“I want to warn you about a specific danger that has become increasingly prevalent in the City of Los Angeles: raves.”
No, that’s not a quote from Portlandia or a College Humor sketch making fun of 90s culture, it’s part of a letter USC president C.L. Max Nikias sent out to students just yesterday. President Nikias’ letter continues: “Occasionally, these are held close to our campuses, often at the Coliseum or the Shrine, and they present serious risks to all who attend. Ecstasy, which is common at raves, produces a number of adverse reactions that may include disorientation, anxiety, paranoia, panic attacks and hallucinations.”
So does this mean raves are back en vogue amongst the college set? (And just when we’d sold off all our glow sticks and pacifiers.) Nope: More likely, this is an issue specific to USC, located on the outskirts of downtown L.A., which has arguably become the epicenter of U.S. rave culture. Los Angeles is home to several annual electronic music festivals, two of which drew national attention this past year when they took tragic turns. Last November, a USC student fell six stories from his freshman dorm after returning from a two-day rave at the Shrine Auditorium where he consumed marijuana and ecstasy. And last summer, a fifteen-year-old girl named Sasha Rodriguez died from ecstasy complications after attending the Electric Daisy Carnival (the nation’s biggest rave) at the Coliseum/Exposition Park.
The problem where USC (my own alma mater) is concerned is that the Shrine Auditorium and the Coliseum/Expo Park are practically on the USC campus — both spots are across the street USC-owned buildings. (The Coliseum is actually where SC football games are held.) For some students, walking to the Shrine or the Coliseum could literally take less time than walking to class. While USC is located in the middle of a major metropolitan city, the campus is actually pretty isolated and L.A.’s public transportation system is horrendous. If you don’t have a car, you’re pretty much limited to walking-distance events. And when those events happen to be two-day festivals drawing crowds in the hundreds of thousands instead of a TV-watching party with your anthropology class, chances are students will flock.
Less than a month ago, the Coliseum held a 45,000-person NYE rave, which was declared a success because only (only) 17 people were hospitalized. The Coliseum Commission will meet next week to decide whether or not to bring back The Electric Daisy Carnival, which was attended by 185,000 people last year. EDC founder Pasquale Rotella released this statement in response to President Nikias’ letter:
“Students can walk to our events that combine every aspect of the performing arts, including dance, music, art, costumes, lighting, and production design. Insomniac’s events aim to cultivate and enrich the human mind and spirit through the arts — a goal that is perfectly in tune with USC’s own mission statement.”
The problem is that “enrichment of the human mind through the arts” is so much more awesome when you’re on ecstasy. Especially if you can stumble back to school in time for study group.