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Gary Louris, Davina Sowers share their recovery stories ahead of Saturday's HazelFest

Posted by: Chris Riemenschneider under Music, Concert news, Minnesota musicians Updated: July 28, 2014 - 11:28 AM
Gary Louris at South by Southwest in 2013. / Photo by Tony Nelson

Gary Louris at South by Southwest in 2013. / Photo by Tony Nelson

Further proof it’s not your average outdoor summer music bash, HazelFest has issued a series of promotional video clips that show its performers talking about their very personal addiction recovery stories.

The second annual concert takes place again Saturday on the grounds of the famed Hazelden treatment facility in Center City, about 50 minutes north of Minneapolis. As in prior years, the family-friendly festival – whose slogan is “Recovery rocks” -- will feature recovery meetings and guest speakers alongside the musical performances.

This year’s lineup includes the newly reformed ’97-’00-era lineup of the Jayhawks, whose frontman Gary Louris opened up to Hazelden’s Jeremiah Gardner about his recovery experience in a Skype interview made public in three split clips. Davina Sowers of the barreling boogie-woogie band Davina & the Vagabonds did the same in another touching clip issued online. Both interviews (posted below) show a new level of bravery beyond the hard task of achieving sobriety.

“It didn’t just happen,” Louris says about “the miracle of my recovery,” detailing the work put in going to meetings and meditating to stay straight in the second clip. The first clip talks about his painkiller abuse and how easy it is to devolve into alcoholism being a musician. “You’re almost expected to drink before you go to work,” he notes.

Davina Sowers

Davina Sowers

Sowers details her addictions going back to her teens, including what she called a “do-or-die” split from heroin. “I can just not express to you how lucky I am, and how the brilliance of sobriety has brought me to where I am today,” she says.

Louris and Sowers both will return home from European tours in time for HazelFest. The middle-era Jayhawks reunited to promote new reissues of their three 1997-2003 albums, “Sound of Lies,” “Smile” and “Rainy Day Music,” all of which featured Louris as the band’s frontman (following the departure of co-founder Mark Olson). Sowers’ band has a strong new record to promote, “Sunshine,” a playful mish-mash of New Orleans-blown party songs and more tender, jazzy ballads.

Johnny Solomon of Communist Daughter – also scheduled to perform Saturday, as is Milwaukee's Trapper Schoepp & the Shades – has similarly been open about his recovery experience in the past. Tickets to the festival can be bought here for $20 in advance through Thursday, or they will be $30 at the door. Kids 12 and under can get in free. Hazelden’s scenic, lakeside grounds are at 15251 Pleasant Valley Rd in Center City (click here for directions).

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