This blog post was supposed to be my Coachella wrap-up post, but today I read an Edmonton Journal article today about the upcoming Elements Music Festival that got me so mad I had to write about it. So I’m ripping it apart (article is indented and italicized), starting with the headline:

Giant rave going ahead despite booze sale worries

I hadn’t even read the article and I knew exactly the slant it would take. First off, it’s an electronic music festival that lasts for two days, so it’s actually NOT a rave in any way. It starts in the early afternoon and goes into the early morning hours, much like any other music festival. I mean, all you have to say is “rave” and you immediately picture high girls in furry boots, bikinis, and glowsticks dancing around like idiots. And yes, those girls are there. But there’s also people ranging in ages from 16 to 60, wearing regular clothing, and just dancing and enjoying the music.

EDMONTON – An event billed as Canada’s largest electronic music festival is going ahead this weekend despite concerns about the danger posed by alcohol sales.

Promoter Boodang Music Canada could attract up to 12,000 people daily Friday and Saturday to Elements Music Festival at the Northlands Expo Centre, although police said last month a safety plan wasn’t worked out.

“Everything is status quo for us. … Our safety plan has been submitted to the EPS,” company spokesman Marcus Gurske said Wednesday, adding he understands the plan has been approved.

“We’re actually not responsible for generating the safety plan. That’s the responsibility of the venue, but we over and above have worked with Northlands to develop a safety plan that was submitted to the (city’s) chief licensing officer.”

So what I’m understanding from this is that Boodang Music Canada has tried to work with the EPS and Northlands to develop a safety plan, which wasn’t approved last month but since has been (not sure why the journalists wanted to include the first bit about how the safety plan wasn’t completely worked out). I’ve never planned a music festival before so I’m not sure if these are mandatory, but to me Boodang seems to be interested in keeping the public safe at their event. BAD BOODANG. How dare you be concerned about safety?!

An after-hours electronic music show Boodang staged at the Shaw Conference Centre earlier this year saw seven patrons taken to hospital for drug overdoses and 14 calls to the Sexual Assault Centre out of 5,000 people who attended.

THIS paragraph…So out of more than 5000 people who attended, there were seven people who went to the hospital for drug overdoses (we aren’t told which drugs) and 14 calls to the Sexual Assault Centre? The word missing from your sentence, dear journalists, is ONLY. There were ONLY 7 overdoses and ONLY 14 phone calls (Phone calls, really, we’re counting phone calls??). Can you do math? Considering the volume of people, those numbers are actually low. And while we’re discussing numbers, I want to know the statistics from the number of drug overdoses or assaults on Whyte Ave in a weekend, or at a football or hockey game. I’ve never been harassed more than when I attend sporting events in Edmonton. I’d like to see statistics on other music festivals too, on sexual assaults, overdoses, alcohol poisonings, or fighting.

I learned this from the MDMA Wikipedia article (scoff if you want) but a 2009 study in the UK found that the risks involved with taking ecstasy were equivalent to riding a horse…yes, riding a friggin’ horse: 30 deaths a year (1 in 10,000 episodes of ecstasy use) to 10 deaths a year (1 in 350 rides on a horse). Giddy up, partner, and risk your LIFE on that horse…

City police Sgt. Nicole Chapdelaine, co-ordinator of Edmonton’s public safety compliance team, warned city councillors in March she had concerns about drugs, alcohol and sexual assaults at Elements, claiming “it’s in the culture.”

Yeah, because of all the people we want quotes from for this article, it’s a cop – they’re great at being objective on these kind of things. What exactly is in the culture, Sgt. Chapdelaine? Drugs? Alcohol? Sex assaults? That describes a lot of the reasons people are in jail right now – I had no idea there were so many electronic music fans! She’s so quick to stereotype, so I guess I’ll throw one back at her. We all know what “cop culture” is, don’t we?

The festival could require 80 or 90 officers a day, compared to 32 at the Shaw, and cost police up to $300,000 for staffing, planning and handling trouble after closing time, she estimated.

And MORE numbers to scare people with. How many extra cops are required for other music festivals? Why are we even reporting on how much this will cost the police? They have police for special events. Those guys do parades too. How much will that cost taxpayers? BAN PARADES TOO!

But Gurske said Elements will run mainly before midnight, with different hours, performers and music than the last function.

“This is not a rave in the truest sense. (Chapdelaine) might have had concerns in relation to an after-hours, rave-style event, but those do not transfer over to this. … It’s a totally different operation.”

