Raves were pushed out of the L.A. Coliseum after a 15-year-old who had sneaked into Electric Daisy Carnival in 2010 died of an ecstasy overdose. Her demise sparked increased scrutiny that ultimately lead to allegations of corruption at the public venue.
EDC was a 16-and-older weekend festival that saw a claimed 185,000 attendees and was the subject of gatecrashing both on the perimeter and between internal areas, police said. Cops said they arrested 65 people, mostly for drug-related allegations, while fire officials said there were 226 medical emergencies.
A law firm subsequently charged with figuring out how to improve safety at Coliseum raves recommended an 18-and-older policy, which the promoter had already adopted and which the Coliseum Commission enacted before shutting the parties out altogether.
So why, only four years later, is a city-coordinated, Jay Z-curated concert featuring some very similar talent on the streets of downtown L.A. next month going all ages? Didn't L.A. learn its lesson in 2010?
Former Los Angeles Police Department South Bureau Deputy Chief Patrick M. Gannon was in charge of deploying officers to the Coliseum's raves before his retirement and subsequent appointment as the chief of police at LAX.
He was critical of the parties largely, he said back then, because he sometimes had to deploy 200 extra cops in an area of town that really needed all the protection it could get. He also suggested that the levels of drug use, gatecrashing and underage mayhem at the festivals was not worth the taxpayers' trouble.
Even with EDC's 2010 16-and-older policy, Gannon recalled, “we had all ages there crashing gates.”
One of the most vocal critics of having raves at public venues like the Coliseum and adjacent Sports Arena was then-Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. But his successor, Eric Garcetti, has said raves should return to the city's core. And he has taken credit for facilitating Jay Z's downtown party. Made In America's promoters announced yesterday that headliners Kanye West and Iggy Azalea have been added to the lineup.
One surefire way to cut out a lot of the riffraff and trouble makers, Gannon indicated, is to go with at least an 18-and-older policy. But in its negotiations with Made In America concert promoter Live Nation, the mayor's office apparently didn't make that a priority.
“I feel strongly that those kind of events should be 18-and-older, especially when there's alcohol involved and there's a history of drug usage,” Gannon told us yesterday. “It's just not something someone under age should be exposed to.”
Jay-Z's festival is sponsored by Budweiser and will feature 21-and-older beer gardens and drinking areas. At EDC in 2010 some of the worst gatecrashing appeared to take place between areas inside the Coliseum.
Made In America's website says this about the concert's age limit:
“Budweiser Made In America” is an all-ages event. However, to enter the festival beer garden areas, you must be 21+ and have valid photo ID.
The fact that Made In America, planned for Aug. 30 and 31 in Grand Park and on the streets of downtown, is not in a traditional, gated venue presents even more problems when it comes to the underage, Gannon said:
You have to makeshift the venue and add additional security. It just holds back people who wouldn't jump fences, but it doesn't hold back others.
Now, it's true that the event's $200 two-day passes could discourage many teenagers from coming. And it's not a rave. But huge electronic dance music artists on the bill, including Aoki, Tiesto, Chromeo, Baauer and Gareth Emery could attract the kinds of local underage fans who helped to add an element of chaos to EDC in 2010.
The central, urban location of the concert could also prove tantalizing for nearby teens, even if they don't have tickets.
Temporary fencing might not be able to hold them back: Temporary barriers at such events “keep honest people out,” Gannon says, but that's about it.
“It's a place where people get hurt,” he said. “At the Coliseum they tried to take a park and fence it in [as part of the expanded festival grounds], and you couldn't fence it in appropriately. That really created problems with people crashing the fence.”
The festival will take up a footprint downtown that includes Grand Park as well as Temple Street to Second Street and Grand Avenue to Los Angeles Street. About 50,000 people each day are expected — or at least hoped for.
After offering two-day passes for months, organizers will start peddling single-day tickets tomorrow, which some industry experts say is a sign that two-day sales have been slow.
The city and Live Nation are proposing that organizers pay taxpayers $500,000 for their trouble, including the cost of policing the event. That amount seems low considering some of the issues raised by Gannon. A 2009 memorial concert in honor of Michael Jackson at the much smaller Staples Center downtown cost taxpayers $3.2 million, with the biggest expense being police.
Ex-LAPD official Trinka Porrata, now a drug expert who educates law enforcement about club drugs, is concerned about young teens being exposed to narcotics at the August event. When we phoned her and informed her that the two-day fest would be all-ages, her first words were, “Oh my God.”
It sounds ridiculously hard to manage, especially with the added younger ages. It seems, logistically, they're upping the ante for trouble. To some extent or another there's going to be drugs. There's no reason to have 14-year-olds there. If they didn't have exposure to drugs before, they will now.
We reached out to Garcetti's office, but a spokesman did not respond to our inquiry. We reached out to Live Nation, too, but did not hear back.