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Arts and Entertainment

San Bernardino County Considers Ban On Raves

A rave. (Photo by Wikimedia Commons)
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Raves, which a very reputable source called Urban Dictionary defines as "any gathering of people centered around listening to and dancing to electronic music, as played by a set of live DJs," may soon be no longer welcome in San Bernardino County.San Bernardino's San Miguel Ampitheater, which is the largest outdoor music venue in the U.S., houses two massively popular EDM shows. The county-owned venue has hosted the popular Beyond Wonderland and Nocturnal Wonderland raves since 2013. And the Wonderland events, which are put on by Live Nation-subsidiary Insomniac Events are no backyard shindigs—attendance at September's Nocturnal Wonderland event hit nearly 85,000, which, for context, is roughly three times the undergraduate population of UCLA.

San Bernardino County will vote on banning rave-type events at county facilities at an upcoming Board of Supervisors meeting.

The dance-heavy events, which NPR once declared to be "America's last great outlaw musical subculture...created by kids, for kids, designed to be impenetrable to adults," have been increasingly under fire in recent years, especially after a spate of deaths. The L.A. Times reports that there have now been at least 21 confirmed drug-related deaths among people who went to raves nationwide that were put on by Los Angeles-area companies since 2006.

According to the Times, nearly 250 people were arrested at Beyond Wonderland in March, and an additional 20 people were taken to area hospitals during the course of the course of the two-day event. Everyone ended up being okay, but as of March 2016, at least four San Bernardino rave attendees have died of drug-related causes.

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“We gave it a shot. It’s time for these events not to be at this county facility anymore,” Supervisor Janice Rutherford told the San Bernardino Sun. Rutherford is leading the anti-rave effort.

To slightly complicate matters, banning raves at San Miguel would require the county to break their contract with LiveNation, but that might be easier than it sounds. County spokesman David Wert tells LAist that when the county signed the contract several years ago, they specifically included a clause that allowed EDM events at the county's amphitheater—but part of that clause also gave the county the option of rescinding permission if there were problems with the events. Three cheers for the county of San Bernardino's prescient lawyer who clearly brought his A-game to what we can only presume was an otherwise boring contract deal.

Backing from a billion dollar company and contracts with counties were once all but unthinkable in the OG rave scene.

As your parents can tell you, raves used to be much cooler. In the glory days, they were underground events held in sketchy warehouses with word spread via xeroxed flyers and locations announced on the day of, lest police interfere. As Tammy L. Anderson explained in a 2009 journal article in Sociological Forum, a number of factors caused the rave scene to flounder from its high point in the mid to late '90s, to its "diminished and fragmented" current state, including the effects of commercialization, a loss of "cultural otherness" and a generational schism. Kinko's (a place where people once made photocopies) is long gone, Hot Topic has a rave section for sale in a mall near you and the aforementioned Wonderland events both offer VIP sections with bottle service. Though one could also argue that the original rave scene officially died the day Anderson wrote about it in Sociological Forum.

But despite their assimilation into mainstream culture, raves remain controversial, particularly amongst the neighbors. San Bernardino Sun
Dozens, if not hundreds, of San Bernardino residents have complained to county supervisors about noise, drug use, heavy traffic and scantily clad, loitering concertgoers since the dance shows began in 2013. "One member of our board of supervisors believes that that threshold has been met," Wert told LAist, referring to the LiveNation contract's if-there-are-problems clause.

“A friend of mine was approached on her property by rave-goers asking to use her restroom... They’re all over the place. And you would not believe how they dress. It’s indecent exposure.” Karan Slobom, a 44-year San Bernardino told the Sun.

Wert says there would be a number of economic impacts if the board does end up voting to terminate the contract. He explained that the actual amount of money that the county government receives in exchange for leasing the venue is relatively nominal, but there could be a greater impact to the county parks system since a lot of the concert-goers camp, as well as a broader impact to local businesses and restaurants if the events are relocated elsewhere.

L.A.'s county board of supervisors considered—and declined—their own ban on raves earlier this year, ultimately deciding to move forward on an ordinance that would allow raves to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

San Bernardino will consider the ban on May 24. In the meantime, we wish everyone a day of Peace Love Unity [and] Respect.

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