Festival season has gone from a summertime celebration to all year round. Over the past few years, University of Tampa students have been posting about their experiences at music festivals on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and many other social media outlets. With the festival death toll increasing, people are left with the impression that these events are dangerous. However, if festival goers exercise caution, serious injuries and death are highly unlikely.
Music festivals have been entertaining people since as early as the sixth century BCE, according to The Good Men Project. Events such as the Pythian Games in Greece and competitions during the Middle Ages featured musicians and singers for entertainment.
In the U.S., music festivals such as the Newport Jazz Festival in 1954 and Woodstock in 1969 have gone down in history as distinguishing moments for music and pop culture.
Today, festivals can be found from coast to coast, promoting togetherness and self-expression. Peace, love, unity, respect, or “PLUR,” is a theme that is seen quite often on t-shirts, hats and other articles of clothing. Festivals have one of the most loving and accepting environments I have ever experienced.
Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC) in Orlando and ULTRA Music Festival in Miami are two of the most popular destinations for UT festival goers, most likely because of the proximity. These festivals bring EDM DJs from all over the world, but there are various festivals that offer all types of music.
Josiah Cafiero, a senior sports management major at UT, thinks most students have a very narrow interpretation of what music festivals have to offer.
“They just go to those raves and stuff; they don’t really go to other festivals,” Cafiero said. “You have so many ones that have different types of music. Gulf Shores Alabama Hangout Fest is on the beach, which is sick. If you like the beach and music, it’s definitely for you. Foo Fighters, Beck, DJs, it’s all different people playing.Then there’s Sasquatch Festival; it’s in Washington state at this ampitheatre that overlooks a canyon, so it’s an unbelievable place to see a show.”
From indie rock to country to rap, festivals cater to different crowds. Cafiero attended the Dave Matthews Band Caravan back in 2011, and has not made it to any others, but enjoys seeing concerts quite often. Even though he has only been to one festival, Cafiero definitely had a great time.
“For me, there’s nothing I’d rather spend my money on than go see a show,” Cafiero said, “and the variety too. You see so many acts in one weekend.”
I have already been to EDC Orlando, but I will also be going to EDC Puerto Rico, ULTRA and Coachella. To me, festivals are life-changing experiences. From the remarkable people I’ve met, to the amazing music, I have encountered nothing but good vibes and positivity.
While these festivals have good intentions, drug use has made many people skeptical about the safety of these events. In 2014, 15 deaths were reported at festivals such as Pemberton in Canada, Glastonbury in England, EDC Las Vegas, Future in Singapore and Element 11 in Salt Lake City, according to Billboard. These deaths were caused by dehydration, overheating and even self-sacrifice. However, most of the skeptics are focused on the infamous drug molly (MDMA).
“Molly is a term for an adulterated mystery chemical you’re putting into your body with the intent to roll,’ said Missi Wooldridge, board president of education-focused nonprofit DanceSafe; ‘It’s rare to get anything even close to MDMA,’” reported Billboard. DanceSafe is a public health organization that targets the music festival community. They provide information such as drug facts, health and safety and even how to test the purity of drugs.
Just this past weekend at EDC Puerto Rico, I witnessed a person overdose on drugs. He screamed in agony and flung his arms and legs as medics fought to strap him down to a spine board. Moments like those are the ones that make you realize that anything can happen, especially when you are dealing with a mix of drugs, alcohol, and heat.
Tre Hansen is a senior management major who has been to EDC Orlando twice over the past two years. Hansen sees drug use at festivals as a personal decision that individuals must make for themselves.
“People are gonna do whatever they want regardless of if it’s legal or not,” said Hansen, “and if they’re willing to deal with the potential consequences, they will.” Drug use at festivals is comparable to social smoking or social drinking, in a sense. Hansen thinks that people who use drugs at festivals do it so they can connect on a different level while getting a euphoric experience from the music.
“It’s nothing new really, except the music is kind of acknowledging it more now,” said Hansen. With DJs and artists referring to drugs and alcohol within their music, they are sending a message that says people should be doing these drugs. Even if this is not the artists’ intention, I can definitely see how alluding to drug use in music would increase drug use at festivals.
Since peak festival season is approaching, it’s important for UT students to be aware of their safety, but still have a great time. This March, the Gasparilla Music Festival will take place across the river at Curtis Hixon Park, where big names such as Modest Mouse will perform. In 2014, GMF attracted a reported 15,000 fans. It’s awesome that Tampa is opening its arms up to the festival community and gaining an increasingly larger fan base. Hopefully the city will continue to draw even bigger headliners.
Liz Rockett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org