Over Labor Day weekend, 67,000 fans of electronic dance music descended upon the San Manuel Amphitheater in Devore, California, for a three-day music and art festival that is known as Nocturnal Wonderland. By the end of the event, 428 people had been arrested and five had been transported to local emergency rooms.
Press coverage of the event was mostly positive, primarily because no one died. At similar events throughout southern California in recent years, the news has not been nearly as good. According to the Los Angeles Times, at least 28 deaths have occurred at raves organized by LA-area companies since 2006.
Music, Dancing, and Drugs
Raves are typically daylong or multi-day events that feature electronic dance music (EDM) and other forms of entertainment. These events began as secret all-night parties held in undisclosed locations such as houses, clubs, or even abandoned warehouses. The abuse of Ecstasy (MDMA), methamphetamine, LSD, and other drugs was commonplace among ravers as a means of enhancing the sensory experience as well as enabling one to stay awake throughout the night.
The recreational abuse of these so-called “club drugs” can expose individuals to significant harm, including death. For example, ecstasy abuse can cause hyperthermia, or a dangerous increase in body temperature, which can damage the liver, heart, and kidneys. Meth abuse can have a similar impact, and can also result in delusions, hallucinations, impaired cognition, and mood disturbances. All mind-altering club drugs can lead to lowered inhibitions, poor decision making, and reckless behaviors, which can put individuals at risk for a wide range of negative outcomes.
When club drugs are used in combination with alcohol or other dangerous substances, as is often the case at raves and similar events, both the likelihood of harm and the potential severity of that harm can increase exponentially.
As raves became commercialized, much has changed. The venues have become larger, the performers became much better known, and attendance has skyrocketed. However, the drug use that was prevalent during the rave scene’s “underground” has remained prevalent and problematic.
Arrests, Emergencies, and Deaths
At least seven of the 28 deaths noted above have occurred at the two-day HARD Summer Music Festival in the past four years. These deaths, along with hundreds of arrests and dozens of individuals requiring treatment at area emergency rooms, have contributed to the HARD Summer gathering being forced to move to different venue each of the previous four years.
The Los Angeles Times and Inland Valley Daily Bulletin have documented the following statistics from the past four HARD Summer events:
- 2013 (Los Angeles State Historic Park, Los Angeles, California): One death
- 2014 (Whittier Narrows Recreation Area, South El Monte, California): One death, 140 arrests.
- 2015 (LA County Fairgrounds, Pomona, California): Two deaths, 49 individuals taken by ambulance to area emergency rooms for drug-related issues, and 310 arrests.
- 2016 (Auto Club Speedway, Fontana, California): Three deaths, nine individuals taken to area hospitals, and 325 arrests.
HARD Summer is not the only rave or festival to have been the site of drug-related arrests, medical emergencies, and deaths.
The three-day Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC), which has recently been held at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, experienced three drug-related deaths in 2014 and one in 2015. During the 2014 version of the EDC, police made 73 felony arrests, and 794 attendees required medical attention. In 2015, there were 76 felony arrests and 1,426 medical calls.
Statistics such as these have prompted many to call for southern California to ban or significantly increase regulation on raves and similar festivals. Opposition from leaders of some California communities has been among the reasons for the HARD Summer festival’s may recent relocations.
San Bernardino County Supervisor Janice Rutherford and Valerie Henry, president of the Devore Rural Protection Association, are among those who are in favor of prohibiting future raves. Also, in direct response to rave-related problems, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has established a task force to conduct threat assessments on all proposed events that are expected to draw 10,000 people or more.
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