Rave producer Insomniac defends concerts, criticizes Times
A concert company featured in a Times report Sunday detailing the drug-related deaths of 14 people who attended raves denounced the story in an online statement and took to social media to urge fans to speak out.
The statement by L.A.-based Insomniac Inc., posted on the company's website and the Instagram account of company head Pasquale Rotella, did not address the deaths specifically but said the story sought to "twist facts" and "turned everyone who enjoys electronic music events into villains."
"At Insomniac, we aim to create inspiring environments where you don't need drugs to have a wonderful, spiritual experience," the statement said. "Behind the scenes, we work long hours with the brightest security, health and safety experts in the business to create safe environments for you."
Citing coroners' findings and law enforcement records, The Times reported that most of the deaths resulted from overdoses of Ecstasy and similar designer drugs tightly connected with raves. The deaths occurred during or shortly after 64 concerts produced separately or together by Rotella and another L.A. impresario, Reza Gerami, since 2006.
Rotella and Gerami declined to be interviewed for the story.
In the statement, Insomniac said its staff searches rave attendees and takes other measures to keep drugs out of its concerts: "Even with all of our precautions, every single person who comes to our events is responsible for their choices." The statement also said "Ecstasy is a global problem."
Those sentiments were echoed in hundreds of comments, emails and social media postings.
In a tweet directed at The Times, @ethanbruns1 said, "because a person making a decision to ingest certain substances of their own accord is the organizers fault? #REALLY."
"Raves don't kill people, stupidity kills people," tweeted @TodayWasADay1.
A tweet from @edmmaniac said, "there's nothing positive in your articles."
But an email from a reader who identified herself as the mother of a drug addict said, "I would like to commend you for bringing this issue out in the open.... The death toll from these events is only the tip of the iceberg. We need to make the public aware of the nuisance these events bring."
Rotella and Gerami have been indicted on bribery and other charges in connection with their concerts at the Coliseum and adjoining Sports Arena. According to prosecutors, the pair made about $2 million in illicit payments to a Coliseum executive to keep a lid on the cost of their concerts. They have pleaded not guilty.
In addition to the deaths, scores of other drug-related medical emergencies and arrests were reported at some of the concerts produced by Rotella or Gerami that were examined by The Times. Many of the concerts were staged with the blessing of local governments hungry for the revenue they brought in.
James Penman, the San Bernardino city attorney, said economics should never be a justification for raves. He long has urged officials to disallow the events at the National Orange Show Events Center there. Coroners' reports show that two people have fatally overdosed at National Orange Show raves.
"The city should have zero tolerance for any activity where drugs are an integral part," Penman said. "A rave without drugs is like a rodeo without horses. They don't happen."
Rotella and Gerami were among the first promoters to bring raves to big-time venues and helped provide the model for other promoters around the country.
In a statement included in Sunday's story, Rotella's firm said: "Despite the fact that the overwhelming number of our festival's hundreds of thousands of attendees have a positive experience, a small number of people make the personal decision to break the law as well as the policies of our events."
Gerami said in an email that his concerts have always been "safe, secure and fun" and that no deaths have occurred at or because of a Go Ventures production.
The coroners' reports show that three people collapsed at raves produced or co-produced by Gerami's firm because of overdoses and later died at a hospital. A fourth person died from multiple drug toxicity after returning home from a rave produced by Gerami and Rotella. According to a coroner's report, friends said he had taken Ecstasy at the concert. The report also said he had heroin and cocaine in his system.
Once confined to an Ecstasy-fueled underground of urban warehouses, raves have since packed fairgrounds, basketball arenas and football stadiums. Their audiences are no longer a few hundred revelers but tens of thousands.
Some parents and concertgoers felt a greater sense of ease that the events were taking place in well-known venues. "It did make me more comfortable," said John Johnson, whose son, Joshua, attended Insomniac's Nocturnal Wonderland at the National Orange Show Events Center fairgrounds in San Bernardino in 2006.
Joshua, 18, overdosed on Ecstasy at the rave and later died. There was no news coverage or public notice taken of his death. "That made me feel very angry," his father said, "and also a little hopeless about this situation, in terms of children and drug use and concerts."
-- Rong-Gong Lin II, Paul Pringle and Andrew Blankstein