The third day of New York City’s Electric Zoo music festival was cancelled after two concertgoers died and four others were hospitalized due to what appeared to be excessive drug use. According to a statement released by city officials, “Definitive causes of death have not yet been determined, however, both appear to have involved the drug MDMA (ecstasy, or molly). The Electric Zoo organizers have worked with City officials to reduce health risks at this event, but in view of these occurrences, the safest course is to cancel the remaining day of the event.” While the City may have found an immediate cancellation to be the quick answer to this problem, it still isn’t a successful solution in the long run.
As college students, these deaths hit close to home seeing as the deceased were students and young graduates like many of our peers. As the popularity of summer music festivals begin to rise, it should be no surprise that the use of molly continues to climb as well. MDMA has been prevalent in raves and nightclubs since the ‘90s, with hospital visits rising from 461 in 1995 to 5,542 in 2001, according to Drug Enforcement Administration statistics. Molly was introduced as a more pure form of ecstasy. We are starting to see in recent events that this new drug used mostly by college-aged adults isn’t as safe as many assume. Just this August, Brittany Flannigan, a 19-year-old from Plymouth State University, died from an overdose at a House of Blues concert in Boston. University of Virginia sophomore Mary “Shelley” Goldsmith also passed away after taking multiple hits of molly at a popular nightclub in DC.
All of these people had promising futures as they worked towards their degree in college. And though it is quite the tragedy that what was thought to be a night of innocent fun went wrong, it still leaves many to question whether or not Electric Zoo should have been cancelled. As a five year veteran of Lollapalooza, I can certainly sympathize with concertgoers who lost their money and were unable to see their favorite artists on Sunday.
The drug presence at music festivals is quite obvious, and I can attest to being offered illegal substances on multiple occasions, most specifically during the electronic dance music (EDM) sets. After choosing to enjoy the music without said substances, I can imagine how unfair it must feel to have your concert cancelled because of the mistakes made by other concertgoers. My condolences go out to the families of the lost ones, but I do not believe canceling the show was the answer to this problem. If it had been something out of the concertgoers’ hands causing these fatalities, I believe the responsibility would have fallen on the music festival and a cancellation would have seemed necessary. Unfortunately, the fault lies with the ones who consumed the drugs and the ones who distributed them.
An argument can be made that EDM encourages drug use. For example, flyers have been found around Miami’s Ultra music festival asking, “Have you seen Molly?” At the same time, certain rap artists encourage gang violence and gun use, yet you don’t see many of the suburbanites rolling up to their concerts packing a Colt 45. We can bring in dogs to sniff out drugs which will become quite a hassle with thousands of people entering these festivals, but in the end, choosing to take molly or ecstasy comes down to the choice of one individual. Plain and simple, these drugs are illegal and the people that took them were old enough to know what they were doing. The most that authorities or club promoters could do is try to educate people more on the effects of these drugs. While pure MDMA is known for the most part to be harmless, if it comes laced with something else, otherwise known as a “bad batch,” it can become deadly.
Seeing more cases like this in the news and media may provide some insight to people attending these concerts in the future. This March, Ultra, one of the most popular EDM festivals, will be returning to Miami. It will be interesting to see if the festival promoters will make any changes after these re
cent events, but I strongly urge that any UT students planning on attending should be well educated on the effects of molly and ecstasy and just be aware that some of the repercussions can be critical, if not deadly.
Vanessa Righeimer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org