Rock fest aims to celebrate sobriety, help others on path to recovery

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Indie folk rock musician Melissa Ferrick will headline the first Recovery Rockfest later this month. Photo courtesy Melissa Ferrick.
Indie folk rock musician Melissa Ferrick will headline the first Recovery Rockfest later this month. Photo courtesy Melissa Ferrick.

In a way, Nyla Cione considers her addiction a blessing.

It led her to seek treatment more than two decades ago, which in turn, led her toward a life focused on what matters most–her music, her relationships and her community.

Considering her good fortune, Cione wants to give back by celebrating those who have found their own path to sobriety–and those who may be struggling to get there.

The locally based concert promoter has organized Recovery Rockfest, a substance-free performance, at 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 29, at UNC-Wilmington’s Kenan Auditorium. She is in the midst of a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for the endeavor.

On the bill are Wilmington favorites Stray Local, Mike Blair and the Stonewalls and Folkstar, with headliner Melissa Ferrick. Ferrick, an indie Americana singer/songwriter out of Boston, has recorded 17 albums in almost as many years and has shared the stage with the likes of Morrissey, Ani DiFranco, k.d. Lang, Mike Doughty, The Indigo Girls and Dwight Yoakam.

And she has worked with Cione, a professional vocalist since the age of seven. Growing up in a musical family–her parents were both accomplished jazz performers–then getting into the industry herself, Cione soon learned some of the “trappings” of the stage.

Nyla Cione, who has been sober for 23 years, organized the fest as a way to celebrate a substance-free lifestyle. Photo courtesy Cione.
Nyla Cione, who has been sober for 23 years, organized the fest as a way to celebrate a substance-free lifestyle. Photo courtesy Cione.

When she was as young as 14 she began experimenting with drinking and doing drugs. She wouldn’t have considered herself to be an alcoholic–she didn’t need to drink every day–except that she always knew the way she was drinking, and the way it made her feel, just didn’t sit right with her.

“It caught my attention after awhile. It wasn’t a fun place to be,” she noted.

So in 1992, Cione sought help.

“I went ahead and started on the road to recovery and I haven’t looked back since,” she said.

Sobriety made her realize a lot of things–among them, what she had sacrificed for her addiction.

“Drinking kept me from my music…I was forced to put it on hold. But since I have been clean and sober, I have been able to get back to my gifts,” she said. “But the things I have learned through recovery–to be a better person, a better friend, service to community…I would benefit from those no matter what.”

Still, even with a strong support system, Cione knows how hard it is to stay sheltered from temptation in social situations, concerts key among them.

“When you’re trying to stay clean and sober, it’s usual and customary that you’re inundated with drinking and getting high, coupled with the music experience,” she said.

And that’s why Recovery Rockfest was born. Cione put together a similar event in 2009 while living in Florida that had a good turnout and positive feedback. But after moving to Wilmington a few years ago, she decided she wanted to do it on a larger scale.

“I felt like I wanted to give back to the community,” she said. “Recovery has been kind of a gift because it catapulted me into giving back.”

The festival does not represent or endorse any particular treatment method of program, Cione said. Rather, it is simply a celebration of substance-free living for those who have kicked addiction–of any kind–or for those considering making an important change.

“It could be a gateway to something that is inspirational for people who are still struggling. This makes it possible for them to meet people they wouldn’t normally meet in a safe and fun environment,” she said.

Cione is hoping this will be the first of an annual Recovery Rockfest concert series, and hopes to raise enough through GoFundMe to begin planning next year’s show.

“I feel like I am just a steward of this; this is not my gig,” she said. “I came up with the line that this is for the people, for the community, for the unity–one note at a time.”

Tickets to Recovery Rockfest are $25 in advance and $30 the day of the show ($15 for students with valid IDs). A portion of the proceeds will support UNCW’s Collegiate Recovery Program.

Hilary Snow is a reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at (910) 772-6341 or hilary.s@portcitydaily.com.