Electric Zoo Day 3 Cancelled After Two Deaths
So, if you’re in the “EDM” scene, your phone is definitely blowing up right now with, “Is it true???,” “OMG wait dont head into the city yet,” “OMGGGG WHYYYYY :'(,” “Do you think they’ll reimburse us??,” or “Where do you think Armin and Krewella are going to play now instead??” This is because one of the largest electronic music festivals in the country has been cancelled on the third day in an unprecedented move by Bloomberg’s office and EZoo officials. So you can see it, here is the official release from the mayor’s office:
Due to serious health risks, the Electric Zoo music festival on Randall’s Island on Sunday, September 1st has been cancelled. The City recommended cancellation and the event promoters have agreed.
During the first two days of the Electric Zoo music festival, two concert-goers have died and at least four others became critically ill and have been placed in intensive care at area hospitals. Definitive causes of death have not yet been determined, however, both appear to have involved the drug MDMA (ecstasy, or molly). The Electric Zoo organizers have worked with City officials to reduce health risks at this event, but in view of these occurrences, the safest course is to cancel the remaining day of the event
If you spent the equivalent to about $180 on an EZoo ticket, you must be wondering how this could happen? At Paradiso music festival, one man died and dozens were reportedly take to the hospital, really putting into the limelight the tragic side of these experiences that are meant to be extremely fun.
So what could the festival have done to prevent this? There were plenty of free water stations, security check was so tight they legitimately looked down girls bras and felt up really close between their legs, they were checking ids to ensure it was 18+, there were massive signs to medical tents, and reminder texts and emails were sent out to festival goers (before and during the festival) to remind everyone to, “Please watch out for each other, and know that help is all around you. If you see someone slip, trip, or overheat, someone who needs medical attention, rehydration, or just a helping hand, please keep the positive vibe alive, and be a friend to a friend in need.” Still, people died.
You would also like to think that people going to this festival are saying, “Wow, this is such a wake up call. I really don’t know what is in these powders or pills or liquids that I’m buying from strangers and my friendly neighborhood drug dealer (because everyone thinks they’re so tight with their dealer, he or she would never sell them bad drugs). Maybe I should really stop taking these drugs.” Instead we’re hearing, “What’s the next party? I’m sure the artists must be playing somewhere else in NYC.” Meaning people at these shows and festivals aren’t going to stop just because you cancelled one festival, or that searches are even more strict, or festivals keep upping the age minimum (TomorrowWorld is a 21+ festival), or there are more rehydration stations, or more positive messages to hep friends in need.
This action is unprecedented in the history of festivals. I talked to my dad about festival cancellations in “his day,” and he was really shocked that a festival would be completely cancelled.
So what is the solution? Obviously that is not an easy answer. Security checks didn’t stop people from smuggling drugs in. All of the preemptive actions the festival took did not prevent it from being the largest (and possibly only) festival from experiencing this sad moment. Cancellation hasn’t changed feelings about drugs and partying. However, this was more than just $180 lost, or a party that was cancelled, this was two lives that were destroyed, two families that have lost sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, and cousins, friends that lost their “BFF” or “festie bestie” or favorite friend or just that person you knew a little bit but knew them to be a fun-spirited and great person. This is a tragedy. This is life ending at what is supposed to be a life-giving experience.
We still have to press though, what is the solution? Toxicology reports take 8 weeks to show results (anyone who tells you otherwise is lying– I know from first hand experience they cannot be pushed through any faster than that), so we can’t know for sure that it’s “MDMA,” but as many pointed out after the Paradiso incident, it’s unlikely that it was just MDMA, but a mixture of drugs that by eye can’t be distinguished.
In the US festival goers face unique challenges to their European or even Californian counterparts. At most raves and concerts throughout Europe and many in California and on the West Coast testing centers, to test the makeup of festival goers substances, are centrally located at the venue. The US has had a long tradition of inflexible “no tolerance” drug policy, but does this effectively address the rampant use of illegal drugs by young people, particularly at festivals?
A culture of fears over criminal and civil liability leads many US promoters to shun testing centers or tents and ignore that illegal drug use exists. It does not have to be this way. In 1999, DanceSafe was formed, the first nonprofit harm reduction organization. DanceSafe (http://www.dancesafe.org/) has operated testing facilities at many events and festivals since it was formed, giving people the opportunity to test their drugs for harmful adulterants while on the festival grounds. The Bunk Police (http://bunkpolice.org/), were formed in 2011 for the same reason, to fight against an increase in the number of research chemicals and harmful adulterants plaguing the music scene. Both DanceSafe and The Bunk Police offer tables at events, as well as and home testing kits that you can purchase to drastically lower the risks of ingesting an unwanted chemical.
Inflexible drug policy is leading to harmful situations. Research chemicals are more common than ever before, cheaper to buy, and more prevalent on the scene than they have ever been in history. Human beings will continue to ingest substances whether or not they are legal, but as it stands this lack of knowledge only leads to people being scammed, hurt, or worse. We as a culture need to embrace these testing centers and help people become better educated in their choices. If the US and UK drug tzars and promoters continue to vilify the people trying to save lives, these deaths will continue to occur. Only through knowledge can we sort out the murderers pumping poison into the scene.
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Our thoughts go out to the families of those whose lives were tragically cut short this weekend at Electric Zoo Music Festival.