EDM’s ‘summer of death’ reporting is more than just tabloid raving

There have been 25 deaths at EDM events in Los Angeles over the past three years. Unless the problem is taken seriously, the scenes future is at risk

In 2010, around the time of the last raves held at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, former venue officials made the argument the parties there were no different than beer-fueled American football games held there. At the Los Angeles Rams season-opening home match at the Coliseum last weekend, at least 158 people were hospitalized for heat-related issues. (Temperatures were in the 90s.) But there was one huge difference: nobody died.

Over the past 10 years there have been at least 25 drug-related deaths at parties hosted by just three LA-based rave promoters, the Los Angeles Times found. Parties such as Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC) in Las Vegas have seen multiple drug-related deaths since moving there from the Coliseum in 2011. At Hard Summer this year, three patrons died. The cause isstill under investigation. Last year two teenage girls died after attending Hard Summer. Both deaths were MDMA-related, coroners officials said. In the wake of these tragedies, and with a background of fewer venues willing to take risks on dance events, Hard announced it is not hosting its annual Day of the Dead festival in LA.

Like in London, where one of the worlds greatest dance music venues, Fabric, appears to be no more due to factors triggered by the drug-related death of two teenagers in August, Los Angeles is in the midst of a rave crisis. Almost all of the citys rave deaths are ecstasy-related, according to coroners conclusions. Yet for more than 20 years the electronic dance music scene has been blaming everything but itself the media, bad batch pills, lack of party skills for its drug problem. MDMA deaths have been constant here since the dawn of the 90s, when British ex-pats organized some of the first American raves in Los Angeles. In 1999 five teens died when the car they were in plunged off a mountain road following a rave(Ecstasy was one of the main drugs found in the victims bodies).

Hard summer festival has seen five deaths in two years. Photograph: Chelsea Lauren/REX/Shutterstock

Since those days the culture has returned to harm reduction as a means to combat the fatalities. DanceSafe, an organization that promotes health and safety within the electronic music community, believes ravers need a safe place to play where theres plenty of free water, pill testing and space to cool down. Sounds reasonable. But pill testing, which has been embraced by some countries, can lead to a belief that ecstasy isnt a cause in these deaths.

Even the most celebrated MDMA scientists, such as the University of California Los Angeles Charles Grob, say ecstasy is problematic and unpredictable in a party setting. In the past five years there have been government task forces, free water, increased security and age limits of 18 and older. In the late 00s, operators of the San Francisco Bay Areas Cow Palace tried harm reduction and found no improvement, with multiple hospitalizations.

Were fairly liberal in California. Marijuana is on the ballot this November and is likely to be fully legalized after 20 years of pioneering medical legitimacy. The so-called godfather of ecstasy, Sasha Shulgin, was a lifelong resident. Were not opposed to fun. The important thing to acknowledge is that MDMA has a deadly record, like alcohol, heroin and cocaine. There are only two sure solutions when it comes to saving ravers lives: one, dont hold raves. Thats not going to happen, and we dont want it to. Two, make them 21 and older.

None of the 25 deaths happened at 21-and-older events. Last year, following the 2015 deaths, Hard Day of the Dead went 21-plus. Nobody died. Of course, the crowds, estimated at 20,000, were fractional. Hard Summer saw about 147,000 people through the turnstiles this year. Yes, some of the deceased over the years have been older than 21, but barely. When 20-year-old Kenani Kaimuloa died after attending EDC Vegas this year, her father, an Iraq combat veteran, told a local newspaper reporter that he had been waiting for her to come home that weekend to give me her Fathers Day present. If 21-and-older works, then, why isnt it done more often?

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2016/sep/23/edm-summer-of-death-los-angeles-tabloid-raving

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