This last week was an incredibly trying time for the entire EDM community. Beginning with the death at Zedd’s show in Boston, the week took another tragic turn this weekend at Electric Zoo, where two more people died and four were hospitalized. As we all now know, this led to the cancellation of the 3rd day of the festival. Labor Day weekend is usually one filled with fun: it is the unofficial end of the summer and one last time to celebrate with friends and family before Fall’s realities set in.
Electric Zoo has been cancelled today Sunday, September 1st. More information to follow.
— Electric Zoo (@ElectricZooNY) September 1, 2013
Out of respect to the families and friends involved in last night’s tragic loss, the show in Boston tonight is canceled. — Zedd (@Zedd) August 28, 2013
PLEASE, everyone… BE RESPONSIBLE!
— Zedd (@Zedd) August 28, 2013
However, given the events of the past week, we here at EDMTunes thought this would be a good time to come together collectively as a staff and reflect on the state of our EDM community; specifically about the popular culture-induced connection between it and drug use, and what the next steps should be with regards to making sure that tragedies such as this never occur again on our watches.
Enhanced Promoter Responsibility
Promoters have the responsibility to put the safety of their attendees ahead of everything else, including profits. We saw Made Events and Electric Zoo take a devastating loss in profits on Sunday by canceling the third day of EZoo, simply to prevent further catastrophes. While this, alongside with hiring security, crowd control, and making water more readily available are good steps, there is still a lot more that could be done.
We have been hearing about people dying at shows for years, but as veterans of the scene, we always have this hope that we as a community have moved past inclinations to such irresponsible behavior. Sadly, this simply is not true. It seems everywhere one goes with regards to festivals, the status quo is “how do we keep this kids from getting drugs into our event”, as opposed to “okay, we know that a select number of people will partake in drug use, how can we make sure everyone stays safe”. Whether it is space, understanding, conversation, water, or simply a change of scenery, a lot of the time, simple and mindful actions allow festival promoters and security to help people turn what could’ve been a very difficult night into something special. However, there is simply not enough of this sort of scrutiny going on at festivals. Bouncers aren’t trained in how to effectively help people that are specifically suffering from MDMA-related symptoms, and its not like EMTs are always as readily available as one would hope, especially considering how massive and packed full of people festival grounds have become.
Attendance to electronic dance music festivals is continuing to grow every year. For example, approximately 25,000 people attended Electric Zoo in NYC in 2009. The next year, the amount doubled. This past weekend, an estimated 90,000 “zoo animals” were ready to show off their dance moves. This reveals a lot about the growing love for EDM in the states, however, accommodations are quickly becoming insufficient for these temporary communities. In order to make festivals safer and more compliant with crowd control, event organizers need to revisit the way they plan these events. Water access points, medical facilities, and restrooms need to be clearly flagged. This first part is incredibly important! A typical and very common scenario at basically every festival known to man is the decision of how to get water. When you are in the middle of a big main stage festival crowd, leaving to get water and then finding your way back to the group is a nearly impossible task. However, there are a lot of festivals that do not allow you to bring camelbacks, or sometimes even water bottles, into the events. You are then left with a choice: get the water you desperately need and lose your friends, or stay with your friends and try to gut it out until the end of the set. For the record, gutting it out is always the wrong answer, however, the correct choice becomes exponentially harder to make when you are not sober, and neither is anyone around you. Why make access to water so hard? It’s a combination of ignorance to the necessity of water, specifically at an EDM festival, and most likely, a sponsorship demand that does not allow people to bring in their own alcohol, or any other liquid, in order to get them to spend money inside the festival. This is why a water bottle at many festivals costs $4.00 or more. All of these reasonings undoubtedly combine to make for a fairly hazardous environment for those festival goers who are participating in drug use.
It is key to note that promoter responsibility has most definitely increased over the past few years. At Electric Zoo in 2011, water cost $4.00 for a small bottle; now it’s free to access from a tap. A combination of persistence and learning from mistakes can encourage these companies we know and love to make safer changes in the festival-going experience. However, promoter responsibility is only a small fraction of the equation. The past few years have seen festivals such as Electric Zoo go to incredible lengths to keep their attendees safe. Water stations, signs, messages, EMTs, police officers, etc, have all been significantly increased year after year. Quite obviously, festival planners can only do so much once 90,000 unpredictable people have ascended upon their grounds.
