“I can’t keep quiet.”
Photo courtesy of the artist
Recent coverage by The Los Angeles Times of the county's turbulent electronic festival landscape has caught the ire of DJ and producer Kaskade, who responded to the publication with a blog post on his website titled "I Can't Keep Quiet."
The article to which Kaskade refers in his post discusses HARD Events' decision to skip this year's annual Halloween festival, Day of the Dead, following what the LA Times described as "a summer of deaths" when three festival-goers died due to drug-related causes in July at HARD Summer. A previous article pointed out that 21 attendees of nationwide events thrown by LA promoters have died under similar circumstances in the last decade.
"Let's not pretend this is an isolated problem, something unique to dance music culture," Kaskade counters, stating that more people (27, specifically, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) die as a result of drunk driving accidents each day. "This is a world-wide problem, something that is not even close to being unique to dance music. Part of the problem is people trying to simple-size it. Raves = drugs. So close them down... There are better answers than regurgitating the same alarmist solutions that have never worked, which will NEVER work. Try this on: education, harm reduction and legalization."
Kaskade has long been a vocal defender of dance music culture against the drug stigma. In February 2013, he called out the LA Times for writing an article that he called an "inflammatory pummeling" framing dance music's American boom as, in his words, "'Ecstasy-fueled underground' raves, bumped up into the mainstream, leaving a trail of dead, drug-addled kids being picked up by the 'coroner's wagon rolling down desert roads.'" In September 2013, he hit Twitter to condemn the University of Massachusetts Amherst's ban on dance music events following a string of drug-related deaths at similar events across the Northeast. The ban was lifted six months later.
Recently, THUMP wrote about the challenges of stopping drug deaths at festivals. Harm reduction experts including Dance Safe in the US and The Loop in the UK advocate for an educational-based approach to reducing drug use rather than criminalizing it. Presently, US promoters operate under the RAVE Act, the largely-criticized legislation passed by Congress in 2003 that essentially prevents them from allowing on-site drug testing due to fear of prosecution.
Los Angeles' situation is considerably dire, as popular local promoters including HARD and Insomniac have been forced to relocate out of the county as a result of drug-related hospitalizations and deaths. Last year, LA County's Board of Supervisors proposed a ban on large-scale electronic events held on public property before settling on appointing a task force and implementing strict regulations for future events. San Bernardino County's Board of Supervisors is re-considering a ban on events inside regular Insomniac venue San Manuel Amphitheater.
Outside of the US, nightlife in other countries is also being threatened with shutdown on the grounds of drug use. Back in May, the Argentinian government banned electronic music festivals in Buenos Aires following the deaths of five attendees at Time Warp due to suspected "acute poisoning." London clubbing institution fabric's closure in August—followed by the revocation of its license in September—after the drug-related deaths of two people over the course of nine weeks has spawned a worldwide discussion on topics including harm reduction and responsibility.