Hundreds of music lovers, fans, and family were saddened and shocked today at the deaths of two Electric Zoo festival-goers due to a form of MDMA and the festival’s response to cancel the last day. The reactions ranged from sending love and condolences to those who lost their lives and their families and friends to outrage over the cancellation and a larger conversation around the use of less natural drugs in today’s music scene and the effects and implications of that.
Some pointed fingers at fans of a particular style of music, blaming it on Phish fans or drum and bass culture. But drugs have long been a part of music and the art world in general. Looking back, we know that many of today’s most celebrated, honored and influential music legends all had their drug of choice. From Elvis Presley to Kurt Cobain to Ray Charles…we could go on forever listing the artists whose music forever changed our culture and continues to resonate in our art, perceptions, passions…who visited uncharted territories in their minds and stood on a stage and sang all about it to us. Some became addicted to a life-altering point and many, many others enjoyed a little here and a little there without it taking over their lives, becoming the necessary ingredient to feel, experience joy, visit other worlds and come back to tell us about it.
Music and art transcend language, break down the barriers of race and religion and reach into the heart to get right at the meat of who we are as humans. These things we create, sing, dance, move… come from our core human emotions. We all experience grief, loss, love, resentment, and death and those feelings are what encapsulate who we are and allow us to connect with others experiencing those same emotions, joining hands in those very real, earth-shattering moments of either love or loss. Music is a vehicle for allowing us to go there, giving us a common thread, a soundtrack to connect to. ‘Our song’ as friends, lovers, strangers enjoying a moment in time and yes perhaps doing so while experiencing an altered form of reality through drinking, smoking, ingesting something to give us a feeling and aid in the process of losing ourselves to the experience. While new ‘drugs’ have emerged and old ones remain, they will always be available for anyone looking for them and seeking that different reality, a new feeling of their body, a new thought pattern in their mind…and new ones will be invented that will be deemed good or bad and come with an extensive list of side effects as they all do.
We cannot stop it and we know that banning them and slapping “Drugs Are Bad” posters in the school halls won’t deter the curiosity. Why? Because we are curious. And that curiosity aint gonna’ just up and off itself until we know what’s behind door number two. I say ‘we’ and ‘us’ because I am a apart of this culture too, have been since my high school days of Phish and Dave Matthews. I certainly wanted to know what it felt like to smoke a joint with Dave Matthews crooning a love ballad straight to my heart or eat mushrooms and dance like a mad-woman to ‘Run Like an Antelope’ blasting at ridiculous volumes, guitars wailing in my face with friends giggling and bouncing all around me. Why not? And over time I decided what I liked and didn’t like. I also knew what I didn’t want to put in my body even if it made me float away in a yellow submarine in a sparkly red tutu with David Beckham rubbing my shoulders. I knew those things because I learned from friends the longer list of side effects that I didn’t care to experience. I heard stories, saw pictures, educated myself and had friends loving and caring enough both young and old to not simply say, “Drugs are Bad mmmkay” but real talk with me about how to take care of myself, keep it natural and make sure that when I did decide to eat a few mushrooms and roll around in the grass that I had a few equally educated friends around to do so with and a gallon of water versus a case of PBR (or a gallon of water and a case of PBR together at least).
And that is what is the most important message we can all resonate with and carry on in our actions, our spirit, our communication with one another around tragedies such as this. There will continue to be more deaths and accidents. We can’t avoid or prevent them all. What we can do though is share our stories, talk openly and honestly about these mood-altering things we all partake in whether it’s a glass of wine or a line of cocaine. How do we feel? What can we share with our friends, our kids, our fellow friends in the music scene when we’re out spinning each other around in the grass to the soundtrack of our lives? That we came to have an amazing time together, experience this blissful moment and that we sincerely care about ourselves and the person dancing next to us. That is why we came right? To get the fuck down-yes- and have the time of our lives while embracing this feeling, this moment, this wild sparkly merry-go round of people, music, and art? So why not have that experience and take care of ourselves and one another? Stop pointing your fingers. It is us. It is them. It just is…and we all agree that we must transcend, so let’s do it. Love yourself, make conscious decisions, talk openly and honestly and don’t be afraid of judgment if you do. That is how this ‘scene’ will move forward so that we can enjoy ourselves, each other and these wild parties in the woods together. Be conscious of your actions. It permeates…