Electric Zoo 2013 in New York was called off early on Sunday after two people died during the first two days of the huge electronic dance music event. Four more people are reportedly in critical condition. At least 100,000 others are left disappointed.
Initial reports blamed the deaths on the drug MDMA, also known as Ecstasy or "molly"; however, as of now the official causes of death have not been determined.
While my deepest condolences go to the friends and families of those who have passed, and I hope the others who have fallen ill will be okay, there are several other factors to consider in this matter. I attended the first two days of Electric Zoo, and from the many things that I witnessed, death and injury could have easily been avoided. The venue was aptly equipped with police presence, medical stations, ambulances and numerous water refill stations to ensure that attendees were well hydrated.
However, there are other ways in which precautions fell by the wayside and ultimately lead to the unfortunate circumstances of present.
As mentioned, easily 100,000 people attended Electric Zoo during the first two days. I imagine a lot of effort went into ushering that many people to the venue on Randall's Island. However, there was one, now poignant factor missing from Electric Zoo's safety protocol: Attendees were not properly searched before entering.
There were several points at which attendees could have been searched, including the pickup points for the ferries and buses transporting people to Randall's Island, the ID check line, and the point where guests were actually searched before entering Electric Zoo. On both days, event workers merely peeked in my bag for no more than a few seconds before waving me through. Most of the contents of my bag, which were not contraband, were covered by my cardigan, which I put away when it got too hot. I wasn't even asked to remove my cardigan in order for workers to get a better view. I can only imagine how elated attendees who did have various paraphernalia on their persons were when they got in without so much as a patdown of their sides.
Electric Zoo was my first musical festival, but I have attended many standard shows featuring a single headlining artist and one or two opening acts. So imagine my surprise when I was not heavily patted down, as I usually am going to an everyday show. I am used to event staff lifting my breasts and using their fist to feel in between, over my clothes, in addition to a patdown. This is a part of attending events I do not enjoy; however, in light of the events that took place at Electric Zoo, perhaps such measures would have caught a number of people trying to sneak in drugs.
Many people got creative with their hiding places. Within moments of being on the Electric Zoo grounds, I noticed empty baggies strewn all over the floor. I witnessed one girl pulling a huge ziplock bag out of her boot right in front of Main Stage West on Friday, and the sad truth is she didn't even have to try so hard. Many of the event staff were too busy ogling girls and partying themselves to really be aware of what was going on.
Despite everything, I must say that a sense of personal responsibility is of the utmost importance when attending an event like Electric Zoo. Months ago, following New York's Electric Daisy Carnival, I wrote a piece discussing that not everyone who enjoys electric dance music needs drugs in order to enjoy it. My stance on that matter still stands. This is a prime example of how an irresponsible few ruin it for many others. I'm sure the cancellation of Electric Zoo 2013 will go down as an example of EDM drug culture, adding to the stigma. It will overshadow the countless others for whom electric dance music has actually helped, and possibly saved their lives.
People don't die from drug use, they die from drug abuse, more often than not. Again, in the name of personal responsibility, if people decide to take drugs, at any venue, it is up to them to know their limits. I'm sure, just as there is a such thing as responsible drinking, there is a such thing as responsible drug use. I am definitely not encouraging drug use, but I alone am powerless to stop it, and I at least believe that people should adhere to how much they can handle. Especially when you take into consideration that Electric Zoo is an 18 and older event, and in theory all of the attendees were adults and legally mandated to look out for themselves.