Concert subculture under scrutiny after dozens hospitalized at Avicii concert

More than a hundred people have been hospitalized at concerts by Swedish DJ Avicii in recent weeks, refocusing the public eye on the electronic dance music culture.

Amy Sussman/AP/File
Swedish DJ, remixer, and record producer Avicii poses for a portrait in New York in this file photo. Many people who attended an electronic dance music show featuring Avicii in Boston on Wednesday showed up intoxicated and several were hospitalized, authorities said.

Grammy-winning disk jockey Avicii has garnered quite a bit of media attention during his 2014 North American tour – but rarely for the right reasons.

In May in Toronto, 29 people were hospitalized from drug- and alcohol-related illnesses at a concert by the Swedish DJ, who specializes in electronic dance music – or EDM. Four weeks later, two died and another 400 were sent to the hospital at a music festival in Las Vegas where Avicii performed.

On Wednesday, Avicii brought this atmosphere to Boston, where another 36 fans were hospitalized with non-life-threatening symptoms, due to what witnesses and media are describing as a combination of heat, alcohol, and drugs – namely the popular club-drug MDMA, also referred to as ‘Molly.’

“Signs of illicit drugs, including … 'Molly' … were apparent, with concertgoers strapped to stretchers, some still screaming and flailing their arms,” reported ABC’s local affiliate.

“There was one kid, it took four cops to take him down,” one concertgoer told WBZ-TV. “He was on something, I have no idea.”

Officials, however, were unwilling to point the finger at MDMA, or any other drug, instead attributing the concert’s injuries to alcohol. “There may have been some illicit drug involved, but none have been identified,” said Boston EMS Deputy Superintendent Mike Bosse to The Boston Globe.

He added that the Boston Police Licensing Division had cited TD Garden – the concert’s venue – for permitting intoxicated persons to enter.

Whether or not drug use was a significant factor in the hospitalizations, the concert has refocused the public eye on the drug-permissive culture surrounding EDM concerts.

Just 10 months ago in the same city, three concertgoers overdosed on Molly at Boston’s House of Blues venue, including a 19-year-old woman who died as a result. A few days earlier, two people died from a MDMA overdose in New York, and another in Washington – a confluence of events that caused former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, among other high-ranking officials, to publicly decry the drug culture surrounding EDM.

“It’s very tragic. The bottom line is what you see here is people doing drugs that shouldn’t be doing drugs, and you see the fatal consequences,” he said in a statement. “And when people want to go down that slippery slope and say, ‘Oh, it’s just fun,’ it isn’t just fun. There are two families that are not going to have their children come home.”

Last’s year MDMA-related deaths also fostered significant media scrutiny, including a report by the Monitor’s Harry Bruinius, who found that EDM enthusiasts acknowledged the connection between MDMA and EDM culture. Many, in fact, reveled in it.

“Despite the deaths, many of those deep into the electronic dance music scene are unapologetic about the intimate connection between ‘EDM,’ as they call it, and Molly and other drugs,” he wrote. “Most eschew alcohol and defend what they say is a euphoric, touch-inducing escape offered by the drug and music combination.”

For some enthusiasts this “connection” between elements may even be secondary to the consumption of the drug – a drug which is said to induce increased energy and empathy.

Avicii is planning to wrap up his 2014 North American tour this week with stops in Bristow, Va., Brooklyn. N.Y., and a return trip to Vegas.

If the Scandinavian DJ’s recent concerts are any indication, these last three stops could be quite a racuous experience.

This report includes material from the Associated Press.

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