This past Saturday, The Los Angeles Times published a sensationalist piece detailing the drug-related deaths of 14 people who attended dance music events. The Times reported that the deaths, which occurred during or shortly after concerts produced by Los Angeles-based Insomniac Events and Go Ventures since 2006, were the product of ecstasy overdose. In short, the article attempts to connect electronic music with rampant drug use and death while inviting the reader to arrive at the conclusion that cities rely too much on the income from raves.
The unrelenting “rave” thrashing isn’t new for The Times; writers Ron Lin, Paul Pringle and Andrew Blankstein have been responsible for most of the anti-dance-music articles coming out of The Times, including breaking a story in 2011 that led to the arrest and indictment of Insomniac founder Pasquale Rotella (pictured below) and the expulsion of the Insomniac’s flagship event, the Electric Daisy Carnival, from the Los Angeles Coliseum.
Lin, Pringle and Blankstein pulled out all the stops to paint electronic music events as drug havens and killing machines in their latest attack. Online readers are first greeted by video of a teary-eyed father recalling the story of hearing the news of his sons fatal passing at an Insomniac event. A link titled Ravegoers Who Died: Deadly Mix Of Drugs And Raves leads to a supplementary page where each of the 14 victims are memorialized. The 2,000 word assault, as American dance producer Kaskade (pictured below) summarized in a Tumblr post, “paints a picture of ‘Ecstasy-fueled underground’ raves, bumped up into the mainstream, leaving a trail of dead, drug-addled kids being picked up by the ‘…coroner’s wagon rolling down desert roads.'”
The reaction to The Times’ article caused an uproar in the dance community. Pasquale Rotella took to Instagram and Facebook in an urgent “Call to action.” The statement, which claimed that The Times twisted facts to suit their sensational story by turning electronic music event fans into villains, highlighted the tireless hours Insomniac spends with the “brightest security, health and safety experts” to create safe environments. And despite all the precautions, “every single person who comes to our events is responsible for their choices.”
Kaskade’s response echoed Insomniac’s statement by pointing to the scrutiny of “engineers, civil servants, fire chiefs and policemen” that dictate the terms on which massive events must conform to. He continues, “there is a string of green lights that have to be run through by people whose business it is to keep these events safe. The same codes put into place for every other genre of music applies to EDM.”
By no means we should ignore the 14 lives that were taken by drug intoxication; death is not trivial and we will never be able to imagine or comprehend the pain and loss experienced by the victim’s loved ones. However, we cannot place blame on event promoters, who take every precaution and security measure in hopes of preventing anything from going horribly wrong, if an event attendee decides to partake in drugs. Kaskade had more to say on this matter.
“The responsibility to address substance abuse and addiction cannot come down to people who are event promoters. Not only is it unrealistic to expect them to tackle such a huge problem, it’s an enormous insult to those who have made it their life’s work to do so. Clearly, if the US Government hasn’t come up with the magic bullet to quell the problem of drugs in this country, it is not reasonable to expect an event promoter to pull this kind of trick out of his hat either.”
To understand Kaskade’s remark and to put this situation in the greater context of events, consider, for example, the sports industry, where evidence of substance abuse and addiction are habitually on display. On March 31, 2011,Brian Stow, a father of two and a lifelong San Francisco Giants fan, was savagely beaten outside Dodgers Stadium by two Dodgers fans for wearing the rival jersey. He was left in a coma. That same year, a fight broke out in the San Diego Chargers Stadium parking lot. A 25-year-old Raiders fan went to the hospital with stab wounds received from a rival Chargers fan. A year earlier, two football fans were shot and one was beaten unconscious in the San Francisco 49ers stadium restroom.
Finally, we only need to look to the past for a fine rebuttal against The Times’ continued war on electronic music. In the Summer of 2011, The Times published Don’t Trample the Electric Daisy, an opinion piece Pasquale Rotella wrote in defense of criticism Insomniac was receiving over drug usage at his events (history tends to repeat itself).
“What I’m asking for is a dose of perspective. What started in the underground is now mainstream, and we continue to learn from past events. But we also believe that the self-destructive behavior of a few people shouldn’t cause a ban against a music genre, and no one presenter should be ostracized when crowd control is a problem every big event faces.”
We can only hope proper perspective, as Rotella says, will lead to equal treatment of the fans at EDM events and non-EDM gatherings. If we spend less time placing blame and more on finding solutions, events will be safer and more fun for all involved.