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West Marin man spearheads substance-free music festivals

By Colleen Bidwill | cbidwill@marinij.com | Marin Independent Journal December 21, 2019 at 12:00 pm

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Jeffrey Trotter knows putting on substance-free music festivals may seem like a crazy idea to some. Alcohol sales are a big part of music fests. But, the Point Reyes Station resident, who has been sober for 25 years, has been doing just that for the last three years in the Bay Area and beyond through RockSteadyFest, a showcase of singers, musicians, poets and improv performers.

After more than 20 years with the former Shakespeare at Stinson theater company, Trotter strives to offer a safe and fun environment for people of all ages, including families, teenagers and people in recovery.

Q What made you want to start this?

A There’s a ton of music festivals and they are all great. Lots and lots of fun, until the alcohol kicks in. When the alcohol kicks in, there’s still a lot of fun, but eventually, it kind of deteriorates. We decided to try and piece together music festivals that skip the alcohol, enjoy the music.

Q How are the acts chosen?

A Those are all folks in recovery in one form or another. Folks who made decisions to make a change in their life, and they actually got their art back, because drugs and alcohol will take away your creativity if left to turn into alcoholism and drug addiction. It will take away your whole life. We put out the word to folks that are in recovery, or folks that want to perform before a sober audience. Not only do you get sober artists, but you get a sober audience. Mind you, you don’t have to be sober to come.

Q What does a lot of your work entail?

A To look for funding and to provide a safe location for artists to bring their art to life.

Q What plans do you have for Marin next year?

A We plan to have a substance-free youth music festival; we are piecing it together with Madeline Hope in Point Reyes Station. She has her hand on the pulse of kids in the county of Marin. In July, we lost a performer named Stefanie Keys, of Big Brother and the Holding Company, and we will name this youth concert after her.

Q What’s inspires you to keep pushing forward with this?

A I know it’s the right direction. In my life, I have always chosen things that were a little bit harder. I thought I would try something different. If you sit with the idea of just a quiet evening with a cup of tea, and getting together with friends and good music, that’s a really good thing. What we are doing is we are testing the water for different types of art.