DENVER — Often, concerts and partying are viewed as one and the same, with drugs and alcohol going hand in hand with the music. While that can entice many concertgoers, it can also alienate other music lovers and musicians who want (or need) to stay sober.
That is the inspiration for Sober Sessions, two planned concerts in Denver that will offer the same music and community as other concerts, but replace the drinks and drugs with “mocktails.”
“I’ve been a musician for as long as I remember. I started playing the guitar when I was 12, and I think I fell into that trap or that image of being a rock star, like the whole sex drugs and rock-and-roll type of lifestyle,” said Javier "El Javi" Gutierrez, one of the musicians slated to perform at the first Sober Sessions concert this weekend. “It’s almost in the job description, unfortunately, as a musician, and it took me some time to find my way out of that and realize that music is so much more than partying.”
El Javi has been sober for six years, and now uses his music as a tool not only in his own sobriety but in that of others. He will join three other musicians Saturday, May 13 to perform music and discuss their journeys through addiction and sobriety.
He hopes it is both a respite for others who are sober and want to return to concert scenes, as well as an inspiration for those who are “sober curious” and want to see others who have given up drugs and alcohol.
“We sometimes use substances to escape something, and I feel, for me, music is also a way to escape or, like, to process things perhaps. So, it’s almost like music is my drug of choice now, because it’s my safe place. It’s my refuge,” El Javi said. “The challenge, for us, is to explore really who we are and what we feel.”
The venue for the first Sober Sessions concert will be The Phoenix in downtown Denver. Normally, the space is a gym and fitness community for sober individuals (along with their supporters), which made for a perfect partnership with concert organizer Music Minds Matter for the event.
“Once you open up that door, new people come into your life,” El Javi said of the network he’s built in his six years of sobriety. “It’s just been life changing, a beautiful life change.”
The first Sober Sessions concert will be held from 3 p.m. to 6 PM on Saturday, May 13, 2023 at The Phoenix on Champa Street in Denver. It is free to attend, and all are welcome — whether they are sober themselves or want to support others in their sobriety while listening to great music. Organizers ask interested people to register ahead of time online.