HARD Day of The Dead (photo credit: OHDAGYO Photography)
I've received a great deal of advice in my life, but there's one piece that's stuck with me for a long time. “If you are going to do something stupid, be smart about it.” This was said to me by one of my High School buddy's mother and I have held onto this little quip of wisdom throughout my life. At the end of the day most of us are going to do things that are neither smart nor healthy and being aware of the dangers can only increase our chances of survival. I have done my share of experimentation in the past and so have many others, which has nothing to do with the dance scene itself, but it's important to open up a dialogue on how we can avoid tragedies that seem to happen all too often.
I attended Electric Zoo 2013, when they had to shut down the last day due to two deaths related to “Molly”, which is supposedly a pure form of MDMA. What many people don't know or understand is that many of these kids do not pay attention to the drugs they're taking nor do they consider the ramifications large doses have on their body. There was also at the time a concern that people were being sold bonked drugs such as “bath salts”, which when taken can cause seizures among other issues.
Today, the electronic music scene is being labeled as the main cause for the rise in death-related incidents that include the use of MDMA, Ecstasy or Ketamine. Recently, Hard Summer Festival in LA lost two teen girls to drug overdoses. A mere three months before, a young woman died of similar causes at Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas. The county of LA is working towards banning large scale EDM shows from being held in the Los Angeles area altogether.
Amidst all of these death notifications, there is a large-scale stigma that anyone who is found in this scene is either a heavy drug user or the advocate of young attendees doing drugs. Anytime I find myself sharing my music preferences with others, the automatic assumption is that I attend these shows for the sole purpose of getting high. That is a completely misguided and ignorant assumption about anyone, especially in regards to music taste. I am definitely not denying that people who attend some of these events may be under some form of influence. However, to antagonize an entire industry due to deaths of a handful is not a reasonable approach.
Each individual is different, there are those who are easily susceptible to peer pressure and there are those who make their own decisions actively. My point is that all of these festivals and shows, no matter how much they beef up their security, will not be able to stop kids from being kids. Rather than placing labels on organizations such as DanceSafe.org or The Bunk Police, stating that they “encourage the use of drugs", they should encourage these organizations to proceed with their mission, to educate and possibly save the public.
DanceSafe is a 501(c)(3) non-profit public health organization with a mission to promote health and safety within the nightlife and electronic music communities. They generally set up their booths at various events all over the country and use harm reduction tactics by having peers open discussion about health, drugs, hydration and etc., at their tents which they provide so people have a safe place to go. Safety at dance events is of the utmost concern for these organizations. Many promoters or various officials have claimed that DanceSafe or the Bunk Police encourage drug use, but that is not the case.
When you have a crowded festival line that goes on for hours in the blistering heat, with no free water or any form of hydration offered, that creates room for bad reactions for those who are under the influence. DanceSafe and the Bunk Police, want to help by making sure that even though these kids may be doing stupid things, someone is there to keep an eye on them. They aim to provide cool water, testing kits to make sure they are not taking something toxic, shade and sometimes company to those who are in serious need of a safe place.
Rather than tabooing or trying to eliminate an entire scene of music, maybe the government and the promoters should consider alternative modes of resolution. Teaching everyone the harms of these drugs or at the very least how to use them in a manner that is more controlled, would probably help save many people, but at the same time encourage the expansion of the music and allow us to all enjoy them safely and harmoniously.
Let us know what you think about this dilemma we seem to be in with the current state of dance music events. There is without a doubt a perpetual growth in the scene and we want to continue to see it progress in the right direction. Will the industry crash and burn? Or will it grow to become one of the biggest industries on the planet? Only time will tell.