Another person has died at a major festival, bringing the death toll this summer to 28. Yesterday Alicia Louise Cipicchio died after falling under a bus at the annual Burning Man festival in Nevada. Her death comes just three days after two individuals died at Creamfields in the UK. Aiden Connolly passed after being struck by a car as he was leaving the event. Another unidentified 22-year-old male died from a drug-related incident.
Perhaps the most disturbing death of all this month was that of independent promoter Eric Johnson, who was murdered backstage at a Wiz Khalifa concert on Aug. 22.
Take that in for a second. Backstage. People aren’t supposed to die backstage. Live Nation cancelled Wiz Khalifa’s Chula Vista date in SoCal and opening act Young Jeezy has been arrested on gun charges. On Friday, he posted bail for himself and the five other individuals in his entourage who were also arrested. Charges have not yet been filed forJohnson’s murder.
While tragic, accidents and homicide are not the leading cause of death at events in 2014. Drugs and alcohol are the real culprit. Major festivals like Coachella, Electric Daisy Carnival and Glastonbury have seen a rise in both emergency room visits and drug and alcohol related deaths. Six people died from a reaction to meth at the Future Music Festival in Malaysia. Another man, believed to possibly be on drugs, committed suicide by running into a massive fire during Element 11, Utah’s version of Burning Man. And then there’s the case of 22-year-old Correy Barron, who went missing after a Jason Aldean concert in Ohio. Friends say Barron was extremely intoxicated during the concert — he was found three days later at an area landfill. Police are hypothesizing that he some how fell down a trash chute while attending the concert.
What can you say when someone dies at your festival? Most public statements make three salient points — everyone’s heart goes out to the victim and their families, the event has a comprehensive security plan, and the number of casualties is infinitesimally small compared to overall attendance. The phrase “isolated incident” gets thrown around a lot.
It’s speaking without actually saying anything — no one pushes the conversation forward. No one has the answer.
When two people died and 20 were hospitalized after a Mad Decent Block Party show at the Merriweather Post Pavilion outside of D.C, venue and promoter Seth Hurtwitz acknowledged the dilemma many face. Here’s what he said:
As a parent, it makes me horribly sad beyond words to think of a tragedy like this. We can spend every minute of the day making perfect sense to our children regarding the obvious perils of drugs, but sometimes it is impossible to convince them that this is relevant to their world.
This particular type of incident is not the problem of those who should have known better…it’s the problem of those too young to believe it could happen to them. Sadly we find ourselves in the classic position of trying to tell kids not to do something they think is fun.
Two thoughts. First one — the availability and potency of drugs is absolutely epidemic. Molly, Ketamine, Cocaine, Adderall, Percocet and Vicodin are everywhere. It’s mainstream now, and the drug laws of this country have only exacerbated the problem — the Mexican cartels that distribute narcotics throughout North America make the Cocaine Cowboys of the 80s look like Buck Rogers. Our country’s War on Drugs is an abysmal failure. There are cheap drugs everywhere.
Second thought — there are people in the music industry who are trying to address the issue. Mike Bindra and Laura De Palma with New York’s Electric Zoo hired Dexter creator/writer James Manos Jr. to create PSA Come to Life showing a bro get way too THESEBEATSTHESEBEATSBRO! The two-minute video is very well done — it makes you feeling like you’re tripping.
SFX bought Bindra and De Palma’s company Made Event in November, and the PSA was good PR after two people died from overdoses in 2013. The 100,000 Festival goers who attended the 2014 event had to watch the video — an RFID chip on their wristband verified each person saw the two-minute film.
What responses are you seeing? Go to our comments page and share your thoughts on what should be done about drugs and the uptick in deaths at concerts this year. Amplify was designed to be the voice of the industry — please help lead the conversation on this important topic.