As reported yesterday, LA County is freaking out about the two deaths that occurred at HARD Summer over the weekend. The county supervisor is now recommending a temporary ‘rave ban’ on all large scale electronic music events taking place on county property. It’s starting to feel like 2010 all over again, but things are actually very different now.
First, the girls who passed away over the weekend are over 18 so there’s no civil lawsuit boogeyman lurking, thus the practice of pre-litigation ass-coverage need not be at the forefront. Second, Live Nation, as the owner of HARD and 50% shareholder of Insomniac, is the only reptile in the room the press and the county need to be talking to. An institutionalized ban isn’t going to do shit except drive business elsewhere, a helpful discussion at this time should be focused on harm reduction practices to address drug use and creating a better consumer experience to help manage fatigue.
I have 2 suggestions for Live Nation: 1. if it’s too dicey to be involved in the drug discussion, let third parties in who specialize in this shit in to handle it for you. In June, DanceSafe was shut down at Electric Forest in Michigan. Although their booth was approved as an official vendor, they were shut down less than 12 hours into the weekend long festival. If you’re unfamiliar with DanceSafe, here’s their company description, “DanceSafe is a 501(c)(3) non-profit public health organization with a mission to promote health and safety within in the nightlife and electronic music communities. Using harm reduction and peer-based education as our guiding principles, we provide a range of free information and services including safe spaces to take breaks and engage in conversations about health, drug use, and personal safety; water and electrolytes; earplugs, safe sex tools; honest, fact-based, unbiased information on drug effects and potential harms; and provide drug checking.”
To Live Nation/Insomniac’s credit, they weren’t the ones who shut down the DanceSafe Electric Forest Booth (it was the now AEG owned co-promoter Madison House Presents). I used to always see DS at West Coast Insomniac shows, but they’ve been notably absent the last few years and seemingly replaced by Insomniac’s health and safety staff, Ground Control. DanceSafe provides testing for drug contents, which I can see totally runs afoul with the zero-tolerance drug policy promoters have to take, but they’re an extremely maliable organization used to working within the confines of the law and corporate policies. They could be stationed outside the festival grounds and/or asked not to provide test kits (something they’re totally used to, read all about it here – let’s work something out.
2. A common denominator in so many drug-related deaths at music festivals is overheating – this is largely preventable, so why not design a consumer festival experience with relief from the elements in mind? In case anyone needs some tips on how to best create such a layout for their events, here’s an entire report DanceSafe helped fund on how to prevent drug and alcohol-related incidents at music festivals. Actually, looking at the corporate sponsors on this report, Live Nation is one of them! Are they taking their own co-sponsored advice?
I didn’t go to HARD Summer, so I’m looking only at third party consumer reports here, but I did see a lot of complaints about water stations being completely overwhelmed and a desperate lack of shade. Evidently, there was an air conditioned chill-out room in the middle of the festival, but it was generally empty because no one knew about it. As a patron, I think I’d be willing to pay a higher premium for a ticket if I knew it was going to be the same epic fest with slightly fewer people and more amenities. There’s just too many fucking bodies crammed together to make the consumer experience safe and enjoyable.
But here’s the realest of real talk: I would never actually pay to go to HARD Summer, or EDC or Ultra, even if Soulwax were playing on top of a gigantic chocolate fondue fountain. The heat, unnavigable crowd of zombies, and lack of ready access to creature comforts is miserable. Promoters are selling fans an experience they would never subject themselves to, cause it’s fucking shitty and completely exhausting. Maybe now that these big West Coast promoters have corporate dollars and lawyers in their corner plus a real threat of getting the boot from LA County for good, we’ll see meaningful changes at the consumer level.