This past Labor Day weekend, New York City housed the fifth annual Electric Zoo music festival, better known to members of the EDM community as E-Zoo.
E-Zoo is a three day electronic music extravaganza, headlined by hugely popular electronic artists such as Armen Van Buren, Sebastion Ingrosso, and Laidback Luke. E-Zoo is hosted on New York City’s Randall’s Island, and is an event that East Coast EDM heads look forward to year round, often traveling hundreds of miles to attend.
However, this past Electric Zoo was one marred by controversy: The festival was shut down after its second day due to the deaths of two attendees, and the alleged sexual assault of a sixteen year old girl, prematurely ending the electric dance experience for all. The order to end the festivities came form Mayor Bloomberg and the NYPD.
The news was met with a surge of negative outcries from festival goers on Facebook, Twitter, and a myriad of other EDM-centric social media platforms. People decrying the decision to shut down the festival ran rampant online, many going so far as to insult the intelligence of the two attendees that died:
“E-Zoo has been cancelled due to drug related incidents… Fucking idiots. If you can’t be responsible DON’T DO DRUGS!!!!”
Several people took to commenting on the E-Zoo Facebook page rather than on their own. A statement was posted on the official page by E-Zoo moderators stating:
The founders of Electric Zoo send our deepest condolences to the families of the two people who passed away this weekend. Because there is nothing more important to us than our patrons, we have decided in consultation with the New York City Parks Department that there will be no show today.
Some choice responses read:
“#Fuckbloomberg now spread the word”
“People die at festivals. get the fuck over it. Thanks for ducking over the other 150,000 people.”
This is the sort of attitude that will ruin the EDM community for everyone. And the childishness and selfishness of these sorts of sentiments aside, this attitude of “people die at festivals” is not okay.
This isn’t the 1960’s where people wildly experiment with drugs no one knows anything about with no care for consequence. Death is not something to be taken lightly. As civilization stands, we have more educational resources at our disposal than ever before, and as a result, people with more knowledge of drugs and alcohol than ever before. The attitude of “educate yourself or die” should be replaced with one of “let’s make sure everyone knows what they’re doing so we all have fun together.”
And this is not a pro-drug rant. Drugs have their pros and cons, but at the end of the day, they’re still illegal. Still, there’s no denying that drugs and music have been intertwined for decades, and rather than fight it, the smart thing to do would be to embrace it and move forward productively.
Perhaps a more productive outlook is one similar to the Burning Man festival, which has a entire section of their website dedicated to educating attendees about the drugs that abound at the festival, and the precautions to take should they plan on using drugs.
When people complain about the festival being shut down “just because people died,” they are making a statement. And that statement reads that they feels themselves to be the real victims of the situation. Oh, you drove 200 miles to come here? And you have to drive 200 miles back after only two days of partying instead of three? Fuck you. At least you’re still breathing.
And possibly even more upsetting is that this barrage of outrage and hate began immediately upon the release of the news that the festival was cancelled – as in, before the details of the deaths and assault were released. The confidence with which this outrage was asserted, with no real background information is disgusting.
Whether or not it was right to shut down the festival is moot in my eyes because it happened. The festival was shut down. End of story. From that point on, there are two ways to handle the situation: You can either look at the positives moving forward, or you can dwell on the negatives.
The positives would be that, as this festival garners a lot of dislike and mistrust from city-dwellers who are not in the scene, a cancellation shows that the city is taking a responsible approach to this, and ensuring that safety issues do not get out of hand, which will likely perpetuate the festival’s continued existence.
That is a very good thing.
It’s entirely likely that if everyone said “fuck it” and the show continued there would be massive public outrage from the city to cancel all E-Zoo in NYC henceforth at the festival’s end. Even if it was spun to play on “in honor” of those that died, people would still be wild and doing drugs.
What better way to honor two people who died of a drug overdose? And one might say that clubs and bars have drugs too, so why aren’t they shut down when there’s a death? A) if someone dies in a club. the club is shut down. But B) clubs and bars are not a new a scene, nor do they draw as many patrons at once as an EDM festival, so they are under much less scrutiny. Drugs are everywhere obviously, but they are much, much more prevalent at these kinds of music festivals than at bars and clubs.
A cancellation of this magnitude will force everyone in the future to be safer, force security to be increased, and force the community at large to educate themselves further.
These are all positive things.
You may say that it’s up to people to do that themselves, and it is to a degree, but if they can’t, and it ruins things for everyone when they don’t, you’ve got to get with the program and help them out. That’s the only way you’ll be able to enjoy future festivals. Either that or take to social media and bitch and moan, not changing a thing until EDM is dead and buried. It’s your call.
If you know what’s up, It’s your responsibility as an experienced festival goer to foster community caring and learning. EDM as an emerging pop culture carries with it an opportunity, if not a responsibility to set a new gold standard of responsible concert-going and drug use.
One can only hope that future festivals provide more educational materials, provide drug test kits to ensure pure and safe products, and above all, increased security to prevent the entrance of people with mal intent. But in the event that they don’t, and something like this happens again, what I really hope for are outcries of love and concern for EDM and the community, and most of all for those that are the true victims.
Written by: Richard Reitzfeld