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Rethinking raves in aftermath of Electric Daisy Carnival

After teen's death at the Electric Daisy festival, artists and L.A. promoters seek to distance events like the upcoming Hard L.A. fest from the stigma attached to such massive dance party shows.


In the troubled aftermath of last week's mega electronic music festival at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum, artists and local promoters are confronting a dauntingly familiar question: what to do about the "R" word and the "E" word.

"R" stands for "rave," as techno dance parties have been commonly known since they were birthed in the suburbs of post-industrial Detroit and the underground clubs of Thatcherite Britain in the late 1980s and early '90s. The "E" word, as dance music aficionados know, is Ecstasy, the controversial, euphoria-inducing drug that's used by many ravers to enhance their connection to the frenetically beat-driven music.

Less than 24 hours after a 15-year-old girl died of a suspected drug overdose after attending the Electric Daisy Carnival, a two-day music party that featured some of the world's top DJs and drew 185,000 people to the Coliseum and adjoining Exposition Park, L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky called for a rave moratorium. Other public health and safety officials have echoed his concerns.

With 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, what was to be a dance-heavy summer was off to an inauspicious start.

"There's a concern, and I've heard from multiple agencies," said James Valdez, a state park ranger and the lead coordinator for events in the Los Angeles sector who'll be overseeing Hard L.A. "Will we reevaluate our plans and logistics? Yes. In light of Electric Daisy, we will increase our numbers all the way around."

Local producers and promoters, meanwhile, are doing their best to reassure ticket buyers that their shows will go on in an orderly fashion, without the gate-crashing and dozens of teenagers needing medical treatment that marred Electric Daisy Carnival.

Gary Richards, a veteran dance music promoter who's hosting Hard L.A., said in an interview last week 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, a reference 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."


This summer's other big electronica event, the Love Festival, is scheduled to take 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.

Part of the controversy surrounding the term "rave" stems from the lack of a clear consensus about what exactly a rave is. To some, it's a large-scale dance party at which music is supplied primarily by DJs spinning repetitive, trance-like music, and where the crowd tends to skew slightly younger than at rock concerts or other music shows.

Valdez said that he does not consider Hard L.A. to be a "rave."

"We do not allow raves. Raves have a stigma attached to them," he said.

Rave or not, Richards' Hard parties are not immune to the problems that plagued Electric Daisy Carnival. Police were forced to shut down last year's Hard Summer event at the Forum just after midnight after gate-crashers overwhelmed security. But Valdez emphasized a distinction.

"If you look at what we're putting in the park, they're not primarily rave artists. This isn't the category of Deadmau5," Valdez said, referring to a popular DJ-producer who was among the Electric Daisy Carnival headliners. "We have nothing against him, but we don't want to go to that level of programming because we feel it is a bad stigma."

Yet as machine-synthesized, DJ-manipulated music has grown more sophisticated, and is increasingly augmented by live dancers and dazzling light shows, the definition of what constitutes "live" performance has grown fuzzier.

What's more, the term "DJ," implying a simple record spinner, is no longer adequate to characterize artists such as Deadmau5, Moby and will.i.am, all of whom headlined Electric Daisy, have global fan bases and compose and produce their own music. One of Deadmau5's collaborators, the DJ-composer-producer Kaskade, who also was among the headliners at Electric Daisy, performs Sundays at Steve Wynn's luxury Encore hotel in Las Vegas — hardly anyone's idea of an underground rave venue.

In a phone interview, Kaskade, whose real name is Ryan Raddon, said that as dance music's popularity has grown and gone mainstream, enabling it to fill ever-larger venues, one challenge for promoters and artists is "kind of figuring out how to move forward, carefully and safely," he said.

Adding that he thought L.A.-based Insomniac Events, the promoters of Electric Daisy Carnival, "did an amazing job" in meeting last week's logistical challenges, Kaskade said that if electronic music is driven out of larger, more established entertainment venues, it may increase rather than decrease security problems.

"If you disperse it and it moves underground, it becomes less regulated," he said.

The question of drug use at raves may be even more complex. In his authoritative book "Generation Ecstasy: Into the World of Techno and Rave Culture" (1998), British music journalist Simon Reynolds wrote that while he doesn't believe that techno-dance music makes sense "only when the listener is under the influence…, [a]t the same time rave culture as a whole is barely conceivable without drugs, or at least without drug metaphors: by itself, the music drugs the listener" (Reynolds' italics).

In recent months, revelers were treated for drug overdoses after participating in raves at the L.A. Sports Arena and at the Cow Palace in Daly City, south of San Francisco. Two men who attended the Cow Palace event died of suspected drug overdoses.

