Among the artists playing Depression Fest is PBR&B crooner ARCHIE (fka PSA).

Maighdeline Gordon

Ruben Mendez and Abigail Swanson have a plan to vanquish your funk. They’ve organized Depression Fest, which gathers together eight musical acts and six writers at Fred Wildlife Refuge with the goal of lifting your spirits at one of the most difficult times of the year for those dealing with the titular affliction. Hell, on top of the multitude of other factors causing dejection among sensitive people, even December’s damnable repetition of Christmas jingles makes you want to stop going outside. So this is a magnanimous gesture on the part of Mendez (who plays guitar in the flamboyant electro-punk group DYED) and Swanson (a poet who’s in the group Belva). The multimedia extravaganza will also raise money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.


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Talking about the impetus to create Depression Fest, Mendez says, “It was around last year at this time that friends of mine and friends of friends were having a hard time. The days were getting darker faster, the holidays were coming, Trump and social media were making lives horrible. I thought about people who I’ve lost and friends have lost or almost lost to suicide, and how it affects the whole world around them. I was feeling incredibly low, and I know others were and still are, too. I basically wanted something to look forward to during the following autumn.

“Music and writing help me when I’m feeling low,” Mendez continues. “Going to shows, art shows, music, or whatever… seeing others being creative is a big boost. It almost didn’t happen, though. I was about to give up, and that’s when Abigail Swanson came into the picture and saved the day.”

Swanson says, “I offered to help Ruben because the subject of mental health and mental difference is very important to me. The conversation about differently abled, adaptable folks in our society is opening up, but it is unfortunately still stigmatized. I am bipolar, and one thing that really helps to ground me is to be open about my experience and to help others with theirs.”

Many contributors to Seattle’s strong musical ecosystem will fill the refuge with uplifting sounds. In addition to DYED, Belva, and ARCHIE, there are the costumed enigmas of Ononos, who bring a spazzy synth attack that’s halfway between Devo and the Normal. Tissue—led by Gabi Page-Fort and Dean Whitmore, co-owners of the new Hex Enduction Records & Books—write knotty art-rock songs that take you down intriguing paths. YTTRIA (aka Kris Hatch) conjures eerie, subliminal sound collages using ham-radio samples, operatic vocals, piano, mandolin, and field recordings. And the mutant rock of Children’s Hospital offers a bizarre escape valve from grim reality.

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Every musical set will be followed by a reading from the likes of hilarious poet Sarah Galvin, former Stranger hip-hop columnist Larry Mizell Jr., rising novelist Richard Chiem (whose King of Joy Rich Smith called a “dreamy, beautifully written, hippo-inflected, grief-soaked debut novel”), and others. This approach sounds like a recipe for an enlightening night out.

Depression Fest’s tagline—”For the best people having the worst time”—is a great mission statement. “When I was a teenager,” Mendez says, “I heard or maybe saw in a documentary that Seattle had a great music scene because during the dark, cold, and rainy months, people hunkered down in their basements and played/wrote music.” At Depression Fest, you will see and hear that principle in full flower.