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Friday, June 14, 2024

High Dive will host a concert to honor Grammy-nominated musician Chris Cornell, who took his life in May.

The concert will be held Saturday at 8 p.m. to raise awareness for suicide prevention. Eight acts, including bands and solo artists, will be performing the entirety of Cornell’s catalogue.

Tickets for the concert cost $6 in advance and $8 at the door. Money from these sales will benefit the Alachua County Friends of the Crisis Center after the cost of the basic production of the show is subtracted. Donations to the center will also be encouraged, Pat Lavery, the events manager at High Dive, wrote in an email.

When Lavery heard of Cornell’s passing, he started putting together the idea for the tribute show, contacting more than 20 musicians and bands. He said some people weren’t available to play or were intimidated by the idea of playing songs from Cornell’s repertoire. Others readily agreed to perform and formed bands just for the sake of the show. Since Cornell’s career spanned several decades, his music touched different strains of musicians, and Lavery said anyone who asked to perform was allowed.

High Dive is no stranger to raising money for local charities. Annually, it averages more than $10,000 in money raised for various charities. Lavery said he knew this event had to benefit a local charity concerned with suicide prevention. He said he hopes the show would be beneficial in helping fans mourn Cornell’s death as well.

Through talking to people around Gainesville, Lavery landed on the crisis center as the beneficiary of the concert. The center strives to serve the community by counseling those who need help with their mental health. Nancy Romaine Maas, president of  the Alachua County Friends of the Crisis Center, said about 100 volunteers staff a 24-hour crisis line and go out in care teams to aid in crises around the community.

Maas started out as a volunteer in the ‘90s, passing through the roles of phone volunteer, care team consultant and associate. Having experience with all these jobs and being on the board helps her understand the issues in the community.

Attending events in the community and getting the word out is a large part of the prevention the center hopes to accomplish. Maas said the increased attention that suicide seems to be getting now is “bittersweet.” She said she hopes this tribute will continue to break down some of the stigma surrounding mental health issues.

“I’m a firm believer that a lot of people don’t want to die; they just want the pain to stop. Whatever pain that is — mental, emotional or physical,” she said.

Another way the center tries to ease the pain of those who are affected by suicide is by maintaining the Survivors of Suicide Memory Garden at Cofrin Nature Park, located on Eighth Avenue. At the garden, people can purchase bricks in memory of someone they lost to suicide. A commemorative brick will be placed for Cornell and paid for by money raised at the show.

While High Dive is donating the venue, equipment and the majority of the proceeds, Lavery said he is also donating his time in organizing and promoting the event. To him, the most obvious reason for putting on the event is to celebrate the “rock god and (the) musical genius” Cornell was.

“Rock stars are a dying breed. There may never be another like him. It’s a shame that we as a society don’t pay more tribute to people and artists when they are alive,” he said.

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Maas is also a huge fan of Cornell. She saw him twice in concert six months before he died.

She said she hopes this tribute allows people to talk more openly about mental illness instead of feeling ashamed. People who are affected by suicide often suffer in silence, Maas said. Because of the stigma surrounding it, the stages of grief tend to differ for those suffering since the subject matter is considered taboo.

The crisis center will be tabling at the event with volunteers available for counseling and providing information about resources in the community, like the crisis hotline, 352-264-6789. Other organizations like Gainesville Peer Respite Center and the National Alliance on Mental Illness will be tabling as well.


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