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After a summer of deaths, popular Halloween rave won't be held

After a summer of deaths, popular Halloween rave won't be held
Hard Day of the Dead will not be held in 2016, organizers confirmed. In this file photo, Kahill Head uses a grinder to make sparks as music fans attend the Halloween-themed rave at the Pomona Fairplex on Oct. 31, 2015. (Patrick T. Fallon / For The Times)

For seven years, Hard's Halloween-themed electronic dance music festival has been one of the more popular and anticipated raves in Southern California.

But organizers abruptly announced that the event would not be staged this year. The move comes seven weeks after three young adults died after attending the Hard Summer music festival in San Bernardino County and growing scrutiny of the safety of such events.

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A spokeswoman for Hard, which is owned by concert giant Live Nation, said itdecided not to go forward with Hard Day of the Dead because of logistical issues. When asked whether the move was influenced by the three deaths, Alexandra Greenberg declined to comment.

But within the rave world, some observers said Hard could be having trouble finding a venue because three key facilities that used to host raves no longer do. The Los Angeles Sports Arena has been demolished, and the L.A. Memorial Coliseum and L.A. County fairgrounds have stopped booking the events following more overdose deaths.

There have been at least 25 confirmed drug-related deaths nationwide since 2006 among people who went to raves organized by Los Angeles-area companies. Twelve have died in Southern California — four in San Bernardino County and eight in L.A. County — and six in the Las Vegas area.

Two young women died of drug overdoses after they were transported from Hard's summer event in 2015; another died in 2014. Coroner's officials have not yet determined the cause of death of the three fatalities this summer.

Greg Wasik, editor of the website EDM Life, said the lack of big venues willing to host raves is causing problems for the industry in Southern California.

"Where else can you do it?" Wasik said. "It could be either [scheduling] conflicts or a hesitation on the people that control the venues to allow an event like that."

Fans of electronic dance music mourned the news, which popped up on social media and blogs in recent days. A writer for the website Dancing Astronaut lamented Hard's "nomadic situation" and "devastating obstacles." The website Your EDM said fans of the rave would scramble to find alternative Halloween plans.

Greenberg said Hard decided earlier this year that it would be too difficult to have a summer rave at one new location — the Auto Club Speedway near Fontana — and find another venue for the Halloween event. Last year, both were at the Los Angeles County fairgrounds in Pomona.

But in the wake of rave deaths, Los Angeles County supervisors imposed new rules aimed at improving safety at raves and other mass events. Fair officials have said they do not plan to host any raves this year but declined to say why.

Greenberg said the decision not to hold the Halloween rave didn't amount to a cancellation. "Technically, Hard Day of the Dead 2016 was never even announced," she said in an email. She declined to explain why Hard was unable to plan raves at two new venues this year when it did so in 2014.

Victor Matheson, professor of economics at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., said there are a limited number of venues large enough to accommodate rave crowds. Hard Summer this year attracted 147,000 fans over two days.

When some big venues decline to host raves, "you really are talking about a significant reduction in the sorts of places you can go," he said.

The L.A. Coliseum stopped holding raves shortly after the Ecstasy overdose death of a 15-year-old girl, Sasha Rodriguez, who suffered a seizure and collapsed during the Electric Daisy Carnival rave in 2010. That rave, hosted by Insomniac — now a subsidiary of Live Nation — has since moved to Las Vegas.

In Los Angeles, a city panel two weeks ago had stern words after a May 7 concert by electronic dance music superstar Kaskade at the city-owned Los Angeles Convention Center managed by AEG. Some concert-goers  ended up in the emergency room suffering seizures, including one who was sent to intensive care, according to Dignity Health California Hospital Medical Center's medical director of emergency services. Seizures can be caused by drugs taken at raves.

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The convention center "is not interested in hosting high risk concerts that would create a public safety risk," city commissioners said in a new policy. Commissioners said AEG, in booking future concerts, should consider promoters' prior history and associated public safety concerns.

Insomniac was a promoter of the Kaskade concert. Its chief executive, Pasquale Rotella, has been accused by L.A. County prosecutors of participating in a bribery and embezzlement scheme when he hosted raves at the Coliseum. Rotella in August pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor count of conflict of interest and agreed to pay the county $150,000.

"Any potential client who is involved in fraudulent activity is always going to make us pause in considering whether we want to do business with that individual, client or entity," said Diana Mangioglu, assistant general manager for the Los Angeles Convention, Tourism, and Development Department.

In a statement posted on his website Wednesday, Kaskade said he is saddened by drug-related deaths among ravegoers, but said that closing down raves is a simplistic solution.

"There are better answers," he said. "Try this on: education, harm reduction and legalization."

Raves have been increasingly moving east into San Bernardino County. There, some officials and merchants have welcomed the concerts, saying they provide a boost to the economy. Insomniac still plans to host its own Halloween-themed rave, Escape: Psycho Circus at a nonprofit-run citrus fairgrounds in downtown San Bernardino in October.

But there have also been concerns about the deaths. The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors in June rejected a proposal that would have ended raves at the county-owned San Manuel Amphitheater, which Live Nation operates and hosts Insomniac events. But after the three deaths at Hard Summer, officials have said they are interested in reconsidering that idea.

Twitter: @ronlin

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UPDATES:

2:10 p.m., Sept. 21: This article was updated to include a statement released Wednesday from the artist Kaskade.

8:45 p.m.: This article was updated with information on Insomniac's plan to hold a Halloween-themed rave in San Bernardino.

6:17 p.m.: Updated throughout with more details.

This article was originally published at 8:47 a.m. on Sept. 20.

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