Since last weekend, some have argued that the Coliseum events, while unfortunate and even tragic, were not disproportionate to comparable incidents of drug abuse and disruptive behavior that have occurred over the decades at rock concerts, European soccer matches and other mass-audience entertainment events. Yet raves bear a greater stigma.

Flying Lotus, an L.A. artist whose music blends hip-hop, dub-step and avant-electronica, said he's anticipating a sophisticated, orderly crowd when he performs this month at Hard L.A.

"I don't expect kids wearing beads and big jeans," he said. "This is going to be a more hip crowd.

"M.I.A. is playing," he said, referring to the electronica artist known for her politically savvy, globally aware music, "and you'll see a lot of kids who want to be in American Apparel ads. You'll see kids who hang out in Silver Lake bars. You'll see more families. I don't think it's going to be reckless."

-- Reed Johnson and Todd Martens

Times reporter Rong-Gong Lin II contributed to this report. 


ELECTRIC_DAISY_2009_2_ Overload from the Electric Daisy Carnival

Electric Daisy: Each generation fervently embraces its music

Girl, 15, dies after weekend rave at L.A. Coliseum

Electric Daisy Carnival draws 185,000 for electronic music and good vibes

More than 100 taken to hospitals during Electric Daisy Carnival

Dance music grooves to the fore

Kaskade spins with electronica into the mainstream

Top photo The crowd rushes the fence at Electric Daisy and tussles. Credit: John W. Adkisson / Los Angeles Times. Middle photo: An Electric Daisy festivalgoer runs from police. Credit: Barbara Davidson / Associated Press. Bottom photo: Shot of last year's Electric Daisy Carnival. Credit: Drew Ressler / MSO
Comments () | Archives (28)

As someone who has attended both EDC and HARD events, I can say in all honesty that the promoters of HARD have a very different crowd in mind than the one that shows up. Of the several 'raves' that I have been to, none have exemplified the connotation of the word more than the HARD events. They are disorganized, over crowded and understaffed, and the crowd tends to be primarily hard core 'ravers', covered in childrens jewelry and sweating like they are about to die. How can they try to distance themselves from the issues of EDC and claim some kind of high ground when their 20,000 person event last summer had to be shut down in the middle of a DJ set due to the combination of poor planning and bad people. Regardless of what the city decides, there will be raves in some form in LA no matter what. The idea of closing down major venues which provide vital support and services seems to be idotic. "Lets close down all raves in LA and force people to hold events in abandoned warehouses and in the forest". That way people can overdose in small numbers and the LA times won't get such a hard on over reporting the ills of 'raves'.

you guys are blowing this way out of proportion... haha seriously

When probably $8,000,000 to $12,000,000 was created by having a party in an underutilized venue, of course a lot of hands are wanting hand-outs. I would bet the LAPD "off duty officers" and City of Los Angeles made minimum a million dollars off the deal, that's why they aren't totally ready to condemn them as they shouldn't, didn't the 60s already happen? Why do we have to keep having these repressive tactics about people getting together and dancing?

L.A. you got your cut, back off!

will.i.am did not headline EDC. He was far down the roster and played during the day. And no matter how anyone with a vested interest wants to spin it, both Hard and EDC are raves to the kids who go just to get high. Too bad, but that is the truth. Adults and many kids who actually love the music are there for the artists that play. But there are thousands of teens there just to roll, dance, meet a cute boy or girl and they do not care who is playing.

Also, is James Valdez an expert on dance music? Just asking. Because there are some very aggresive electonic music acts on the HARD bill that will bring the same energy to HARD that was present at EDC. And if Flying Lotus thinks HARD ticket holders are kids in Silver Lake bars (kids hang out in bars?) and families(!) he is only 100% wrong. More like kids ready to roll and roll hard on whatever drugs they can get their hands on. Sure, some older beer-drinking hipsters will be there, but there will also be kids on meth from the valley.

Agreed that all the coverage is blowing EDC way out of propotion. Is this a news blog or a music blog? The review of the festival barely, if at all, talked about the music.

I find it utterly bizarre that a liberal paper like the Times works so hard to inflate this story and create reactionary fear.

I was at the event. It was almost shocking how friendly and respectful the vast majority of people were. Simply stated: The crowd at EDC--while immature at times--was remarkably nicer and kinder than what you will find anywhere else in Los Angeles.

Isn't that something closer to what we want our future to be? A future where people a respectful and kind to one another.

Instead we get another crazy article that sows fear.

