Rave Culture Implicated, Wrongly, in Case Against L.A. Coliseum Promoters
In its prosecution of two electronic dance music promoters and four others for alleged corruption at the L.A. Coliseum, the office of Republican District Attorney Steve Cooley also nearly indicted rave culture itself.
Cooley, also known for his stance against medical marijuana dispensaries, almost seemed to speak through the pages of the office's case.
In response to the promoters' requests for lower bail, prosecutors stated:
In the past, electronic music concerts, also known as raves, were generally conducted illegally, without permits and with rampant drug use. More recently their promoters have managed to bring the events to conventional venues but have faced resistance from the public due to continued drug use and other safety issues. The best way to overcome such resistance is always the use of an inside man. In 2008, DeStefano, Gerami and Pasquale Rotella agreed that the two promoters would pay DeStefano personally and in exchange he would use his official position to provide them access to the Coliseum and low rates.
The D.A.'s case against Pasquale Rotella, promoter of Electric Daisy Carnival, and Reza Gerami, organizer of Together As One, paints the picture of a scene and a scheme tripped up by the June, 2010 death of EDC raver Sasha Rodriguez, a 15-year-old who overdosed on ecstasy.
After the well-publicized fatality there were calls from the likes of L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to reconsider holding raves at the publicly owned Coliseum and its sister venue, the L.A. Sports Arena.
Increased scrutiny of the Coliseum Commission, which includes some of the county's most powerful politicians, was met with increased lobbying by Rotella's company, Insomniac Events.
Some leaders, including commissioner and city Councilman Bernard Parks, defended the events vigorously and claimed that any connection to raves' illicit past were false and biased. Parks even scoffed at the notion of calling them raves, saying that electronic dance music festivals was a better term.
While it's true that the rave promoters here have their roots in the 1990s' Wild West rave era -- and even their company names, Insomniac and Go Ventures, reflect the drug culture of the time -- they did professionalize.
Last year's Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas, which drew more than 200,000 fans over three days, was a tour do force in concert production that has clearly even made Coachella take notice.
In any case, that teen's demise put a new focus on a secretive commission used to meeting with few in the audience. Soon there were reporters and cameras.
And the Los Angeles Times found out that Coliseum events manager Todd DeStefano was allegedly taking payments on the side from rave promoters.
That seems to be the crux of the D.A.'s case -- that the promoters allegedly paid DeStefano nearly $1.9 million in recent years to get discounts on venue fees and inside access to the commission.
Of course, after the Times reports, whatever the promoters were doing to stay at the Coliseum and Sports Arena wasn't enough to overcome the political stank, and they were shut out, seemingly for good.
In its case, the D.A.'s office almost criticizes commission leadership as well, stating that, in DeStefano, the rave promoters allegedly bought themselves ...
... a mole who provided them inside information such as which [Coliseum] commissioners were for them or against them, which commissioners to support financially with political contributions and other financial assistance, and even attorney work product prior to its public release.
But is the illicit history of rave culture, where promoters would break into warehouses and throw drug-fueled, all-night parties, really to blame here? After all, it's true that electronic dance music events, as Parks has noted, have become mainstream.
Rave staples such as David Guetta, Deadmau5 and Skrillex performed at the Grammy Awards earlier this year.
If the case against them holds, then this is the story of two promoters and several public employees who took short cuts in the name of the almighty dollar.
It's not the ravers' fault. If anything, concert-goers, like Rodriguez, are as much victims of this as the taxpayers.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss LA Weekly's biggest stories.