The electronic music scene continues to mourn the passing of two young festival-goers at HARD Fest in Southern California earlier this month. The Glitch Mob have been on the firing lines in support of safe raving for almost a decade, and the Los Angeles-based powerhouse trio are taking a stand against conservative ideas, a dysfunctional system of education, and a lack of professional guidance.
We took advantage of our time with Ed, Justin, and Josh last weekend at Moonrise Festival in Baltimore to talk about the current state of the scene, who’s to blame for the recent tragedies, whether or not Los Angeles should ban EDM festivals, and what we all can do to help make our culture a safer place for everyone.
“Rave smarter, not harder. We have nothing against drinking or drugs or experimenting. We’ve all done our fair share. With that being said, we also encourage people to be smart about it. There’s a way to do it. It means having a buddy and looking out for each other. We’re open to whatever everyone wants to experience. We aren’t judgmental. We see all aspects of life in a unique way. It just takes the right amount of courage to say ‘hey, let’s chill out.'”
Earlier this summer, Dance Safe – an organization whose aim is to provide substance use and safety education – was ejected from Electric Forest in Rothbury, Michigan. Several years ago, Glitch Mob member, Justin Boreta, was asked to speak about drug safety for Electric Forest. He declined. Unfortunately, safety is sometimes forgotten about in lieu of business logistics.
“I was asked to write something for Electric Forest when we played there a couple years ago, I didn’t end up doing it. You don’t have to do drugs. It’s fine to go to a festival sober. All of the best experiences of my life listening to music have been sober. We don’t endorse doing drugs, but we fully back an organization like Dance Safe that says ‘if you’re going to do drugs, be smart about it’. That information is not out there. I think what organizations like Dance Safe are doing is really important.”
Insomniac CEO and founder, Pasquale Rotella, spoke out about the city of Los Angeles making a push to discontinue electronic music events. The Glitch Mob take the future of music in their hometown personally, citing the city’s vendetta against electronic music as unprecedented , and blaming a larger “systemic problem”.
“…when people don’t have the right preventative education or understanding about the substances they’re taking. It’s a much deeper problem. The festivals are just places where people come together. Stage Coach is a huge country festival that happens in southern California at the same exact place and the same exact people who put on Coachella. There are 175 arrests, 6 aggravated assault, rapes, and 1 death, but no one really seeks to ban country music festivals. There’s a crusade against electronic music.”
Accidents at events like Electric Zoo and HARD are inexcusable, but it’s fair to say that electronic music gets a bad wrap. The genre seems to be thrown into the media spotlight for every trip, slip, and untied shoelace. As a community, we need to take a look at the flourishing drug problem. Preaching abstinence doesn’t work. In the mid-1900s we tried telling teenagers that safe sex meant no sex, and now we’ve taken the same attitude towards chemical use.
“…we need to get smart about teaching people what it is they’re doing and how they’re doing it. No matter how many times you say ‘don’t do it’ they’re gonna do it. Everyone is a free soul, and everyone is going to do what they want to do. Presenting an element of education and knowledge into what they’re doing in a kind and accepting way will change things. Instantly the world says ‘no don’t do it, you’re a terrible person, you’re bad, you’re wrong’. That’s the wrong approach. You’re going to scare someone out of learning, and then they’re going to go out and do it anyways. If there was a way to find a creative, educational pallet for teaching someone how to take drugs, or not take drugs, or drink, or not drink, in an accepting way, I think a lot of things would change.”
So, who’s job is it to fix the problem? It’s easy to point the finger at rebellious teens or the festival organizers that shut out a group like Dance Safe, but we all have a role to play in the preservation and protection of our scene. Corporate sponsors throw a ton of cash at festivals. There needs to be reinvestment into the safety of our teenagers and young adults.
“It’s a community. It’s Obama’s job, it’s our job, it’s your job, it’s everyone’s job to get smart about this. We do what we can. We sit here and talk to you about it and we hope that 100,000 people read it and say it’s a great idea, let me see what I can do to help. If 7up is paying for a stage at Hard, they should take some of that money that they’re paying and dump it back into drug education and prevention. I think it’s important to effect change, one little bit at a time. We aren’t experts on drug education. We didn’t go to school to be a teacher. We aren’t legislators, we’re musicians, and we’re entertainers. However, young people may only listen to what we have to say. It’s everyone’s job.”
Safeguarding the future of our music culture and protecting the environments that play host to our community is the most important challenge that’s the electronic music scene has ever had to conquer. An attitude of indifference is only going to reinforce that this isn’t going away on its own. We all need to step up and contribute to the solution. Fans, media, promoters, and organizers can all work together to change. Most importantly, we need more artists, like The Glitch Mob, who will stand up for what they believe in and tell fans that we can do better.
“We’re just out here to inspire people to try new things. Embrace the future, embrace what’s happening, the now. With social media and technology, even with drugs. Be smart…”