Author: Justin Mckibben
The wild world of Electronic Dance Music (EDM) and the rave culture that surrounds it is often perceived as synonymous with drugs and alcohol. People assume that these shows are meant for doing drugs in order to enhance the live experience and heighten the senses to create a feeling of escapism. Although this may be a true narrative in some circles within the EDM culture, it is also another stigma that isn’t always the law of rave-land.
The stereotype is often used to define the dance world as a whole, but is not every regular raver’s reality. Many people in recovery still have a close connection to the music they love, and bask in the full immersion of off-the-hook crowds. Sobriety isn’t just meant for those who enjoy being home-bodies.
Recently, a famous EDM DJ known as Bassnectar took to social media to share a story and a strong message of the highly underestimated recovery community with the EDM culture.
Background on Bassnectar
For a little background, Bassnectar is an American DJ and record producer from the San Francisco Bay Area who performs regularly at various music festivals, including:
- Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival
The artist finished in 4th place in the 2013 America’s Best DJ competition, and while he has not toured for several years he has hosted numerous events of his own. His “family gatherings” are two or three day bass music events, named BassCenter with location changing every year. As of April 2017, the East Coast family gathering is to be held in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The event has since been dubbed Basslantic City.
Sober Fan Reaches Out
Recently a fan on Twitter messaged Bassnectar asking for help to sell his Basslantic City ticket because of a recent decision to be clean and sober. Bassnectar took a screen-shot of the message and shared the fans concern, which included that:
“I really want to go to Basslantic City but all my friends drink and do drugs so I don’t wanna put myself in that position as of right now…”
The fan was hesitant to be put in a tricky position due to being surrounded by friends who would be using drugs and drinking. It is refreshing to see someone who is trying to clean up take such a big step in making difficult but responsible choices. Still, Bassnectar wanted to show more than just compassion for sobriety; he wanted to give an proactive message of support to any fans struggling with a similar decision.
Bassnectar Makes Social Media Statement For Sober Fans
The DJ was quick to give the fan his congratulations immediately for taking a stand in changing his life. Not only did he give props to the fan, but Bassnectar responded with a lengthy message of support and offered to help connect him with other fans who feel the same way:
In his message to the fan he states:
“You most definitely DON’T need drugs to fit in, and also there are so many [THOUSANDS] of people who will be in Atlantic City with us this weekend, who won’t be abusing drugs…”
He went on to offer to connect the fan with sober contacts in the EDM community who would be there.
Following the conversation, Bassnectar took to his own Facebook account and made a long post about his support for clean and sober fans in the EDM crowd. He spoke at length about his own friends and peers, and about how his path has led him to focus more on health and clarity.
“Without judgments, I just wanted to share my own perspective that while it’s an amazing feeling to get high off the music (and ‘the vibe’) of a live music experience, it by no means needs to go hand-and-hand with drug abuse, or even with taking drugs or drinking.”
While Bassnectar did admit to having a glass of wine once in a while, and that he himself isn’t a recovery avatar, he went on to share his own experience and opinions on how he likes to keep clear, stating:
“I shared that from my own experience I prefer a clear head, a healthy body, and a nervous system with heightened sensitivity – I prefer health over ‘fun’”
Bassnectar went on to explain that while he had no intention of shaming any of his fans that do indulge or choose to party in more intense ways, he did advocate for building on the community of sober music lovers who show up to big concerts. He did share his own perspective on how the culture of getting high at concerts pressures people into doing things they shouldn’t do, but that he believed as an artist getting “high on the music” was a beautiful thing.
“Also, I just have to say, as an artist, I have zero interest in seeing my fans get ‘f**ked up’ – I don’t glorify violence of any kind, and I think that reckless drug abuse can be a form of violence.”
“I think it can be dangerous to ingest various chemicals in order to get a buzz. It may not ALWAYS be dangerous, but there is a risk! And in my opinion it’s not worth the risk – I have lost several dear friends to drug overdoses, and I have seen several people’s lives SHATTERED by drug abuse, by alcohol abuse, or by not living with a deep gratitude for health, and the care that comes with it – so I hope to inspire that care in anyone reading this.”
The Dj then concluded his message with:
“So if you are thinking of attending without drugs or alcohol and want to make a new friend, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will put you in touch with other bass heads who have the same attitude and will be there this weekend.
Again, NO JUDGEMENTS: we love you *ALL* and we are thrilled for the wild adventures that are about to take place in just a few days…. travel safe!”
Looking at the post and the comments on Bassnectar’s Facebook, over a thousand people have shared the post, with hundreds of comments showing support and solidarity for those in the EDM community who are recovering alcoholics and addicts, or simply people who are choosing to live a clean and sober life. Even specific groups like Hummingbirds (BassHeads for sobriety) reached out to offer a fellowship of strong sober support for the fans.
It is awesome to see advocacy and awareness from an artist so popular in a genre so frequently depicted as appealing to drug users and hard partiers. The stereotype is so common even among people who regularly attend the shows, but there is a large community of people who enjoy music festivals while being sober. You don’t need drugs or alcohol to have an awesome experience.
