Pasquale Rotella speaks out against LA’s pending rave ban
“The worst distance between two people is misunderstanding”
Music festivals in Los Angeles are currently in a precarious state of affairs, following governmental response to the deaths of two teenage girls — Tracy Nguyen and Katie Dix — at HARD Summer. As LA County considers County Supervisor Hilda Solis’ motion for a local ban on raves, a dialogue has begun surrounding both the issue of drug-related deaths at festivals, and the efficacy of Solis’ proposal as a preventative measure against overdoses.
“I’ve been incredibly saddened by yet another loss of life that’s been attributed to our culture, and I have spent the last week reflecting on how the story has played out in the media. First and foremost, my heart goes out to the friends and family of those two young women. We don’t condone or tolerate drug use, but the problem here isn’t raves or dance music, or even festivals in general. The health impact of drug abuse in our country extends far beyond what happens at our events. I lost five friends to drug overdoses at a young age, none of which occurred at dance music festivals; most of them weren’t even fans of the genre. No one wrote about them.”
Rotella posits that the prohibition of electronic music events is a fundamentally flawed measure because it fails to address the true issue. Both Insomniac and HARD enforce strict security measures to prevent the import of drugs to their events. However, just as drug abuse “extends far beyond what happens at [their] events,” its existence as an entity is so solidly engrained in human culture that it continuously bypasses preventative measures.
“Dance culture has survived for decades and has never been more popular. Banning these events at facilities where we are able to provide first-rate medical care and emergency services is not the answer. I hope that policymakers and the media do not turn their backs on a cultural movement that is thriving and brings so much happiness to a generation that, quite frankly, needs an environment where they can feel loved and accepted.”
Rotella exposes a salient point. A measure to ban raves does not eliminate drug abuse — instead, it dissembles institutions that recognize the ubiquity of harmful substance behavior, as well as organize medical response teams to reduce harm as effectively as possible. Rotella’s statement on this issue recalls the DanceSafe shutdown at Electric Forest earlier this summer.
He closes out his message with a call to action:
“If we’re trying to create a safe and secure environment for these passionate fans, sending them back into the unregulated underground isn’t a step in the right direction. We all need to do our part in creating a national dialogue that educates our youth and encourages them to be accountable for their choices—especially when it comes to drugs.”
Given Rotella’s stake in the industry and his tempestuous history with the city of Los Angeles, it’s uncertain whether or not county officials will lend credence to his arguments. Yet, Rotella’s concerns far surpass his involvement in the production of electronic music festivals. Rather, they echo a fundamental truth in our culture: prohibitive measures do not halt substance abuse. The failure of American Prohibition tells this story, as does the failure of festivals to fully prevent drug use on their grounds through policing. Utilizing raves as a scapegoat for drug-related deaths doesn’t eliminate these tragedies. Opening up a national dialogue could be, as Rotella suggests, a step in the right direction.
As perhaps the most preeminent figurehead in music event production, how Rotella continues this dialogue will carry a significant weight.