Drug Overdoses at Asheville, NC, STS9 Concert Sparks New Debate

written by Taco Olmstead

(photo copyright Roger Gupta)

This past weekend in Asheville, NC an STS9 concert was stopped a few minutes short of schedule due to several medical emergencies. Apparently seven people had overdosed resulting in two of the victims currently considered to be in critical condition. According to several eye witness accounts the victims were given or sold a chemical thought to be ketamine but could possibly have been methoxetamine, commonly known as MXE. The incident has sparked debate in the live music community about drug use, education, drug test kits and personal responsibility.

Read the news story herehttp://www.citizen-times.com/story/news/local/2014/10/26/concert-shuts-overdoses-reported/17961897/

I am glad I enjoy healthy debate and discussion. Debate generally enables people to bring new perspectives to light. I have learned much through the years through healthy debate and discussion, many things I doubt I would have ever learned had I never discussed different issues. It will be interesting in the coming weeks observing and learning as I fear this debate will not be ending anytime soon, perhaps in our little community, but not on the national scale as this incident was not the first nor will it be the last.

Are we as a community ready to face the challenge of addressing this issue before the powers that be decide to beef up legislature like the RAVE act and further inhibit concert goers in the future? I hope that people realize that this kind of behavior if continued will in fact spawn more legal measures by local, state and federal government. It is hard to make a case for self-governance when folks have a need to snort cat tranquilizers to the point where EMTs become involved.

I remember when I first encountered ketamine, it was 1991 and the Baltimore/DC Rave scene was still in its infancy. The norm had generally been weed, LSD, mushrooms, ecstasy and nitrous. Ketamine was introduced and was at first relegated to a few brave souls and after parties. Slowly but surely “special K” moved more and more to the forefront of the drug user menu and slowly but surely, the more the Rave scene changed. Soon after, cocaine and crystal meth along with a host of research chemicals began to play a part at these events. So did emergency medical services.

In a period of five years, a vibrant and promising music scene suddenly imploded. Promoters were being arrested and sued, venues shut down and key players began to disappear. At one point, the Baltimore/DC EDM scene allowed fans to be at an event almost every night of the week and was then reduced to a few nights a month. This all eventually led to the passing of The RAVE act by congress and people should keep in mind that the legislator who penned this bill happens to be the current Vice President.

In recent years we have seen the EDM scene merge with Jam culture. This has created a whole new subgenre some call “electronica” or “jamtronica”. With this new genre have also come the problems previously associated with Rave culture. The jam culture, long used to psychedelic drug use at its own events is now desperately trying to address these issues out of the fear that eventually, it too will be lost to similar legislature and societal stigma generally relegated to the EDM culture. Is this what we want?

The jam culture arguable began with the birth of The Grateful Dead in 1965. For almost 50 years now this culture has celebrated the freedom of being different, non-conformity, social change and civil disobedience through music and art and the psychedelic drug culture. There was a great amount of backlash in the first decade of its inception but became generally accepted and even embraced by many communities throughout the United States. Even law enforcement began to turn a blind eye to the “potsmoking hippie types getting all high on their shrooms”, allowing large scale events and festivals to not only exist but flourish to the point where generations of people have not just grown up in but were born into this culture. The current fear now is that with events repeatedly exhibiting drug overdose after drug overdose, is the jam culture doomed? Will it too be a victim of social and legislative pressure eventually changing the face of a culture long established and part of the very  fabric of our history?

We need to remember, this IS our culture. Despite a a draconian drug policy and a persistent war on drugs that only serves to perpetuate strife and addiction, at some point we ourselves need to take a stand and start reminding our brothers and sisters that “too much too fast” holds a deeper meaning than song lyrics. At some point we need to take some responsibility for ourselves and our culture and tell people, “this is not the place for that”. It is up to us, the musicians, the artists, the fans to take control of this epidemic because if we don’t someone else will…

Do More, Take Less,