Music festivals are a unique experience, but some people use them as an excuse to abuse drugs that can dull them to that experience and put themselves at serious risk. There is a way to enjoy the exciting parts of life without getting high, and real recovery means learning how. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)
Author: Justin Mckibben
I personally found my solution in a fellowship of recovery, and as with any group there are disagreements. You may here a lot of mixed opinions on where recovering addicts and alcoholics should and shouldn’t go.
Some people keep saying ‘if you hang out in the barber shop, you’re going to eventually get a haircut’… and I understand the concern… but my book given to me by my sponsor tells me I can go anywhere any other free man can go, as long as I’m willing to keep consistent with my simple spiritual practice.
I have been blessed enough to have the obsession to drink and use drugs removed, although I remain aware of the fact taking action is the only way I’m able to keep this serenity, so I believe what I was told from the beginning: Recovery is freedom.
So needless to say, I go out a lot.
I go to concerts and block-parties, raves and music festivals because I love music… and I do so sober and unafraid.
So it is awesome to see that there is a movement in place to help support young people (or just the young at heart) in recovery who love attending summer music festivals who may still be struggling to figure out how they can have fun in these kinds of settings and stay clean.
The Story of “Soberoo”
It is said because most festivalgoers drink and do drugs it makes it especially difficult for music fans struggling with addiction or in recovery to steer away from temptation. While my experience has been a little different, I can still acknowledge how awesome and useful the ‘sober tent’ idea can be for those who need a little help, because honestly we all need a hand sometime.
An account executive living in Kentucky named Patrick Whelan was one recovering individual who immediately assumed that his days of attending music festivals had ended when he stopped drinking and using drugs in 1997. But before long, Whelan realized he wasn’t alone.
Patrick met fans in recovery who were tabling and holding meetings at a The Other Ones concert to provide support to other sober music fans, and it was then he was inspired to create similar spaces at other events.
Along came “Soberoo,” an annual gathering at the original Bonnaroo festival, in 2002 which Patrick participated in creating. In 2008, “Soberoo” had grown to the extent that Bonnaroo organizers asked him to jump on a conference call give them a more detailed definition of the movement, and actually offered their assistance.
Growing the Movement
Whelan has since helped recruit and deploy volunteers who staff tents at music festivals around the country. More and more festivals have been added over the years and they have actually reached the point where more promoters are requesting their presence at events than they can actually handle. Whelan expanded on his philosophy of their movement saying,
“We’re just filling the gap where no service was provided before. These festivals are creating a small city for the weekend and in that population there’s a group of people who would need our support. Some of these festival promoters have said they can’t believe they didn’t think of this first.”
By the end of the year the group will have participated in 15 festivals, including:
- Lollapalooza in Chicago
- Outside Lands in San Francisco
- Nocturnal Wonderland in San Bernardino, California
If you feel like you have been missing out because you haven’t seen “Soberoo” around, it’s because the group adjusts the name of their initiative to match the theme or feel of the event at each festival, for example:
- At Lollapalooza in Chicago, it was “SoberSide” — a nod to the terminology used to divide the city’s districts (e.g. South Side, West Side, Near North Side)
- At Outside Lands the tent will be identified as “Sober Lands”
Their mission when attending these festivals is very honest and straightforward. The group is not associated with any 12-step programs or larger sobriety and solely provides support for anyone trying to find support and stay sober. They also do not shun or condemn those who don’t practice sobriety, but simply provide any information that may be useful to anyone.
Apparently all types of people who may not necessarily be in recovery also stop by these sober tents, including:
- Designated drivers
- People who chose not to drink until they turn 21
- People with a loved one in recovery
This year marked only their second time at Lollapalooza, so awareness of their presence is still an issue, but the groups are standing strong and doing their best to provide the additional support and assistance needed for some in those tough times.
Festival promoters have been immensely supportive of the group, providing resources and assistance like:
- Tent space
- Help them secure prime, visible real estate on their grounds
- Social media and promotional assistance
- Free entry for the volunteers
The group relies on donations to cover costs, but this may change soon depending on additional funding the group is currently seeking. In the meantime, it is experiences like a festivalgoer seeking them out after seeing the tent the previous year and making the decision, then, to change their lives that make all the work feel worthwhile. Whelan said,
“I never imagined that what we’re doing would have that kind of impact on someone’s life. That when the festival was over they maintained their dedication to making a change in their life and 365 days later they come seek us out and tell us what we did inspired them to get sober.”
The amazing thing here is definitely that while trying to provide a source for support, they are also inspiring other people and raising awareness. These kinds of movements are truly awesome because they not only help people stay sober in times they may need the extra help, but they actually prove to people who may question a sober life-style that it is absolutely possible to keep enjoying the things they love in sobriety.
