To my faithful readers – this post is going to be a bit longer than my normal posts and a bit “heavier” as well.
The Sunday edition of the Los Angeles Times, February 3, 2013, ran an article on the front page regarding raves and cities using them as revenue generating streams despite the drug overdose and death risks associated with such music festivals. The article continued beyond the front page and ended up sprawling across nearly two other full pages inside the main section of the paper.
Just the word “rave” stirs up emotions in people, doesn’t it? “Do you know where your kids are? Tonight could be the night the venture into the potentially deadly world of ‘the rave.’” Can’t you just picture all those innocent under age kids having illegal drugs slipped into their water unbeknownst to them, going crazy, and engaging in all sorts of other illegal activities? Better lock up your kids, the raves are coming to town.
I was a raver. I was a dancer, a PLUR (peace, love, unity, respect) enthusiast, a member of a good vibes crew making sure people at the parties were having a good time and being taken care of, a music aficionado, and eventually a DJ. I was at the party near “the edge of the Mojave” 11 years ago where five people died of overdoses and drug-related car crashes. I saw the paramedics using paddles to try and save one of those lives.
It was a tragic and unnerving scene, something I will never forget.
However, while the article in The Times does spout off numbers related to deaths at raves in the past couple years, the main point they are trying to drive home isn’t necessarily that raves are dangerous and cities should refuse to host them. The authors framed it as a witch hunt – calling out the promoters of these parties (who they believe should be responsible for the welfare of all attendees rather than holding the partiers responsible for their own actions) and calling out the cities who continue to host these deadly events because they want the revenue they generate through hotel bookings, location rentals, clean-up fees, licensing, etc… The authors are trying to argue that these local governmental bodies care more about a few dollars coming in the door than they do about the lives of the “kids” at these parties.
The last rave I attended I was 25… I’d hardly say I was a kid. I have friends who still go to raves who are into their 30’s. I’d hardly say they are kids. I won’t disagree that there are some children at these parties but once someone is 18 and legally considered an adult there isn’t much we can do about that, is there? Society has deemed them old enough to start making decisions on their own and so they must be held accountable for their own actions.
But Matticus, you ask, what about all the free flowing drugs at these parties? What if these kids are being drugged without consent or even knowledge of what’s being given to them?
Really? Do you really think that is going on? They are called drug dealers for a reason. They have that gritty image you seen on all those cop shows for a reason. They are in it for a profit – they aren’t going to just give them away. Plus, they don’t do their dealing out in the open where the cops and security employees can see them, confiscate their wares and send them to jail in handcuffs. If you want drugs, you have to seek out these individuals and pay them. It’s not just a choice, but a choice that takes effort. If you are on drugs at a rave it’s because you want to be.
But Matticus, you ask, shouldn’t the promoters be held responsible for allowing the drug dealers into the parties in the first place? Shouldn’t they try to stop that behavior from happening?
Every party I ever attended from the largest “massive” of over 100,000 people to the smallest underground rave in a hole the wall in downtown Los Angeles where there were 10 people in attendance, I walked through a metal detector and was patted down. All my belongings were sifted through. Sometimes I was forced to take my shoes off. Basically, security was as good at these raves as it is at most airports across the country. Once inside, uniformed police officers and security guards walked through the crowd, and plain clothed narcs patrolled for illegal activity. So, what more can we expect the promoters to do? Where there is a will, there is a way.
Are you saying that no illegal drug activity goes on at Phish concerts? At Willie Nelson concerts? At Elton John concerts? At a friend’s house who lives across town when their parents are away and you think they are getting together to study? At school between classes or during lunch breaks? On college campuses on a random Tuesday night when nothing else is going on?
The people who want to use, will use. Some of those will OD. Some will not. In the meantime there are many hundreds of thousands of people who want to attend these parties across the country who are there for the music and the community. Do we take away their enjoyment, their outlet to dance and learn and live and grow, just because a few people don’t know how to act responsibly? Do we keep cities who are struggling to make ends meet from hosting these events and reaping the financial rewards? Do we sue and jail the promoters of the parties who are cutting into their own revenue to provide security and other safety measures when the people in attendance should be responsible for their own actions?
Loss of life is a very serious thing. I agree completely, and I am saddened when I hear about a single loss for any reason. But, in most of the cases, if not all, when it comes to raves the person who passed away brought it on themselves through the choices they made.
“The all-night party of electronic dance music was among the big raves to emerge from an Ecstasy-fueled underground of urban warehouses.” I won’t argue that there isn’t ecstasy, pot, mushrooms, acid and pretty much every other drug being used at raves – but I’m pretty sure it’s the music that fuels them. The people are there for the music. If they were just in it for the drugs there are much easier ways to go about it.
“Since 2006, at least 14 people who attended concerts … have died from overdoses or in other drug-related incidents, a Times investigation has found.” That’s 14 deaths across 9 states in 7 years where drugs taken during a rave were the major contributing factor to someone passing away. In November of last year the LA Times published an article that stated “prescription overdoses kill more people than heroin and cocaine.” Per the CDC, there were 27,658 unintentional drug overdose deaths in the United States in 2007 alone.
“Despite warnings of drug risks from law enforcement and health officials, the raves have received the blessing of local governments hungry for the revenue they deliver.” Should hospitals and prescription drug manufacturers be put to the sword too for wanting to make a profit on drugs that people are abusing and over dosing on?
“’The city should have zero tolerance for any activity where drugs are an integral part,” Penman [San Bernadino city attorney] said. ‘A rave without drugs is like a rodeo without horses. They don’t happen.’” We better shut down all the psychiatric centers where drugs are an integral part in the care being provided. We better shut down all the hospitals. I know I’m taking that quote a bit out of context, but you have to admit that the statement is a bit absurd. Should we also shut down bars – drugs are integral in their revenue?
“’They don’t happen.’” Really? What a bold statement. I guess all those parties I threw after college where my friends and I hosted (planned, promoted, dj’ed, ran security, etc…) must not have been raves. I mean, the music was the same. The people were the same. The atmosphere was the same, but I guess we were throwing something other than a rave. A rave without music wouldn’t happen. Raves without drugs can and do happen all the time.
Obviously, the Rong-Gong Lin II, Paul Pringle and Andrew Blankstein article struck a chord with me. Perhaps it’s something that had building within me for awhile and since this story hit close enough to home it finally prompted me to write something of my own. But, I’m tired of the blame game. I’m tired of people refusing to take responsibility for their own actions, and I’m tired of the actions of a few ruining something for everyone else.
Raves are popular, the music is popular, the community is popular, and any city that harnesses that popularity and allows a legal event to be held at one of their venues is going to reap the monetary benefits. Should the responsible partiers, the tax payers, the organizers, be held responsible for the illegal actions of a few people? They over dosed, they passed away, they were too young, yes, it is sad and it shouldn’t have happened. But they made their choices and they suffered the consequences. Is that harsh of me? Probably. Is it the truth? Absolutely. So, why do need to do these witch hunts? Why do we need to find someone else to blame when we already know who is at fault?
If you made it this far, thank you for sticking with me through my rant. I’m sure I may have struck chords in some of you as well, so please feel free to leave your comments, responses, questions, retorts, arguments, etc… I would love to know what you have to say in response. Keep it civil if you can. If you can’t, I’ll understand.