Washington, D.C., probably hadn’t seen anything like it since 1985, when Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider and punk provocateur Jello Biafra testified before Congress during the height of the obscene lyrics witch-hunt: Tatted and pierced pop-punkers holding court on Capitol Hill.
Members of Sugarcult and Hawthorne Heights took part in a press conference held in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Wednesday to announce the kickoff of the fifth annual Take Action Tour, and to raise awareness – and federal funding levels – for teen-suicide prevention programs across the country.
“It’s one thing when you’re promoting your band, because you feel a bit awkward talking about yourself over and over again, but to get up and talk about why we got involved in a tour like Take Action was a lot easier,” Sugarcult guitarist Marko 72 said. “It’s for a good cause, and we feel strongly about the issue of teen suicide and mental health. So, for us, the whole thing was less of a show, and more from the heart.”
Over the past four years, Take Action has raised more than $170,000 for the National Hopeline Network, a suicide prevention and crisis hotline, and the Youth America Hotline, which pairs at-risk teens with youth crisis workers in their area. This year’s version of the tour started Wednesday in D.C. and runs until March 12. Sugarcult, Hawthorne Heights, the Early November and Anberlin, among others, are featured on the trek; Head Automatica, who had been on the bill, were forced to pull out due to frontman Daryl Palumbo’s recent bout with Crohn’s disease (a condition which causes inflammation in the small intestine).
“Fans tell us things like, ‘I can’t imagine getting through the last year without your record.’ And a lot of times music saves lives, and gives people a spark,” Marko said. “But this tour is about much more than just music. It’s a way to get information out to kids who might be at risk, and it helps people realize that depression and things like that are legitimate mental illnesses. And we want to stand behind these issues, and endorse them, and gain respect for Take Action’s cause.”
“The Take Action Tour was something we’d always go see when it would stop in Cincinnati, just to support it,” Hawthorne Heights frontman JT Woodruff said. “So to be asked to play on it this year is a great honor, and we’re glad that we can do something to help out.”
Marko and Woodruff were joined in D.C. by Michael Faenza, the CEO of the National Mental Health Association. One of the NMHA’s biggest goals for 2005 is to get Congress to fully appropriate the $82 million in funding for the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act, which was passed last year. The act was introduced by Oregon senator Gordon Smith in memory of his son, who took his own life. The act’s goal is to provide funding to mental-health services for students on college campuses.
“We have a special interest in suicide prevention, because we see that suicides and suicide attempts are the obvious end product of the neglect of establishing mental-health services for kids,” Faenza said. “Only $10 million of the Garrett Lee Smith act has actually been appropriated. And a tour like Take Action helps bring awareness to things like this. And it provides kids with hope and understanding about the challenges that they face. It helps them realize that lots of other kids are going through tough times, too.”
Hoping to raise even more funds for the suicide hotlines, Sub City Records (a label owned by tour founder Louis Posen) has just released Take Action! Volume 4, a two-disc set featuring music from Taking Back Sunday, Coheed and Cambria and NOFX. It’s available through the Take Action Web site, www.TakeActionTour.com.
“The CD and all that stuff is important, but I think making the issue of mental health valid is what this tour is really about,” Marko said. “If you walk down the street, and you see a guy talking to himself, you’re going to cross the street to avoid him. But if you see someone on the street gushing blood, you’re going to dial 911 right away. There’s this public stigma associated with mental health, and people need to know that there’s nothing to be ashamed about.”
For more information on the National Hopeline Network, check out www.Hopeline.com.