However, additional staff will be brought into city emergency rooms this weekend, Alberta Health Services spokesman Kerry Williamson said.

Extra paramedics and ambulances will also be on standby, and an emergency doctor will be at the site, along with paramedics the organizers have hired from a private company, Williamson said.

He said AHS always has extra workers on call for major events. “We have to be proactive and we are planning for it.”

Scott Mackie, manager of the city’s current planning branch, said the show will be staffed by police, bylaw and other city enforcement employees as well as medical personnel.

“They have a safety plan. Northlands has been very responsive to some of the concerns,” he said.

“We have not received a request to suspend their licence, which suggests to me they have reached some agreement.”

Again, this is all great. Every event Edmonton puts on should have stuff like this. Safety plans for all festivals, hear hear!

Boodang went to court earlier this month to force Northlands to sell liquor at the festival as outlined in their contract, after the non-profit society tried to keep the event dry.

Court documents show Northlands stated in a memo to Boodang that “the inherent risks of synthetic drug use by this culture and the sale of alcohol pose a real and significant threat that must be mitigated.”

For the record, I have never been to a concert that was drug or alcohol free (which includes a jazz pianist concert). This is not a new situation for music shows or festivals.

Ian Sanderson, manager of security administration for Northlands, said in an affidavit they’re worried about the consequences on public safety and the organization’s reputation.

“Northlands believes that it could suffer this detrimental impact even if it serves alcohol at this event pursuant to court order.”

The concerns are based on a Journal story about the number of calls to the Sexual Assault Centre on rave weekends, as well as a police report questioning how dealing with the event might affect staffing across the city, he stated.

But in a statement of claim, the promoter said previous events included alcohol and Northlands had no problems with booze at Elements until two months after the contract was signed.

The company stated in court documents that a dry event would damage its reputation, potentially cost it $1 million and could lead to bankruptcy.

A judge agreed with Boodang, requiring Northlands to sell alcohol from 5 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. on both days of the event.

He also specified that any ticket-holder who leaves the premises will not be allowed back inside until the next day.

I think both of these ideas are fantastic for limiting problems at the event. For the record, 12:30 is before last call at any bar in this city, so once again it seems like everyone is working together on this.

Northlands spokeswoman Cathy Kiss said the contract was arranged last year, before the city started taking a closer look at the issues surrounding such events.

While the organization would prefer not to provide liquor, it’s confident plans worked out with the city and police and Alberta Health Services will ensure the festival runs as well as possible, Kiss said.

For example, LRT service will be extended about two hours to 3:30 a.m., and there will be taxis on the grounds to take home the 8,379 revellers who have bought two-day passes so far, she said.

The show runs daily from 3 p.m. to 3 a.m.

“I can’t say emphatically I don’t have concerns, but the safety and security plans we have in place will set us up for the best chance of success, Kiss said.”

Northlands is worried, that’s fine and totally understandable. But they’ve hosted other festivals on their grounds before and I’m sure things will be fine. No one wants anyone to be assaulted or overdose on drugs. But lovers of EDM have the right to have their own festival in this city without attack. What is this, Footloose? Are we going to ban dancing now because it leads to sex and sex leads to babies?


Edmonton has countless music festivals throughout every year, and all of them have three things in common: music, alcohol, and drugs. I have never seen anything but negative news regarding electronic music, when all there are countless positive articles about how great country or rock festivals are. No one writes are article focusing on how many people were hurt by too much moshing the last time Linkin Park came to Edmonton (they’re coming back for Sonic Boom, you can buy tickets here) or how many cops had to work at the last music festival. There are just so many other angles that could be taken when it comes to talking about an EDM festival, but it just feels like the journalists consistently take the easy route. The media report every overdose/death from ecstasy at a rave or highlight every single issue at electronic music festivals (before and after the event), instead of focusing on the talented musicians (yes, they’re most definitely musicians). EDM myths and misconceptions remain rooted in people’s minds, and they’ll never be able to separate the negative aspects from electronic music, when lazy journalism like this persists.

(My blog titles are song titles. This one is “D.A.N.C.E.” by Justice, one of those terrible electronic music artists just waiting to corrupt your children with their catchy beats.)

(**For the record, I tweeted the journalists behind this story and asked them why they were so negative. The response I got from the one journalist at the time of posting this was there is more of a safety concern at this event, and that he wasn’t hip enough to be able to write about the positive aspects or artists attending. Okay.)


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