Dance scene's lethal mix - drink, drugs and ignorance


OPINION:OF THE three big music concerts at the Phoenix Park last week only one generated the wrong sort of headlines.

At Thursday night’s Stone Roses show, it was all misty-eyed maudlin reminiscences from a forty- to fiftysomething crowd having their “Madchester” moment all over again; on Sunday night it was designer Wellington boot territory as Snow Patrol brought their chart-friendly indie-pop to a tractable audience.

But Saturday’s show by “rave” act Swedish House Mafia was characterised by suspected drug overdoses and multiple incidents of stabbings. The contrast between two nights of feel-good, all-in-it-together sentiment with the drugs-and-violence mayhem of Saturday’s show was striking.

Was it all down to the genre of music being played? And can a genre of music be held responsible for the behaviour of people who like it? As news reports stated: knives and hammers were seized from some of those trying to get into the Swedish House Mafia show; there were more than 30 arrests for knife attacks, public order offences, drug possession and drug-dealing; drunk revellers ran out to the roadway in the park, causing motorists to brake suddenly and dangerously; fist fights broke out on Chesterfield Avenue, with clothes being ripped off; and families visiting the nearby Dublin Zoo refused to leave, fearing the scenes of violence outside in the park.

Saturday night sounds like a Hell’s Angel festival crossed with an episode of The Sopranos. On YouTube, you can witness the behaviour of a minority of people at the Swedish House Mafia show for yourself by typing in “Fight on Swedish House Mafia, Phoenix Park”, which the video-sharing site has made an “age-restricted” video due to its violent conduct.

The video shows random acts of mindless violence and makes for miserable viewing. However, in the comments section below the video – ignoring all the “Look at all the scumbags!” postings – there is one very interesting observation.

A viewer writes: “the genre of music has a lot to do with it . Haven’t heard any reports like this for . I enjoy an oul dance/rap gig as much as anyone else but the shit in this video and the level of violence and anti-social behaviour on Saturday was insane!”

Let’s make one thing clear: Swedish House Mafia, a trio of house music DJs, abhor and condemn such behaviour at their concerts.

They are very skilled at what they do and their job as entertainers is to provide a great night’s music for those who appreciate their work. Having their name in any way causally linked to the scenes at the park on Saturday is akin to blaming heavy metal music for a belief in Satanism.

However, the comment “the genre of music has a lot to do with it” bears further examination. Swedish House Mafia are broadly speaking a “dance culture” act – this is a genre of music that broke through into the mainstream in the 1990s and always had a drug component.

This is in much the same way as rock’n’roll music has always had an alcohol component.

To anyone at a rave or dance act show in the 1990s, what was most striking was that, as opposed to a standard rock’n’roll show, there was never any queue at the bar (you just didn’t mix ecstasy – the dance music drug of choice – with alcohol) but there was plenty of water being drunk to counteract the dehydrating effects of the drug.

If you talked to any law-enforcement official at the time, they would have told you – unofficially – that they much preferred having to deal with a “blissed-out” rave audience than a beered-up rock’n’roll audience. The inconvenient truth – for the tabloid press at the time – was that ecstasy was enjoyed by millions of clubbers during the 1990s, and with perhaps fewer overdoses than caused by alcohol use. Which is not to condone the use of an illegal and potentially fatal drug such as ecstasy but merely to reflect the reality of its usage during that time.

But that was then and this is now: with electronic dance music now very much back to the fore due to the success of acts such as Swedish House Mafia and Skrillex, “underground dance music” is the fastest-growing genre in the industry.

Today’s generation – brought up with binge alcohol tendencies – is popping and dropping indiscriminately. And when you mix a rave drug with large quantities of alcohol, it really is time (for the rest of us) to batten down the hatches.

With today’s electronic dance music shows reaching double the audience of previous times, there is the erroneous feeling among this younger demographic that they need to indulge in a rave drug to enhance their enjoyment of the live experience.

Unfortunately, drug-awareness programmes have yet to catch up with the rapidly changing dynamic of the live music scene and it behoves gig-goers to understand that all drugs – whether alcohol or ecstasy pills – are toxic, will cause very serious physical and mental problems and can kill you.

This may be blah-blah-boring-boring for a 21-year-old heading off to an electronic dance show but there are real and present dangers now in the live music world – as Saturday night at the Phoenix Park displayed.

And it certainly doesn’t help that certain leading musical names are rather pathetically appearing to glamorise the use of rave drugs.

At a show in Miami in March, Madonna said from the stage: “Have you seen Molly?” “Molly” is a slang term for MDMA (aka ecstasy). She also titled her new album MDNA – a play on the letters MDMA. That a 53-year-old woman with a huge and impressionable fan base should make such a stupid and irresponsible reference is beyond contempt.

Especially as one suspects the remark was made to make her appear more “credible” with young dance music fans. Thankfully a leading light of the new electronic dance music scene, Deadmau5 (real name Joel Zimmerman), took time out to call Madonna “a f***ing idiot” for her remarks.

Nobody wants live music to be associated with drug deaths and violent scenes. But everybody still wants a good time.

It is time for all concerned with playing, promoting and attending music shows to reinvigorate that old 1980s injunction about HIV/Aids: “Don’t Die of Ignorance.”

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