DJ culture, events, and assorted advice with San Francisco-based DJ and producer, Amber.
BELOW IS A SEGMENT OF MY SPEECH FROM THE AUGUST 10TH RALLY IN THE SAN FRANCISCO CIVIC CENTER PLAZA:
I’m here today because our nightlife is at risk. There are people out there, people in the position to make laws that affect our lives, who think that people who come together to listen to electronic music are criminals. People who think that music with a beat is synonymous with drug use, with crime, with irresponsible behavior. There are people who think we can’t take care of ourselves and make our own decisions, and so they have decided to make our choices for us.
In April 2003 the Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act was passed. This bill is essentially a renamed and reworked version of a bill first known as the RAVE Act. The original RAVE Act was so controversial, and uproar by the nightlife community was so effective, that sponsors of the act withdrew their support and the bill was unsuccessful. With some adjustments to features of the act including softening some of the wording, changing the name, and slyly slipping in the act as a part of a wildly popular bill protecting the safety of small children, the act was passed. In fact, in the Senate is was passed unanimously.
In short, the Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act makes it so anyone who organizes and event or owns a venue where someone uses and illegal drug can be held liable for that drug use. Let me spell this out for you, if you were throwing a party and 1000 people came, you—and I do mean you—could be personally responsible for the actions of all 1000 people. You would be risking fines and imprisonment for the individual decisions those 1000 people. Does this sound crazy? That’s because it is. Club owners are angry for being asked to be responsible for the decisions of people they can’t, and shouldn’t control, and you should be angry for the law asking someone else to take the fall for your individual choices.
You may say to yourself, sure, I see how this is rotten for owners of party spaces and clubs, but how am I really being affected? Let me tell you. In response to the passage of this bill back in April, financial sponsors of some DJ and electronic music tours withdrew their support. That megastar you were hoping would come to town isn’t coming anymore. This bill is taking away your music. This bill singles out electronic dance music for it’s strict standards and high risk penalties, drawing
a direct correlation between electronic music and dangerous drug use. This bill is calling your music a criminal, it is calling you a criminal for listening to it. This bill is vaguely written with broad, unspecific wording, which will allow it to be applied, and potentially abused, as the law sees fit for it’s purposes. This bill puts the law, not the
people, in control of music.
But what is the real value being attacked here? You and I both know it, the experiences we have at raves and clubs are valuable, enriching person-to-person experiences. When you are at a club, or you are at a rave, you are growing your social experiences meeting a wide range of people from all different backgrounds. By day we are separated by so many surface factors--where we live, our jobs, our age, our clothing, or everyday routines. At night, at a club or a rave, those boundaries are broken. A 32-year-old and a 24-year old can close the generation gap, a suburban teen at his first late-night party and a long-time partygoer chat while waiting in line to use the bathroom, and everyone, everyone, is united in the music moving together to the beat.
The laws that attack these experiences are attacking a diversity of culture. It’s an intolerance of a scene that is not understood, and which nobody has taken a moment to even try to understand.
Think about the many memorable nights you have shared with your friends, and the new friends you have made, the lessons you have learned, the confidence you have gained, the memories you have built on a simple night out. I would not be the person I am today without my nightlife experiences. Because of raves and clubs I am less shy, I have more confidence, I am more fit. I am a better person because of raving. I am a better person because of clubbing. And I know you are a better person because of your experiences, too. You will be better when you leave today than you were when you got here. Four stages of sound and the Bay Area’s best DJs are seeing to that. When you blend beats, people, and a few blessed hours of carefree life it is magic. It is not trivial, it is not “nothing”, it is not disposable, to call it any of these things would be to shortsell the experience. And to call it a crime, to call us criminals, is downright wrong.
Dancing together is a vital act that bonds people in a way that is all too rare today. We know better than to underestimate this simple act. Moving in rhythm, together, sharing an experience for all five senses. How many times in your day, in your life, are you in synch with an entire room?
All people naturally seek out this type of experience to refresh the spirit. Families take their kids to the circus to enjoy the color, spectacle and sounds the big top offers. Friends go to a ballgame together to experience the excitement of the game with a crowd of thousands. Couples go to a concert to feel the live music experience. So, why is a rock concert not subject to the same rules as a rave? The event isn’t so different, is it? Hundreds, or thousands, of people get together to share music and dancing. Why are raves and clubs treated differently from live music events? Why? That’s exactly the question, and I can’t give you the answer. Electronic music is the victim of discrimination, treated differently than other nearly identical events because the law has decided that nightlife and electronic music attracts criminal behavior.
It is the official position of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, you know them as the DEA, that raves are nothing more than a place for drug sales and drug use. I am here today to say that I have attended hundreds of raves here in San Francisco and around the nation and that I am a healthy, intelligent, responsible individual working successfully in the rave and club scene where I have met hundreds of other healthy, intelligent, responsible individuals just like all of you out there. And I ask the DEA, local law enforcement, and the authors and supporters of the RAVE Act to listen to me closely when I say that here, today, that I personally take on the responsibility of my own choices, leaving promoters and club owners free to run their events as they choose to, and I gladly embrace the right to be held accountable for my own actions.
I want to encourage you to take action. You’ve come here today not only to enjoy some great music and a day in the sun, but to send a message and lend your support. You are showing your support of the cause just by being here, and you can do so much more by taking additional steps after you leave here today.
The lucky thing is, there are many, many resources now available that let you lend your support of nightlife rights in a way that is easy and can really be fun, too. For example, sites like EM:DEF at http://www.emdef.org or DanceSafe at http://www.dancesafe.org offer simple online forms for you to write your local legislators opposing laws that threaten nightlife, and most are formatted to take literally only a couple of minutes. It was because so many took this simple action, writing their legislators, that the first version of the RAVE Act was not passed. It’s worked before, we’ve seen it work, your simple support given in just a couple of minutes can do it, so visit sites like http://www.emdef.org and http://www.dancesafe.org often, or join their mailing lists, or become an active member of the group.
And you can make more of difference by voting. When you vote, vote for candidates with a history of supporting night life and electronic music. Your voice will be heard. What’s more, when a younger demographic shows up to vote at the polls not only can you get the candidates who support your views elected, but it also gets politicians to listen to your opinions sent by letter, fax, and email while they’re in office. When a politician knows that your vote in the next election is on the line, that politician is more likely to be sure your views are represented. Do you see the power voting gives you, the power voting can have on our nightlife culture? If you think your vote doesn’t count, think again. Your vote always counts.
If you can, give a donation in support of the groups working to fight for nightlife rights like the San Francisco Late Night Coalition, better known as SFLNC, here in the city. Or, if you don’t have money to give, donate your time by being an active member. Remember, the people in these associations are nightlife lovers just like you—what could be a better time?
And there’s more you can do. When enjoying your nights out do your thing, but do it responsibly. What do I mean? I mean respect the property you are partying on—don’t tag or damage the venue. Respect your body and the safety of your friends by partying responsibly, stay hydrated, never drive drunk or high, never let your friends drive drunk or high. Watch out for each other. If you see someone who looks like they need help, be the one to give it. These are the rules for a successful rave, a successful club, a successful concert, a successful life, a successful world.