Let’s Get Real About Deaths At Festivals

This past weekend was rough for the festival community. Nocturnal Wonderland and Lost Lands, two of the year’s most anticipated events, both reported fatalities. Just over a month ago, HARD Summer reported one death. A couple months before that, Lightning in a Bottle also reported one death.

Throughout my years as a journalist covering the electronic music scene I have always avoided writing about drugs in any context. I don’t like the idea that drugs are a necessary part of being in this scene, and I don’t like perpetuating the stigma that typecasts people who enjoy raves as drug-users.

However, all these tragedies undeniably lead to one conclusion: we as a community are reinforcing the stigma, and we need to change that.

Politicians around the country have been trying to ban festivals for years, and in light of all these unfortunate circumstances their claims are becoming more and more legitimate. Much of these efforts are very heavily biased as none of the people writing these laws and county ordinances have attended a festival. But imagine a type of event that you yourself don’t enjoy. My example is renaissance fairs. I have zero desire to attend a renaissance fair, yet if people were dying at renaissance fairs at this rate then I might think it’s reasonable to get rid of them. After all, what amount of fun is worth someone’s life?

Last year Lost Lands was commended for their transparency and efficiency when it came to concerns from attendees. Unfortunately that praise will not be returned this year. Nocturnal Wonderland is an Insomniac event, and the city of Los Angeles has had it out for them since EDC 2010. And for those who cast these incidents are inherent to Insomniac or HARD events because they’re “commercial” or “mainstream”, this is the second year in a row Lightning in a Bottle has faced tragedy, and Lightning in a Bottle is a pillar of the transformational festival circuit. This problem can’t be confined to one branch of the scene. It’s widespread.

As such, WE are the ones who need to show politicians, and everyone else, that these events can be as safe as they can be fun. The amount of people who need medical attention at festivals is infinitesimal compared to those who don’t. Despite what people may think, this community is filled with smart, caring individuals who want everyone around them to be safe.

Well now is the time to double our efforts. We need to approach this from every angle.

First of all are the events themselves. With social media it’s easier than ever to reach out and share your thoughts, so reach out. Tell them you want things to be different. Every event can always do more to combat medical issues.

For example American festivals need to start offering free drug tests so people know what they’re taking. It’s a simple, inexpensive solution to help make sure attendees are safe. Instead of merely attacking drugs and drug users, events need to accommodate them because honestly, it’s impossible to completely stop drugs from entering an event. If someone wants to get them in, they’ll do it.

This is why you need to keep an eye on your friends. Even if you’ve been to thousands raves with the exact same people who have never had a problem. If your friends are taking drugs, watch them. Make sure you take breaks. Keep insisting they drink enough water. Be the annoying person in the group who checks on everyone too much. People might seem irritated, but they appreciate it.

Finally, it is mandatory that if you’re going to an event and you’re taking drugs to take care of YOURSELF. If there is one thing you take away from reading this piece, please let it be this simple truth.

The buck stops with you when it comes to being safe at a festival. You can’t control other people. You certainly can’t control an event. What you can control are your own actions. These events are fun, and a lot of people think drugs make them more fun. If you are one of those people then that’s your choice.

Just know that no party is worth your life. None.

If you feel nervous about taking that extra dose, don’t do it. If you feel tired or hungry or thirsty, stop and make sure you handle it. Most of all, if the people you’re with at an event are pressuring you, ditch them. I promise nobody who is worth your limited rave hours will pressure you to do drugs.

There is no room for complacency anymore. A vital part of rave culture is looking out for one another. If you want people to look out for you, you have to do it for them, too. No exceptions. At the end of the day it shouldn’t even be a chore. Everyone should be happy to do it; to make sure you’re safe. It’s the best way to spread positive energy, and that’s what this scene needs right now.

Time and time again the rave community has proven we can overcome adversity. A few years ago the legendary London nightclub, Fabric, was nearly closed after a drug-related death. What saved the club was the rousing call from people who revered the club, both DJs and dancers alike. It’s time for us to come together in that same light. Except this isn’t just about one club or one festival.

It’s about all of us.

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