By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
Johnston and other docs understand something that Sanders, Parks, Knabe, Yaroslavsky and the other commissioners don't seem to grasp: Many new, young ravers don't comprehend the dangers of Ecstasy, displaying a level of ignorance that's a big change within the rave culture. Jonathan Fielding, who runs the county Department of Health, says, "Over the last four or five years, concern about Ecstasy has gone down. You have a new generation of people who haven't learned from the prior one."
The University of Michigan this month reported, "Ecstasy use — which fell out of favor in the early 2000s as concerns about its dangers grew — appears to be making a comeback this year, following a considerable recent decline in the belief that its use is dangerous."
According to that report, "Monitoring the Future," Ecstasy use has nearly doubled among the nation's 10th-graders, meaning 15- and 16-year-olds, after fading in the mid-'00s.
Supervisor Yaroslavsky tells the Weekly he hears the concerns of medical professionals loud and clear. "One of the stakeholders we heard from was emergency room doctors who say they prepare for one of these events like they prepare for a 6.5 earthquake."
But Yaroslavsky and his commission colleagues hold to the "harm reduction" theory that if kids are going to do bad things, adults should be there to supervise and catch them when they fall. "What I'm inclined to do is to de-rave the raves, and take as much of the rave aspect out of the electronic-music concerts and emphasize the music," Yaroslavsky says.
Some of America's first ravelike events happened in Los Angeles in 1989 and 1990. British expat Steve Levy and his brother started a series of parties called Moonshine (later the name of their record label) in 1989 and expanded to a 1990 series called Truth, later held at the Park Plaza Hotel.
By 1992 raves had morphed into legitimate parties at L.A. clubs like the Palladium and Prince's former Glam Slam. One promoter even threw a party at Knott's Berry Farm. That event, K-Rave '92, foreshadowed some of the problems at Electric Daisy Carnival — gate-crashing and rowdy crowds.
But raves mostly flew under the radar until the late '90s, when electronic music inspired a slew of legitimate, DJ-driven tours sponsored by magazines and tire companies. In August 1999 a car carrying five teenagers home from a rave in the Angeles National Forest plummeted off a hillside, killing all five. The teens had been on drugs, including Ecstasy and methamphetamine.
Anti-Ecstasy crusader Gaede says, "I haven't seen so many car accidents in my life" as when he was leaving a Together as One party a few years back.
But at least the all-night parties allow some people to sober up, former officer Porrata says. Shutting them down at midnight, as Yaroslavsky has proposed, would thus be a bad idea, she says — another example of how out of touch the Coliseum Commission members are.
In the early '00s, Rotella became a principal in a venue, Qtopia, that was a haven for ravers. The Weekly documented in 2003 how dealers peddled Ecstasy inside and outside the venue. Qtopia soon joined the superclub revolution and cleaned up its act, offering VIP accommodations and closing its doors at 4 a.m.
But before long, raves were huge again. And, at some point, Rotella and his supporters stopped calling them raves and started calling them "electronic dance music festivals."
The attraction was electric. "There's a much greater interconnection with technology and mobile media," says producer Haskins, "and for people who have a sense of hating their situation — job, school — there is this portal to another world and social interaction. It's an escape for a group of friends at these seemingly lawless circuses."
There is also "a sense of community, a sense of belonging," KCRW's Bentley says. "It's not about staying in your seat. It's not about limits. It's about possibilities. ... And I wouldn't want to deny a young person the opportunity to feel that somehow."
April's Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival, normally a critic's wonderland of alternative rock and electronic-music titans, was awash in underage raver girls in bikini tops and glow accessories. They were there to see Tiësto, perhaps the world's most popular trance DJ, as well as Deadmau5 and Kaskade.
The Indio, Calif., event drew 225,000 people over three days — a record — and saw gate-crashing and dangerous pushes as crowds tried to exit at night, largely because of an influx of new, inexperienced, underage ravers.
Perhaps Coachella's difficulty in coming to grips with a new wave of fans was a warning and prelude to June's Electric Daisy Carnival. City fire paramedics could barely keep up with nearly 200 emergency medical "transports." And Sasha Rodriguez, 15, died at California Hospital Medical Center days later. The event's age limit was 16. But a source who worked the party told the Weekly he did not see IDs being checked.
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