It is terribly disappointing.

why is this still being covered? move on to some real news. if i want to see techno/dance/electronic artists at a large venue, i'll do it one way or another.

on top of the good points made before me, i have to say that the only reason the event was seen as such a disaster was because of the idiot children who attended and took drugs to the point of serious illness and death. everyone wants someone to blame, naturally the people who planned the event have to carry that burden. but let me just say what everyone is thinking... ecd did NOT pour drugs down these kids throats. edc did what it had to, it is not a babysitting service. all who attended were responsible for their own actions, and if they were not, automatically it is the parents problem for allowing their children to do as they pleased and attend. END OF STORY!

I'm sorry, one death and we have to have a moratorium on raves?

That is asinine.

Our streets killed a cool half dozen in car crashes every weekend, and injure many more. It is a cheap political trick to shut down these festivals.

What is more responsible is to work to ensure that when they happen, that they are safe. Otherwise, it's back to the underground with this stuff and the deaths from overdoses and fighting will go unreported but will still happen.

The first hard-rock concert I ever attended was the Mountain Concert in Atlanta in 1969. Everyone dropped a hit or two of MDA aka "the Love Drug". I met a girl at the concert and we proceeded to make-out for the next 3 or 4 hours. I never saw her again but MDA stuck around as the original Xtasy and eventually for legal reasons became the MDMA that is so popular today. That was 40 years ago. Everyone did it and went to high school, college, work and lived to be a few years shy of 60 with a good chance to see another 30. Because "we" did it back in the day doesn't make it right today but it is what it is. Humans have an inborn desire to alter their consciousness. Age and wisdom eventually kicks in as we squeeze into our grown-up pants. Closing down raves and festivals will do nothing more than deprive a whole bunch of kids from having a good time within close proximity to medical and police support as it may become necessary. Perhaps educating youngsters to the dangers of alcohol and drugs is all we adults can do as our precious youngsters grow up and away (for a time) from us. We survived our youth and so will they.

So the issue is the drug culture at these raves then. Sure you dont want to close them down so lets just call them what they really are, drugfests! Lets be honest here. The police and hospitals have to be on alert cause a lot of people(teens) whacked out of their minds on drugs will be partying in one area. Thats what this form of electronic music culture has come to. Its a big time money maker now so lets let it happen.
To me that is the sorry state of commercialism in our society. Everything and anything is ok as long as it makes a buck. Even teens whacked out of their minds on drugs with a few of them dying at parties. It is all good as long as it makes money for somebody. Sheesh!

The L.A. Times is practically evil.

This is how you convey news.


Hundreds of Americans die every day from heart disease and obesity. No one suggests to outlaw Pringles.

Let the kids rock.

1 person died at an event of 185,000 people. This person died consuming illegal drugs, which were neither provided by the promoter or venue. People have oded at Metal shows, punk shows and Rap shows. Maybe we should hut all music events down. Maybe not.

200 injured. Sounds like poor crowd control. Venue seem the responsible party. The audience as well. 200 out of 185,000.

How many people were killed in relation to Lakers wins and riots. No one is proposing shutting down Basketball. 20 people were killed at a Bulls Riot in Chicago. Did the Bulls get shut down?

3 people were murdered in my neighborhood last week on Thursday. They were minding their own business. Are we to shut the neighborhood down?

Great article, Reed Johnson and Todd Martens! After a week of sloppy reporting from one or two writers at the Times about this issue, finally there's an intelligent analysis of the situation thanks to some extra work by you two to put trends into perspective.

There were 133 arrests at the 2010 Dodger's opening game with attendance of approx. 57,000. There were 118 arrests during two days of the Electric Daisy Carnival with an estimated 185,000 in attendance.

When you do the math and take away the scare tactics and lazy journalism, this is practically a non-event despite the tragic loss of a teenage girl who concealed and took drugs at EDC.

In the past few weeks, various LA Times writers have suggested that somehow the title of "DJ" is inadequate to describe those who write, remix, or produce music in addition to playing it for a dance floor. This is absurd. DJs have been remixing, writing, and producing music since the 1970s.

First, this was not a rave. It was an electronic music festival. There were five stages, with the top artists in every genre of electronic music.

85,000 people on Friday, 100,000 people on Saturday. These are medium sized cities that came together on one city block.

2,000 people (1% of the attendees) treated 9 most of which were for dehydration. You don't need to be on drugs to be dehydrated. 1 death that could be loosely connected with the event. The female passed away an entire day after the event.

This was the best produced dance event I have attended in the US. Showing a presence was the "Get Up And Dance" Crew. They walked the festival grounds with water during the day, and make sure everyone is ok. No passing out during massage circles, no sitting in the middle of a dance floor. For most it was a pain in the butt, however with out them, the story could be much more dire.