Recovery isn’t based of fear and avoiding life. Real recovery is about being able to have the life you have always wanted, live the way that fulfills your life, and do so without needing substances to show you how amazing your experience is.
I’ll say it again… sobriety is freedom.
Being sober doesn’t mean giving up and not having a life, it means having the kind of amazing life you might have never known you could have. It all starts with making the decision to make the change that could save your life. If you or someone you love is suffering, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
Music is an amazing expression of life beyond what we can say. Music has the power to transcend how we feel, and has the power to give some essence and substance to the beauty and the pain that we believe in and live through in our lives. Music festivals are another awesome opportunity to live in that; let’s just get that out there. We are talking about being able to spend a day or even a week entranced by guitar strings, bass pumping a heartbeat that is a melting-pot of culture and rhythm, camping out with your friends and engaging in all types of free form frolick-like fun and other shenanigans. It can be an experience like no other, and a catalyst into a breakthrough for someone who easily gets caught up in their head.
But there is also the risk of running into some more questionable extra-curricular circumstances at music festivals, like drug use.
Social media has lately become a frequently used medium to accumulate aggregating data, given that everyone is so willing to share their experiences and lives online the whole task of collecting information is made so much simpler. With sites like Facebook and Instagram that allow for fair use of users’ data, by logging on and translating vast quantities of shared experiences and preferences you can decipher a lot, and recently one website released some data detailing the amount of times that certain drugs were mentioned in Instagram posts with relevant festivals.
It should be understood that this is not a scientific study, and does not exactly describe the quantity or drugs taken at these festivals or how many people took them. This study simply took note of how often these drugs were mentioned in a variety of contexts.
Top Drugs Mentioned at Certain Festivals
The graphic released by the site depicted the percentage of social media posts mentioning a specific substance AND event. Again these posts are not direct evidence that each individual was themselves using the substance mentioned, but these averages are meant to show the music festivals and concerts where we see the highest mentions of specific drugs.
- Mushrooms- 7.42%
- DMT– 7.22%
- LSD- 5.64%
- Crack Cocaine- 3.85%
- Mescaline- 0.48%
- MDMA/Molly/Ecstasy- 21.00%
- Mushrooms- 2.81%
- LSD- 2.6%
- Mescaline- 0.43%
- Marijuana- 25.11%
Electric Daisy Carnival
- MDMA/Molly/Ecstasy- 42.99%
- DMT- 0.90%
- Pills- 0.47%
- Mescaline- 0.33%
- Cocaine- 10.67%
- Opioids- 5.63%
- Pills- 0.29%
- Marijuana- 25.05%
- Mushrooms- 5.99%
- Crack Cocaine- 3.73%
Ultra Music Festival
- MDMA/Molly/Ecstasy- 37.68%
- LSD- 2.61%
Mad Decent Block Party
- Cocaine- 11.76%
- Opioids- 5.88%
It doesn’t come as much of a shock to anyone familiar with the reputation of Burning Man to see that psychedelics were most prevalent in posts from that festival. Also showing up in many Burning Man Instagram posts was crack cocaine, a drug not commonly associated with music festivals, yet it shows up a few times on the list.
What may also not be much of a surprise is the prevelance of MDMA/Molly/Ecstasy in relation to the electronic music festivals listed, including Electric Daisy Carnival, Ultra Music Festival, Camp Bisco.
The data shown on the graph only listed the top 3 concerts or festivals by substance, so some only made the list in one category for one substance, but that still deserves mention.
- Coachella for one only made the list once with its popular posts relating to cocaine use.
- The same goes for Marley Fest, which didn’t make the top 3 in any other category, but scored highest on marijuana posts with 82.04% of Instagram posts containing key words relating to marijuana. Far out, right?
- And the highest stat of ALL averages of social media posts actually came out of the KISS’s Chili Cook-off, where more than 90% of posts were related to alcohol.
Giving It Some Thought
So when we take into account all the information laid at our eyes by this collection of pics, tweets and tags, we have to acknowledge that drug use is prevalent at all music festivals, even the KISS Chili Cook-off and not just the more infamous and flamboyant festivals like Burning Man.
Giving it some thought, it doesn’t matter where you go, there will always been temptation. Realistically whether you are at a music festival or a middle-school play-ground there will be the possibility of exposure to drugs. What is important isn’t that we blame the places and things, but instead make an honest effort to educate young people about the dangers these drugs pose to them, and promote positive life-style choices that still allow for them to experience exciting events.
In sobriety I have attended music festivals and concerts. I have a roommate who has been sober a number of years and goes to more concerts and festivals than anyone I know, and I actually attend more live concerts and events in sobriety than I ever did using drugs and drinking. My life has been a lot more fulfilling for each experience, and getting my life back (and better) has shown me that I can be in the moment, and that freedom for me makes more room for the music.
Music festivals are a unique experience, but too many people use them as an excuse to abuse drugs that can dull them to that experience and put them at serious risk. Too many times we hear stories of people serious hurt or poisoned by drugs at concerts, and that doesn’t sound worth it. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135