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Opinion: The State of the EDM Scene and How We Can Save It

“Dancing in the Eternal Present, Before Harsh Reality Intervened:Electric Zoo Festival Cut Short by Two Deaths”.
“House of Blues cancels Zedd show after overdoses, death.”

These headlines from the New York Times and Merto respectively are just some of the tragic press the EDM scene in the United States has been receiving lately. This past Labor Day weekend photographer Kristina Kauffman and I had the chance to cover Electric Zoo which took place on Randall Island in New York City. It was set to be an the kind of event people talked about for months after, had one of the best lineups of the summer, and brought people from all over the world to one of the most awe-inspiring places in our country; and for the first two days it was. The following is an opinion statement that I would like to make on behalf of myself and photographer Kristina Kauffman.

The events that led up to the cancelling of the last day of Electric Zoo and the second Zedd show in Boston are tragic, and no one's family or friends should have to endure the heartbreak of losing someone so young. The phrase our condolences go out to those involved in the medical emergencies and fatalities that occurred on Friday and Saturday can not even begin to describe the way we and everyone else we spoke to Sunday while leaving the city feel. All to often when your hear stories like this, the people affected are not criminals or monstrous drug addicts, but students and workers just like you and your friends, and I know I could never imagine loosing a friend in a manner such as this.

Often when tragic events such as these occur, it's easy to play the blame game. After posting an article on the cancellation of Electric Zoo I witnessed this personally through Facebook comments made on our page, Made Events page, and Electric Zoo's as well. I can not personally account for previous incidents such as the one in Boston at the Zedd show, but I can for Electric Zoo, because EDMSauce was there. Many think that press people do not know what the experience was truly like, because we get some access they don't. Let me tell you this is not correct. Kristina and I went through the same entrances as regular attendees, and had access to the same things patrons did, so we know what the experience was like for festival goers.

Made Events and the production team behind Electric Zoo put together a well planned and executed show, that tried with all it could to keep it's patrons happy, healthy and safe. Security was the most strict I have ever seen at a festival in regards to keeping people from sneaking prohibited items in. While patrons were not allowed to bring in huge bags, alcohol, firearms, narcotics, and the usual festival contraband, festival goers were allowed to bring in empty bottles and Camelbaks's to stay hydrated in the incredible end of summer heat. Maps were available detailing where free water refill stations and food vendors were, anyone who had the app received push notifications reminding them of the refill stations and encouraging them to watch out for their friends and everyone around them for signs of dehydration and exhaustion, and security and event staff used giant hoses to cool of people in the thick of the crowd and the back of the field. Also individuals were encouraged to seek medical help for any issues that may arise. I saw a girl go up to the tent for a band-aid for her blistered feet, something seeming ridiculous to me, (the girl was wearing heels, at an all day festial, really?), but they helped her and none-the-less were nice about it. No matter how many precautionary steps the production team took, accidents and incidents still happened.

There seems to be an epidemic of careless behavior hitting the scene near and dear to us. I'm not referring to use of any legal or illegal drugs to enhance or maintain feelings you have at a Music Festival; the drug debate in reference to music and youth could go on until the end of time, and arguing back and forth about what it takes or doesn't take to enjoy the experience doesn't prevent people from getting things in somehow and taking them. Where there's a will there's a way, but being smart about how you choose to treat yourself on these substances is something that can be helped.

Be aware of the effects of the things you take and how to combat them, be careful to check that what you have is what it is supposed to be, and be vigilant to listen your body and follow warning signs when something seems off; tell a friend, tell a stranger, and get help fast. We are not saying that the events of the weekend and the incident at Zedd's show could have been preventable, only the people who passed away and those around them know what really happened, but we do believe hyper vigilance and awareness are important weapons in combating the dangers and risks associated with the drugs intended to enhance or intensify the incredible natural high EDM brings it's listeners. When choosing to do drugs such as ecstasy and molly, you are taking responsibility for the decision you have made. No festival production member or artist is forcing your hand to consume, and in fact festival security is doing everything in their power to not let that happen so your recklessness doesn't effect them. Therefore we need to stop blaming these people for incidents outside their control. If the foundation of our community still holds any truth, then Peace, Love, Unity, and Respect should help guide your decisions.

Find peace through the music and the event. If the only reason you go to a music festival is to get really messed up and party, you're there for the wrong reasons. Throw a house party or something, but trust me you're spending too much money to just rage, and being that messed up forces you to miss some really amazing music. If you choose to do drugs, do them in an amount that will enhance your experience not define it.
Love yourself and your fellow community members. Having love for yourself is something important for your life in general, and especially at a festival that is going to throw you into a mix of super confident and outgoing individuals. Express your unique side as much as you want; that's what EDM is all about. Love your fellow concert goers as much as your friends and families. If your nice to the people around you, you'll be more comfortable asking for help, and they'll be more comfortable asking you. I say community when I talk about EDM because that's what we should be. Some of the nicest strangers, now friends, I have ever met have been at EDM shows and festivals and that all goes back to the love we have and share for the music and each other.
Unify to keep each other healthy and safe. If you know someone looks like they're not doing well talk to them, offer them water, and offer to get help. Maybe they're scared and don't know what to do with how they feel because it's their first time and they don't know how important it is to stay hydrated or cool down, maybe they don't realize they took too much and can not judge what their body is doing, or maybe they got something that wasn't what they expected and when it kicked they had no time to react. Regardless of the circumstance, even if their friends don't seem worried, make sure your fellow ravers are okay; I'm sure if situations were reversed you'd hope they'd do the same. This is especially true for our younger members who may be first time festival goers or afraid of getting arrested if it's discovered they've overdosed on illegal drugs. Trust me any legal ramifications are nothing compared to losing your life or ending up a vegetable if you have a stroke or seizure due to dehydration.
Respect others and yourself. I know I've already touched on this when I talked about taking responsibility for your actions, but I must stress it again. Have respect enough for yourself and those around to be responsible. I'm not saying that you that you shouldn't have fun and relax and party with your friends, I mean it's a music festival right, and more than likely you took off work or school to be there so enjoy. However, the people around you want to be here too, and the people who work at these festivals want to keep you safe, and want you to enjoy your time there as well. Your much easier to deal with when your happy, and when your respectful. Security isn't singling you out because they hate you personally or something; you're getting the same treatment as everyone else, and if you show them respect, 99% of the time you'll get it back.

I'm not saying this article has all the answers on how we can keep tragedies like the one's that happened over the past month from happening again. I don't have all the answers and neither do the sites I will post at the bottom of this article for more information, but maybe if we use our brains, listen to our bodies, and lookout for each other, we can make the scene a little bit safer and healthier for the next show.

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For more information on how to stay safe when under the influence of mind-altering substances check out these sites:

The proceeding article does not represent the opinion of or any of it's partners or affiliates.

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