Healing Through Harmonies

Over Columbus Day weekend, the O+ Festival brought people together to heal through medicine, music and art.

The third annual O+ Festival took place in Kingston from Friday, Oct. 5 through Sunday, Oct. 7. The festival celebrated the arts, provided access to health care and endeavored to aid the community’s well-being.

Joe Concra, a co-founder and co-director of the festival, said the event began after he spoke to a dentist who offered free dental work to a band he liked in exchange for their playing a show in Kingston. He said the idea started with one doctor and a group of  artists and musicians huddled around a kitchen table.

“This year we have five different committee levels [Art, Music, Health, Volunteers and Sponsorship], but as we’re growing, we find more things that need to get done,” Concra said. “We’re learning as we go.”

From the Kick-Off Parade on Friday to Sunday’s O+ Wrap Party at Stockade Tavern, the schedule was jam-packed with more than 40 musical acts, health and wellness expos, yoga classes, art installations and workshops.

Mike Amari, BSP Lounge’s booking agent and guitarist of Lovesick, said the Lounge was one of the festival’s four major venues. The other major venues were Stockade Tavern, Keegan Ales and The Old Dutch Church.

“The O+ music committee went through over 150 band submissions, chose about 40 for the fest and scheduled who would play where,” Amari said.

Local performers included New Paltz bands The Felice Brothers, Breakfast in Fur, Nelsonvillains, The Sweet Clementines and Tigeriss.

Danny Asis, guitarist of Tigeriss, said due to scheduling conflicts in the past the band never had the opportunity to apply to O+, but they were free this year and bass player and singer Lara Hope seized the opportunity. He said the band played at the BSP Lounge and their first year at the festival was “killer.”

“It’s really great to see so many different people and organizations getting together…to make such an event happen,” Asis said. “No matter where you walked uptown, there was something going on, from the Stockade Tavern all the way to the Old Dutch Church. You don’t see something like that every day.”

Unlike at other festivals, O+ performers aren’t compensated monetarily. Instead, they barter their artistic contributions for dental, medical and holistic services from health care providers.

Dr. Emily Bobson, O+ clinic complementary subcommittee co-director, said she was in charge of chiropractic care as well as organizing and maintaining alternative practices. She said the festival offers another way of approaching health care.

“[O+] is giving someone the opportunity to heal the way they want to heal instead of being told how to,” she said. “It’s providing services in that gray area, and [showing] it’s possible to have these services be provided without having to go through the medical chain of command. Bartering isn’t new. We just forgot about it.”

Amari said the idea behind O+ is progressive and its message is important to the community. He said because he performed, the festival set up and paid for his dentist appointment during which he received X-rays and a full cleaning.

“Health care costs are out of control and most artists [like me] do not have any, and if they do it’s very basic . . . so the value of O+ is tremendous and vital,” he said. “I saw this really strong, creative, Uptown Kingston community coming together for what I eventually understood, and is a great cause — bartering the medicine of art for the art of medicine.”

The O+ Festival is important because it helps to foster both community and culture, Concra said.

“Artists and musicians…started [this festival] out of necessity, but it’s grown into something else which I think is great,” he said. “It’s showing the equal value between art and culture.”

Bobson said she liked the festival’s sense of community not only between health care providers and the public, but also between the allopathic [medical] and holistic doctors.

“The community building is what inspires me the most,” she said. “[O+] provides exposure to another way of approaching health care. We can all…benefit from the healing process of music. It’s good for your soul.”