New York music festival cut short after 2 die
A New York City dance music festival featuring high-profile electronic performers was canceled Sunday after the deaths of two attendees and the hospitalizations of several others, apparently linked to drugs.
The New York Times
NEW YORK — A multiday electronic-music festival that drew tens of thousands to New York City over Labor Day weekend was canceled Sunday, its last day, after city officials said two concertgoers had died and at least four others fell critically ill during the first two days of the event, known as the Electric Zoo.
Both deaths were consistent with use of the drug MDMA, also known as Ecstasy or molly, prompting the city to recommend that the concerts be canceled just hours before the third day of the festival was to start, the mayor’s office said, citing “serious health risks.”
For the thousands of fans who flocked to Electric Zoo for big-name acts like Krewella, Avicii and David Guetta, the first two days were a marathon party, a chance to dance from morning until night. In animal masks, angel wings, fluorescent tutus, glitter-encrusted bikinis, beaded bracelets and rainbow wigs, the concertgoers had come from all over the country, paying around $200 each day. Trance music and dubstep boomed from five stages as disc jockeys urged on the cheerful, buzzing crowd, which topped 100,000 last year.
The party atmosphere was fueled not just by friends and music, concertgoers said Sunday, but also by plenty of drugs — particularly MDMA. That has become the drug of choice for fans on the electronic dance-music circuit, said Dr. Julie Holland, a psychiatrist who researches the drug.
Molly, which comes as a white powder, can give users a happy, relaxed feeling, especially when they are engaged in repetitive behaviors like dancing; users often dance for hours on end, Holland said.
She said the drug itself is not a cause of death and can be used safely in a therapeutic setting. “But the rave model makes it less safe,” she said, noting that molly — as the pure form of MDMA favored by rave fans is nicknamed — is easily contaminated with other, more dangerous substances and easily counterfeited.
The festival took place on Randall’s Island in the East River.
Drug-related deaths and arrests have dogged several popular raves, like Electric Daisy Carnival, an all-night dance party with stops in several cities, which was forced to leave Los Angeles after a 15-year-old girl died of an overdose there in 2010. Alcohol and drugs contributed to two deaths at last year’s Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas as well, and a popular Boston nightclub was closed last week after one person died from an apparent drug overdose at an electronic music concert.
Several concertgoers said they had seen dozens of people vomiting or “passed out” on the grass after drinking alcohol or using drugs, and who did not appear to be attended by any medical staff. “You saw a lot of people puking and collapsing down and laying on the ground,” said Christopher Stuebbe, 19, who had come to the festival from Ohio.
But other concertgoers posted messages on Twitter that they had received unsolicited and thoughtful help from the medical staff, saying they had checked revelers’ temperatures and given them free water.
Police Department undercover narcotics investigators made 31 drug-related arrests during the festival, said Sgt. Lee Jones, a department spokesman.
The two concertgoers who died were identified as Jeffrey Russ, 23, of Rochester, N.Y.; and Olivia Rotondo, 20, of Providence, R.I.
Though some fans expressed sympathy for the family and friends of Russ and Rotondo on Twitter and others bemoaned the increasing prevalence of drugs at music festivals, many did not hide their displeasure over the cancellation, posting that they were being unfairly “punished” for others’ mistakes.