Sophie Sputnik has never been one to shy away from the spotlight, but at this Saturday’s Big Time Music Show, Sputnik will be stepping out as more than just the powerhouse singing, drumming half of bluesy Fort Lauderdale rockers Killmama — she’ll be taking the stage as a onetime addict. “I never really planned on telling the world I was in recovery,” says Sputnik. “But since this event, I just don’t give a shit anymore.”
Courtland’s Connection, a not-for-profit foundation set up by Lake Worth residents Chris and Darrell Smethie in memory of their son Courtland, who lost his own battle with addiction in 2011. “While he was trying to get sober, [Courtland] had gone to a lot of different treatment centers, so he was really well-known in the community,” says Sputnik. “When he passed away, everybody who was friends with him went straight to his parents. A group formed around Courtland’s overdose of people supporting each other.”
One of the organization’s primary aims is to fund halfway housing for individuals after their time in treatment — a crucial step in maintaining newfound sobriety. “There’s a lot of flophouses and stuff where, if you don’t have any money to get help, you end up,” Sputnik says. “It’s a really bleak situation.”
For Javier Chia, one of the night’s many performers, the cause is deeply personal. “I actually went to my first halfway house in 2011 and met Courtland,” Chia says. “We had gone to the same treatment center.” Chia, now in recovery, describes his participation in the Big Time Music Show as “purpose through service. I can’t make sense or reason of why things happen the way they do,” he says, “and frankly I try not to do that anymore. What I do know is that, like stars, we as humans shine the brightest in the darkest of the night. I hope through all of our unified darkness, we can all shine bright enough to light up a world that is in desperate need of it.”
Chia isn’t the only performer touched by addiction on the night’s bill — Sean Wouters of headliners Deaf Poets lost a close friend to heroin and speaks of knowing “many damaged individuals who lost family and friends.” And Sputnik’s own journey through the worlds of both music and recovery have honed her vision for the Big Time Music Show needs to be — and how it needs to differ from other like-minded events.
“I don’t want to hate on other recovery events,” she insists. “I just noticed that the ones I’ve gone to have felt kind of... diluted. I was drinking when we started Killmama. Obviously, that got out of control. The band continued in my sobriety. I’ve been in bars almost every weekend the whole time I’ve been sober. We’ve gone on a five-week tour. There’s an edge to rock music that I wanted to bring into the recovery community.”
To that end, providing an exciting night of great music is key for Sputnik. Killmama will perform alongside an ad hoc choir being dubbed “the Supergroup” for the evening, and both Wouters and Max Brenner of Anastasiamax have promised to debut new music at the benefit.
Sputnik says her goals with the Big Time Music Show are simply “to integrate the Broward community with the recovery community and blur the lines and get people who aren’t in recovery to know that there’s help.” And yet there’s clearly a larger vision at play — In conversation, Sputnik professes to hoping that the Big Time Music Show will become a yearly show of strength.
Indeed, that year-to-year continuity is part and parcel with what she hopes will be the night’s takeaway. As she puts it, “I have a huge group of friends that are sober, that have a lot of fun, and that are really happy, and we all really stick together and support each other. There’s a lot of hope and beauty within it too. I feel like that’s what the message of the event is going to be — that people do make it.”
Courtland’s Connection Big Time Music Show!
With Deaf Poets, Gallimimus, Killmama & the Supergroup, Anastasiamax, Javier Chia, Danny Bernetich, Christian Welch. 6 p.m. Saturday, December 5, at the Sanctuary Church, 1400 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $5. Call 561-319-7361, or visit courtlandsconnection.org.