Better Safety Education
In times like these, when festivals and shows are becoming a huge entertainment commodity, attendees must take responsibility for not only their own well being, but others around them as well. As outlined above, festival promoters can only do so much. They will not have success in limiting deaths at their events if the people they are herding are irresponsible souls who don’t care for anyone around them, and are completely uneducated about how to approach drug use. Unfortunately, the festival culture in the U.S most definitely includes a subset of attendees that are A. very young, B. unaware of more or less any and all important information regarding drug intake, and C. not necessarily at a festival for the music. It is very sad indeed to have to be reminded twice this week that people simply are not aware of the dangers of drug intake. While we obviously do not know exactly what happened at Electric Zoo this weekend yet, isn’t it fair to assume that too large a dose of MDMA and whatever else it was cut with (potentially combined with alcohol as well), combined with dehydration, probably had something to do with at least some of the hospitalizations or deaths?
Far too often, we have all run into a friend or a group of people at festivals whose attitude about drugs is as flimsy as Will.I.Am’s musical ability. Where did you get these pills? I don’t know. What’s in them? I don’t know. How big is the dose? I don’t know. Have you tested it for purity or other substances? Of course not. How many did you just take? Oh, like five.
While this level of ignorance certainly falls onto the individual to some extent, one can’t possibly pour all the blame there. In fact, most of the blame lies within constructs and pitfalls of our own society. The general U.S drug attitude is “Say No to Drugs”. Everything is illegal, and the threat of massive fines, felony charges, and jail time suppress the people’s ability to become educated on proper use. Drugs don’t have to be dangerous; however, their illegality forces people to find them from sketchy dealers who have laced it with God knows what, and are convincing young kids that this is the best shit they’ll ever have and that its super safe, regardless of whether or not those statement are true or not.
This, combined with the excessively popular cultural wave of EDM fandom, has proven to be quite fatal to the youth of our country! How many young people does one see at festivals wearing shirts that say something like “My Name is Molly”, “Help Me Find My Friend Molly”, or some other equally colloquial drug reference? The answer is a lot! And of those people, how many would you say are actually educated on substances such as MDMA? Probably less than half, at most. In a country known for being a melting pot, the U.S is now home to a melting pot of EDM fans who are forced to hide their drug usage- and therefore never get answers regarding what exactly they are taking or what is a safe amount to take- as they are herded into large festival grounds in 95 degree heat for three days.
The Festival Mindset
The EDM craze has undoubtedly contributed to the growing number of festival goers who just use these events as an excuse to partake in illicit activities. No longer is it about musical discovery and finding new friends within the blossoming community. It seems like the true meaning of PLUR (Peace, Love, Unity, Respect) has been lost from the concert landscape. Concert goers have a responsibility to themselves and to others to make sure that everyone can have a good time. We must steer away from the media perspective of our little scene, and force people to realize that it is like any other musical genre in terms of why people even give a damn about it. To assume that an entire genre of music exists solely because of its ties to drug usage is one of the most closed minded, uneducated and ignorant opinions one can put forth.
People who believe this are the ones who are causing problems in the first place. There will always be that one troll that propagates the opinion that the only reason EDM is popular in the states is because of the implication of drug use. Or the ever popular, “why am I being punished via a cancelled event because a handful of people don’t know how to handle their shit” quip. Be quiet. People are dead, families destroyed, and the ripples affect far more than just the nuclear family and friends of the deceased, but also the community at large, and the only thing you can muster is a temper tantrum on why you can no longer attend one day of a festival? We can’t help the existence of those sorts of people, and we shouldn’t assist them in their bigoted mindset. The electronic music community as a whole is one of the nicest, most caring groups of people out there. If all of us, from the artists, to the promoters, to the media, to the fans, can begin a dialogue about how to fix the above-mentioned problem areas, we can begin the process of limiting the disasters of this week. We must never forget the double dose of reality the past seven days have brought upon our community. Three people are dead, and six have been hospitalized because of our own deficiencies as a community. Let this number be the only reason we need to force drug education and festival safety into the forefront.
Editors’ Note.:We here at EDMTunes in no way commend or encourage drug use. Drugs are illegal and detrimental to your health. We believe that you can have 100% of the fun staying sober or partaking in legal substances. However, it is in the best interest of everybody if those who do partake in illicit substance do so safely, thus making it so that everyone else can have a good time as well.