If you really want to help control the problem, enforce an age limit. That way it's a 21 year old that irresponsibly overdoses, not a 14 or 13 year old.

Unless you were there, don't down talk the event, or electronic music for that matter. It's shallow minded and empty. There is much more to electronic music than drugs. Cosmic Meadow on Saturday night an estimated 25,000 people all dancing and smiling will surely set the bar straight on that.

The media and LA County board are just fear mongering as they always do, rather than educating people to take recreational drugs responsibly.

There are a few things that have been bothering me about all the LA Times articles I have been reading about EDC this week, mostly due to the fact that all the articles' authors do not have any significant experience with "raves," and I could not keep my peace any longer after reading this one.

1. will.i.am WAS NOT a significant headliner at EDC. I am sick and tired of seeing his name mentioned just because the general public would probably recognize it. What about mentioning Armin van Buuren for a change? He is widely regarded as the #1 DJ in the world. It annoys me that will.i.am, someone who has been spinning at these types of events for a year if that, gets mentioned so much more.

2. The hospitalizations of a minute fraction of EDC-attendees has been blown way out of proportion, considering that they were the result of individuals' own stupid actions.

In regards to this article in particular, it sounds like a promo piece for HARD events. Did Gary Richards pay you off to write it? Also, I guarantee you that while HARD events strive to attract more of the "hipster" crowd, there will still be attendees wearing bead bracelets and phat pants, as well as people rolling and doing other drugs.

Did you ever take a minute to consider that maybe one of the things that ravers find attractive about the events they attend is having the opportunity to escape into a world where they can wear fun things like pony beads and neon clothes without being judged or ridiculed? The atmosphere is friendly and welcoming. Raves are a place where anyone can find a niche. While it is true that there is some drug use, it is important to recognize that there is drug use at virtually every concert/club/rave/festival, etc. Alcohol is a drug that causes more health issues than ecstasy and is widely used. Cocaine is popular in clubs. Marijuana is often used at certain kinds of concerts.

All this EDC/rave criticism will only make the rave community stronger.

more pics of bikini clad girls would make this news story more pleasant

Stop blaming the promoters - where were the parents? I grew up in LA and did things behind my parents back but was smart about things.

a person died at woodstock.. and im sure a lot of people "trip" out on something.. "raves" are nothing more than a festival for DJs and electronic music.. welcome to 2o10.. on conversation in colisium, people died at Raider games.. sorry raiders you cant play football

I'm sorry, what happened to justify this media frenzy? Did 50 people die at a drug crazed dance party? No, a single under-age teen whose parents let attend an event she was under-age for did something stupid, possibly before even attending the event, and paid the price.

Slightly disorganized, yes, but this fascist talk of banning a culture due to a single death out of well over 100,000 attendees is insanity.

As far as HARD, Flying Lotus is right, that crowd will be hipster scum, totally different scene.

there was more damage done by the lakers fans after they won. maybe we should close down the lakers too?

All this negitivety about edc is destroying the rave scene. What about the postive things edc caused like millions of dollers in city revenue?? Just cause of 1 death in crowed of over 185,000 people you guys/girls want to shut down the rave scene. Hundreds of people die daily in LA alone, I don't see people freaking out over that. Everyone needs to realize 1 death for 100,000 people is nothing. On the streets of LA hundreds of people die daily to say 1 death is horrible is something wrong with your lodic. As a rave promoter I'm appalued to think I may lose my only source of income, because of a few bad apples in the rave scene its not my fault PQ oversold his show over greed for money. I held an event the following weekend, Elite Music Festival July 3rd, let me tell you it was a clean event over 1000 people showed up and 0 ods a few people got kicked out. Why talk about the negitives when there's postive feedback from a rave that happend a week later? Why not talk about Elite Music Festival?? I'm avalible for interview if needed but I know you won't call for interview because you don't want the general public to know raves can be safe,just not massives due to people going I'm invissble let me take these 10 pills before the rave even starts. Even I have pushed my limits at a massive just because I'm at a massive

I hope city officials crack down on these events. I've been attending these concerts for nearly 4 years and its not the same anymore. It's more about the money than the music. EDC use to be a one day event with 2 stages and 20 artists. Now its a two-day event with 5 stages and twice as many artists. Prices have nearly doubled and the set times are shorter. The worst part is that there are way too many underage kids attending these concerts. There use to be an understanding and respect as to what goes on at these carnivals. Now you have kids coming in to the scene not knowing how to properly have a good time. I say curb the demand and allow the events to fall back in to the hands of its true fans.

wow, people are defensive! i just wanna say, thanks to steve ellison for continuing to drop awesome quotes. dude is on some kobe-level swagger these days.

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