Are Raves Safe?

First off, I would like to begin by saying I never really cared for the term “Rave.” It always seemed to have a negative media publicized ring to it. Back in the days (late 80’s early 90’s) we use to call them “undergrounds.” I sometimes reminisce about those last minute phone calls from promoters informing me of an event taking place that night. I also remember getting calls from a good friend whom of which would affectionately refer to me as “fool.” Hey fool! You down to go to a jam a tonight?” My overzealous response generally would be “Hell Yeah! I have a shit job and I need to blow off some steam.” Many of these events were unsanctioned and looking back they were often times held at venues that were one big fire hazard waiting to happen. Despite the outward appearance of these events being lawless dens of iniquity, they were surprisingly self-regulated and there were very few incidents of violence or other serious crimes. I have been to many “aboveground,” “underground” and “after hour” events and they were in no way like the events you see today. Please keep in mind; these events were a great deal smaller than the gigantic events you see at sports arenas and fair grounds around the world. In addition, the overall caliber of attendees was that of a nicer group of people. Back in the day people were courteous, sincere and were really in to the music. For many (including myself) it was about music, the people (mainly girls) and the sense of acceptance and feeling free.

It was about escaping the daily rat race. No one cared what I was wearing, my ethnicity was never an issue and I never felt threatened or compelled to look over my shoulder every three seconds. Many of these events opened me up to new ideals and different cultures. I met janitors, office workers, graphic artist and college students, all grooving under one roof. One common misconception is that drugs are everywhere and that many of these events sold alcohol to minors. Not true! Many of the events I attended (and I’ve been to allot of jams) they only served water and “smart drinks.” You know? The ones full of caffeine and Ginkgo Biloba! Boy do I miss that chalky taste. Mmmm! Mmmm!  Sure I’ve tried pot and nitrous oxide a few times but it was not about getting high. I’m not saying people did not indulge in drugs but it was not so overt, with many individual partaking before they walk in the doors. To be perfectly honest I have seen more drug use at traditional neighborhood bars or clubs at conventional venues with heavy security, such as the ones you may find on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood.

I personally feel that many of the promoters today are irresponsible. They care about making big bucks and cramming as many people in the room as possible. Many of the older events were free or cheap and if there were ever a “bust” or technical glitches caring promoters would almost immediately organize another event and not charge a dime. The true downfall was when the media got involved. I recall an event in a large warehouse located in the City of Commerce (industrial area of Los Angeles County), which was a fairly large event with at least 1,000 people. That’s small by today’s standards but huge none the less. 808 State was on the bill, however there was only a small DJ booth, a half pipe skate ramp. No stage! And no “808 State!”  There had apparently been an investigative news team at the event and they were filming partygoers with a hidden camera. Must have been some lame footage because all I saw was people dancing and having a good time. Once the event had ended my friend and I had noticed several news vehicles parked outside the venue. With cameras and lighting at the ready the eager journalist (and I use that term loosely) were hoping to find some people “trippin’ balls.” Ah! Not so lucky eh? Move along! Nothing to see here!

Later that week my friend had called me to inform me that a girl he was dating at the time saw him dancing in the graining under cover news footage. After I got myself together and stopped laughing, I began to realize that was the beginning of the end. Soon after it was…Rave this! Rave that! Blah! Blah! Blah! Then people starting showing up thinking it was the wild west. “Oh! I saw it on TV!” “I’m gonna’ go and be an asshole!” Furthermore, once the “party crews” (peripheral wanna’ be gang members) got involved, the scene seriously took a dump. I like to use the analogy of people that go to New Orleans for Mardi Gras thinking they can get totally out of control. Things are are bit more laid back during Mardi Gras, but there are still rules that have to be followed. Believe it or not the underground scene use to be that way. There were certain unwritten rules that were expected of attendees. Basically use common sense, be courteous, and show up with a positive attitude. Fast-forward to June 2010, the 14th Annual Electric Daisy Carnival a two day festival in which a 15-year-old girl had apparently overdosed on ecstasy and fell into a coma. This was a tragic event but it could have been prevented. Sasha Rodriguez, 15 was able to attend the event with her friends despite there being a 16-and-over age requirement. According to the Insomniac Events (organizers of EDC) website, anyone underage must be accompanied by a guardian. Sasha’s parents apparently did not know she was going to the rave, therefore she must have misled her parents and somehow slipped into the event.

There was either a break down in security or she somehow faked her age to gain admittance. Los Angeles news station ABC 7 quotes Sasha’s friends as saying that the drug must have been slipped into her drink because the drug was apparently everywhere and people were going around passing out free hits. In addition, the video shows one of the girls stating that security were not checking identification of attendees and that there appeared to be kids as young as 13-years-old. Please forgive my insensitivity, but I question the validity of the girl’s story. They had apparently lied to their parents and I suspect they may not be regular drug users however they decided to give it a go on that particular night. Now I’m no authority, but it seems to me that the ecstasy today seems to be much worse that of 15 to 20 years ago. Don’t get me wrong. Ecstasy is bad, but you did not hear about so many people dying from it back in the day. It seems that just about any bozo that has taken Chemistry 101 thinks they can crank out a batch of “E” and people won’t drop dead from one hit.

Many people may not realize it but they may be taking a combination of GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate), Mescaline, Speed, Drano and any other crap that may have been at the bottom of the cook’s bathtub. The EDC event drew 185,000 people and in addition to the Death of Sasha Rodriguez, there were at least 200 medical emergencies and 65 arrests. With numbers like that I can see how event staff, police and paramedics can easily get overwhelmed. Another event held on New Years Eve 2010 at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena (next door to the LA Coliseum) had some 26,000 people in attendance, but this time 17 people were hospitalized as a result of ecstasy and or alcohol, 62 people treated on scene and several people were arrested on suspicion of drug possession. At what point do you start turning away people? Do you set a cap on the amount of ticket sales to the event? Do promoters and event planners put money over safety and overbook events? These are all very serious question and the management of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum will have to answer them in court. On December 23, 2010 the parents of Sasha Rodriguez filed a claim for $5 million in damages against the Coliseum Commission.

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