I am no stranger to putting my life at risk for the sake of having fun. When I was in college I made the brilliant decision to jump off a 112-foot bridge using a homemade bungee chord rigged up out of two professional-grade climbing ropes and a rock-climbing harness.

Long story short, the halter had been rigged too loose and slid down around my knees during the long swing, which ended up putting the burden of a good amount of my body weight on my hands and arms. Hanging about 20 feet above the water, I had to fight to keep myself upright to prevent the blood from rushing to my head while a friend rigged up a second rope to lower themselves down far enough to safely cut my rope and drop me into the water.

I was fortunate in that the extent of my injuries was a massive bruise from the harness and where I hit the water. My arms and hands were so exhausted I was physically incapable of closing my fingers into a fist. Obviously things could have turned out much worse. If I had suffered more serious injuries (or worse), would it have been the fault of the guys who rigged up the jump? The one who put my harness on too loose?

No. It would have been my fault. I was the one who decided to jump.


People at concerts (of any genre, not just electronic music) often use the experience as a chance to let loose. Frequently, this includes making poor decisions, from drinking too much alcohol to experimenting with other substances. While I don’t encourage this and definitely feel there needs to be a level of self-accountability, I take issue with the fact that most discussions of the issue seem to focus solely on dance or “rave” events.

One hundred and fifty-seven people were arrested on drug- and alcohol-related charges during the three-day Stagecoach Country Music Festival this year in Indio Valley. That event drew a crowd of 75,000, giving it an arrest-to-attendee rate of about .2. HARD Summer, which had 370 sheriff’s deputies and 240 other security personnel making 325 arrests, also a .2 arrest-to-attendee rate.

It honestly doesn’t matter what type of concert you go to, you’re going to find drug and alcohol abuse. Mainstream pop is no exception. Just take a look at this viral video of a Katy Perry fan licking the singer’s neck onstage while she yells into the microphone, “We need some water” and “She’s rolling.”

At the end of the day, the fact remains that some drugs are illegal. People doing those drugs know they are illegal and decide to take them anyway. Often they don’t realize that they are not only putting their own lives at risk, but also the livelihood of those working to create a life-changing experience that’s also safe and fun.

The question isn’t how to stop people from taking drugs at festivals. Short of prison-style cavity searches, there are always going to be people who rebel against the rules and find a way to “have fun.” The question becomes how much responsibility should be placed on the event organizers to handle such a well-known issue?

Unless SoCal becomes like the town in Footloose and bans listening to music, the problem of overdoses at music events is going to continue, unfortunately.

Banning one type of music isn’t going to solve the problem. Instead of fighting the issue by making people so afraid of getting in trouble that they risk damaging their health even more, invest the money and man power in creating harm reduction zones so people can be stupid safely.

Don’t tie the arms of event companies with threats of liability when they try to implement measures to promote the health and safety of the people attending their events. There are multiple companies, such as the Zendo Project and Dance Safe, whose sole purpose is drug education and overdose prevention. However, with RAVE act (linked above), having these life-saving organizations in attendance at an event puts the organizers at risk of legal repercussions.

Whether it’s offering drug-testing stations, making sure the medical staff is fully qualified to handle overdoses, or even just taking a different attitude that focuses on helping people who have made these decisions instead of policing them, something needs to change.

Please leave a comment below giving your thoughts and contributing to a conversation that affects everyone who loves music and attending music festivals.