Festivals need to allow freedom of expression.
As the drug stigma in EDM culture continues to grow, it is no surprise that festival holders are harshening their policies and regulations… but at what cost? In attempts to redirect focus back to the music, many EDM festivals have banned patrons from wearing kandi, bringing costume props (signs, staffs, etc.) and utilizing LED light toys on festival grounds. Although these regulations and prohibitions may be intended to promote safety, they are inadvertently contradicting the very foundation that music festivals were built upon.
Since the days of Woodstock, music festivals have established themselves as more than just a gathering of people with like-minded music tastes; they are a forum for self-expression, connectivity and societal relief. Prohibiting these virtues at festivals impedes upon the fundamental values that music festivals were founded upon, in particular, EDM festivals.
One of the most iconic aspects of EDM culture is the showcasing of artistic and creative talents through various mediums of dance and art. Whether this is done through hula-hooping, light-gloving, spinning poi, or exchanging kandi, it’s an invaluable part of EDM culture for both artists and fans. Although some EDM festivals, like Electric Forest, Burning Man, and Lightning in a Bottle undeniably focus on preserving the rights of their patrons, there are many other festivals that don’t. For instance, Diplo’s Mad Decent Block Party, along with many HARD events, not only prohibits the use of LED props, but they’ve also outlawed kandi altogether.
Although kandi has been widely belittled as “raver paraphernalia," those who have been involved in this scene as long as I have understand the profoundly positive influence it has on festival-goers. Hundreds of hours are spent hand-making this beaded jewelry with no other incentive than to give it to a stranger as a token of personal acknowledgment and PLUR (peace, love, unity and respect). How could this interaction ever be construed as harmful in today’s day and age? If freedom of expression isn’t an assumed right at a music festival, then we should start rethinking why we are attending them in the first place.
The good news is, as fans, we have the power to guide this movement in whatever direction we want to, but it’s going to take some effort. We need to remind festival holders that without us, the show can’t go on. Fans need to unite together and create a very loud voice that can’t be ignored.
We need to work towards gaining this issue exposure, so that our voice and numbers are both heard and seen. This can be done first and foremost through using social media and blogging sites to protest these confinements. We can also provide impactful protest through boycotting the festivals that place these limitations on self-expression, and outwardly support the festivals that do allow these basic freedoms. It’s not just up to us to spread the word either - we can collectively expose the validity behind this issue by encouraging other artists and DJs within this community to act as representatives for their fans as well. These icons can stand up on behalf of those who support them, and use their influence to create a much-needed change within this culture. As dramatic as this may sound, it is true; music festivals are transformative and life-changing experiences for many people, and those experiences are worth fighting for.
It is our duty as humans to constantly take steps forward in creating a safer and healthier festival environment. However, if we are trying to redirect the focus of this community back to its origins and back to the music, it seems illogical to remove the artistic and interactive traditions that accompany it. EDM has always been much more than a genre of music; it is a passion, a lifestyle, a community, and a movement. It is a cultural entity that has always been guided by expression, love and connection, and removing anything from this scene that promotes these values risks jeopardizing everything that makes this scene so valuable. This is our movement people. Without us, none of this would exist, so let's make it ours again.
Written by Madeline Donegan