I can’t get one word down. I hate irony sometimes.”

So here’s your first lesson, if you needed a lesson: tell your friends when you are stuck. My inability to sit in silence with any emotion whatsoever often surprises me in how well it serves me. Thanks to my social media emotional plea, I suddenly had a list of things to read (How to Write A Lot, by Paul Silvia, “The Unsuccessful Self-Treatment of A Case Of Writer’s Block,” from the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis), several suggestions for breaking through blocks (write as if to a friend, or an enemy) and jokes (“just take a selfie and post it!”). Oh hey! Here I am, writing through a block! (*high-fives a million angels!*)

And these suggestions were just the new-to-me ones! I do other things besides use alcohol, food, or drugs when confronted with a creative block, now. I like to think I’ve become sort of an expert at busting through, but that’s only because I desperately want to be good at something, and I like procrastinating by purchasing books on Kindle. Still, I’ve learned a lot over the years! Reading The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron changed my life through her introduction of Morning Pages. They are hard, but worth it: upon waking, before you do anything else (ok, I get my coffee), get your favorite pen and notebook and write three longhand pages of stream-of-consciousness drivel. Don’t think, don’t edit. It’s not for publication. It’s for cleaning out the dross at the bottom of your brain. It’s tedious, but that’s why it works, and yes, you must do it in the morning because you need to get it done before you can think too hard about it. Don’t question the Morning Pages! Just try them! Cameron refers them them as “spiritual chiropractic,” and that’s pretty accurate.

Pick up Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. Read anything by Natalie Goldberg you can get your hands on. Natalie will give you writing exercises, and you will suddenly be able to create again.

Text your artist friends. (I’m lucky; my inner circle includes at least three writers.) They will assure you that you will get through this, and you probably can even do so without picking up any of your drugs of choice.

When stymied creatively, your work now becomes finding the next “in.” You need a crowbar, or maybe just a Slim Jim -- just enough to make a crack. Because here’s the honest truth: when you avoid your work, and you’re a person in recovery, you may be in danger of using again. That block sits there, and your mind starts layering all kinds of silly things on top of it. Time passes, and your brain convinces you that this block is now a boulder. Then a mountain. Then that huge black demon thing that comes out of a mountain from Disney’s Fantasia. But it isn’t; it’s just a pause. It’s just a pause.

How do I know when I’m avoiding and when I really do need to take a short break from writing? I don’t have a definitive answer, but I do know that when I’m having a block and I still pick up a pen or open my laptop and get 300 words down a day (thanks, Anne Lamott!), I’m still holding the string. If I’m not writing 300 words, maybe I’m researching, or taking care of my creative life in some other way. Hell, maybe I’m sitting down to color with my kids. If I am engaging my creativity instead of numbing out, I’m not avoiding. (I think. I will still probably numb out at some point in the day. After all, Netflix ain’t gonna watch itself!)

I’m grateful to be sober. Of course I am. This life is a thousand times better than those dark days of sickness, lies and self-hatred. I will admit though, I’m annoyed that I’m not a zen master yet. I really thought recovery would make me more impressive. I had grand visions, at the start of this journey out of hell, that I’d be in high demand as a motivational speaker, or maybe a modern creativity guru. I assumed I’d have several memoirs written by now, filled with pearls of wisdom and beautifully crafted sentences, and I’d float along with a bemused smile on my face at the folly and beauty of the world and its inhabitants. The reality is, mostly I just need to wear yoga pants more often and take a lot of naps.

Sobriety didn’t uncover a brilliant talent, but it did uncover a deep tenacity to keep doing my work, even if it’s terrible. Especially if it’s terrible. And while that doesn’t bring in speaking fees or my own line of scented candles, it is the gift that keeps on giving me a quiet, determined satisfaction that was never available when I was drunk, high, or using food. So today I do the next right thing, as often as possible, and it is good. The next right thing usually means sitting with icky feelings like inadequacy, fear and annoyance in order to get to the “good” stuff. (Maybe it’s all good stuff?) Life is difficult, sometimes thrilling, but ultimately peace-giving and satisfying - two things I never would have had without sobriety.


Kate Kennedy Spindler is a writer, actor and storyteller living in Saint Paul, Minn. She has three kids, one husband and two cats. She is an NYC Moth StorySlam winner, and you can find her wherever stories are told. Read some of her work at, and listen to her podcast Love from New York, We Did Saturdays Right on iTunes. She is in recovery from lots of stuff.