EDM.com Spotlight

EDM.com Spotlight

Jauz Tackles Fan Drug Use: What Came First, the Music or the Drug Scene? [OP-ED]

This past weekend, everyone’s favorite basshouse prodigy, Sam Vogel, better known as Jauz, fired up a tweet rant on one of the most contentious topic in the concert scene– drug usage. On Sunday, the ‘Feel the Volume’ artist took to Twitter to vent his frustration regarding the negative impacts recreational drug use has had on American kids.

Jauz touches on an important issue that plagues the American dance music scene. Have EDM concerts just become a playground for rampant drug use?

Among the various elements of 1970s disco subculture that ravers drew on, club drugs were lauded by fans of the disco-derived subculture for their power to enhance the sensory experience of dancing to loud, synthesized music.

Fast forward to the this decade, and thanks to the prevalence of festivals and technology, electronic music culture has evolved into what Vogel considers to be an epidemic of drug-prioritization. Drugs are no longer universally considered the fuel for candid show-enhancing experiences which was the driving forces for founding ethics of rave culture; ‘drug culture’ is the new reality, having seemingly overtaken the live-music scene to the point of shows representing the backdrop to the drug experience– and not the other way around.

Molly and technology are partly to ‘blame’ for spurring an already sketchy subculture as dance music scene saw massive mainstream success as it entered the 2010s. Molly refreshed the drug scene around the beginning of the decade and instantly exploded into daily conversation in the news. Everyone was weary of or looking to try this "pure MDMA," and what did it go well with? Electronic music. The psychoactive substance elevated an underground scene that initially fed on ecstasy into a pop-culture magnet that had a new crowd of people running to festival grounds to see artists ‘on molly’. Rave culture had “gotten its groove back,” but at what expense? And with what consideration towards the future?

Combine this with a self-regenerating fanbase of teenagers poised on adulthood keen on experiencing their first taste of rebellion, and you’ve got a problem. Music festivals are becoming more frequent, accessible and impressive, and while many older fans grow out of their venue-based habits over time, festivals continue to profit off of the recklessness of young adults looking to experiment with illegal substances for the first time. The beginning of the 2010s saw Molly prevailing, but as supply diminishes, LSD and alcohol become substitutes, with ketamine, cocaine and GHB close behind. This ultimately creates a culture based not on music, but rather on getting as high as possible in some twisted definition of "fun."

And while festivals have become the backdrop for liberated drug use, recent years have also witnessed a new phenomenon, with a similarly deteriorating effect on the sincerity of the concert experience. As a generation addicted to likes, shares and retweets, new (and even older) concert-goers have transformed festival weekends from genuine experiences based on seeing the artists they love, into photoshoots and attempts at seemingly creating the ethereal festival experience without actually undergoing it.

Search #coachella on Instagram and you’ll find countless pictures of the girl next door (oftentimes with A- and D-list celebrities) posing in meticulously thought-out outfits, with unique-looking food or on pretty ferris wheels and attractions, but not many of the actual shows. The reality is, a video you genuinely love of your favorite producer won’t garner you nearly as many likes as a picture of you appearing as if you’re enjoying said artist.

Maybe this scene transformation is entirely inevitable, though. In an age when documenting an experience and securing drugs are emphasized, it becomes difficult to see how original rave culture and genuine love for an artist could still prevail. But this nouveau-festival scene is what it is, and while a return to sober music escapism is now apparently a concept that is seemingly impossible, the blatant disrespect for the music, which should come first and foremost, poisons a subculture continually praised for its innovations in art, culture and sound.

It is important to remember what festivals are supposed to be.

Cover photo courtesy of Chris Smith