Every generation has a fundamental element that embodies the essence of youth of a given time period. From the emergence of dance halls in the 1940s – which became a thrilling way for jive bombers to show off their moves, attracting a mate – to the mullet-rockin’, scrunchy-wearing moonwalkers of the 80s.
Fast forward to the 2010s, and those living witness the revolution of music festivals across the nation. Boise State marketing student Lia Crumpton said she attended Coachella – one of the biggest music festivals in the United States, averaging an attendance of 250,000 – in Indio, Calif. in the spring of 2018, and her experience after attending the festival was life-altering.
“When I came back to school, I just had a different point of view on life,” Crumpton said. “I would wake up at like 7 a.m. and get stuff done, which really helped for finals week.”
Crumpton, who regularly attends festivals from a professional standpoint as a photographer, expressed that it is interesting seeing the shows from a sober perspective, because when people are rolling they seem happier, enjoying the music while being more affectionate and kind to one another.
“Life just seemed so much prettier to me,” Crumpton said.
While Crumpton’s sober work experience changed her worldview, the experience isn’t as simplistic for others. Music festivals have been criticized for their association with the use of illicit drugs, such as ecstasy, molly (MDMA), cocaine, LSD (acid), mushrooms and marijuana. Attendees of these festivals express that the use of these substances in correlation to the music creates a euphoria that enhances the experience.
A Boise State student, who wishes to remain anonymous and will be referred to as Robert Jenks, said the use of said substances at music festivals and EDM shows correlates with his transformative life outlook with partaking in these events.
Jenks said he attended his first music festival in 2014 at the age of 18, and was instantly entranced by the scene. Since that first experience, Jenks stated that he has not stopped, and has attended hundreds of shows and over 50 festivals in the last five years.
“What attracts me to that, is just that there (are) people from all walks of life, and everyone is just super accepted,” Jenks said. “I’m not being judged for the way that I dress, or the way that I dance. We are all there for the same reason.”
Jenks said that, for the first two and a half years of attending music festivals he never touched drugs. In fact, he was the friend that would always advise his peers against it. However, he had a change of heart after attending a festival in 2017.
After being persuaded by his peers at the festival, Jenks decided to try molly for the first time. Following his experience, he saw his life differently. Jenks claimed that he finally understood why people would do these drugs, and was no longer judgmental of other people or preoccupied with worldly troubles.
“You’re with your friends, you’re doing your favorite thing in the world,” Jenks said. “There’s no place you’d rather be and nothing else matters.”
Jenks’ personal experience, however, isn’t the extent of the effects of these commonly used festival drugs. Brian Boesiger, assistant medical director at St. Alphonsus’s emergency department, stated that, when people use ecstasy or molly, it has amplified effects on serotonin receptors that create a euphoric effect and artificial sense of being closer to people.
“From the handful of cases I’ve seen personally, the reason people come in are because they have a seizure, and they are confused,” Boesiger said. “Obviously, that is pretty alarming to the person or to their friends, so that’s why they end up in the emergency department.”
Boesiger stated that ecstasy is a schedule one illegal drug and it is punishable by law to have it. He also said that no one should be taking it in the first place and frequent use can lead to addiction.
“I would say that, just like all other drugs, the only way to avoid those things from happening is to avoid the use in the first place,” Boesiger said.
This generational rite of passage for today’s youth has many parents and health professionals concerned, but it is not uncommon for festival hosts like Insomniac, who founded the annual world-wide event known as Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC), to employ what is known as the Ground Control team, whose mission is to ensure the safety and well-being of those in attendance by providing water, ice packs and medical assistance to anyone who may need it. Although concerns will remain intact surrounding festivals and drug use, the profound emotional impacts that such festivals have on students, including those at Boise State, will continue to challenge the traditional stereotypes of festival-going.