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County officials establish rave task force in wake of Electric Daisy Carnival

July 6, 2010 |  8:24 pm

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The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to establish a task force to examine and "enhance rave safety" after last month's Electric Daisy Carnival led to more than 100 hospitalizations. A 15-year-old girl died last week of a suspected drug overdose after attending the two-day dance event at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum and adjoining Exposition Park, which drew between 80,000 and 100,000 people per day. 

The motion to establish the task force follows a call last week by Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky to establish a rave moratorium. Coliseum officials announced last week a temporary ban on new contracts with rave operators as they consider whether to allow another such event.

"While the Coliseum Commission has taken steps to temporarily stop these events from being held on its property, the county must work with other key community stakeholders to look at the larger public health risks posts by raves and other similar events," the motion reads.

The motion defines a rave as "musical events" that "tend to be held over ... long periods of time -- sometimes days -- in large venues on both public and private property." Among the issues the task force seeks to investigate are the location, hours and size in "which these events can legally be held," as well as education efforts to "raise awareness about the potential dangers of rave parties."  

The task force is to be made up of city, police and hospital representatives. A spokesman for Yaroslavsky's office noted that the task force will include representatives from the music and promotion industry. The goal of the task force, reads the motion, is to "develop countywide recommendations to enhance rave safety by mandating that rave promoters and sponsors incorporate public health recommendations into their event planning, for example by requiring the use of private emergency medical staff."

Electric Daisy was the first of what were to have been multiple electronica-focused events planned in L.A. over the coming weeks, including July 17's Hard L.A. at the Los Angeles State Historic Park, a 36-acre plot just east of Chinatown. This summer's other big electronica event, the Love Festival, is scheduled to take place over the Los Angeles Sports Arena, next to the Coliseum, on Aug. 21. It was unclear how the call for a moratorium might affect that event, although a formal decision could be made as early as July 16, when the Coliseum Commission is slated to meet. 

Approximately 120 people were transported to local hospitals during the two-day Electric Daisy Carnival. Los Angeles police made 118 arrests, mostly for drug possession. at the event, which is now in its 14th year, and more the 200 were reported injured by Los Angeles Fire Department officials.

Insomniac, which organized Electric Daisy, issued a statement attributed to Simon Rust Lamb: "We hope that the task force, with input from a broad range of the community and stakeholders, including representatives from the musical events industry will create responsible and reasonable recommendations which can be implemented for all musical events in the county."

This is far from the first time raves -- or large, dance-focused music events -- have had their safety questioned. A 2000 story in The Times noted that the very mention of the word "rave" conjured "images of mysterious, illegal warehouse parties where dancers groove on machine-like music and synthetic drugs such as Ecstasy."

Gary Richards, a veteran dance music promoter who's hosting Hard L.A., said in interview last week, and published in Saturday's Calendar, that he is working with the LAPD to make sure his event goes off without problems. But Richards also insists that his event shouldn't be called a rave.

"I do not want to be a rave. I do not want kids in there eating pacifiers," he said, referring to some ravers' practice of holding pacifiers in their mouths to keep from grinding their teeth, which is a sometimes involuntary side effect of Ecstasy use.

"I'm trying to get to music fans who love this music. I've been involved with electronic music for 20 years," Richards continued, "and I've seen this cycle happen three times. It gets popular, and then something happens and then it goes away. My goal is to do these events with quality artists and make them safe and secure."

In an interview last week, Los Angeles-based electronic experimenter Flying Lotus (real name: Steven Ellison), an Electric Daisy veteran, was asked by about the county's move to investigate and possibly limit large-scale dance events. 

"If they shut them down, we’ll find a way," Ellison said. "That’s the beauty of young people. It doesn’t have to be a huge event that everyone knows about. Maybe it needs to be a little more underground, like it used to be."

The task force is to report its findings and recommendations within 120 days.

--Todd Martens

Additional reporting by Rong-Gong Lin II. Stay tuned to Pop & Hiss and L.A. Now for further developments.

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Top photo: The crowd at Electric Daisy 2010. Credit: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times.Bottom photo: Shot of last year's Electric Daisy Carnival. Credit: Drew Ressler / MSO

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