The rush of buying tickets, and seeing “sold out!” on event flyers. The world is slowly regaining normalcy and returning with a healthy appetite to party. To many, it’s a welcome return to the everyday flow after a grueling year for everyone, particularly those in the music industry. The flu pandemic of 1918 saw its final moments in 1920 after the particularly deadly strain of influenza finally died out. Many scholars believe the depression of the pandemic is partially responsible for the “Roaring 20s;” a moment in history remembered for its hedonism, decadence, and speakeasies. Is the world preparing for another Roaring 20s? Is history repeating itself exactly 100 years later? Will the 2020s be yet another decade where people come together to celebrate after a dark time in their lives? If so, how can the music community promote safety and inclusion so everyone feels safe to party?
Everyone will have to personally grapple with the question, “Am I ready to be surrounded by a crowd of sweaty strangers yet?” For some people, the isolation and anxiety they’ve become accustomed to this past year will not just readily go away even if nightlife re-opens to full capacity. Others can’t wait to rejoice and celebrate with other humans “irl” (in real life).
Even though the pandemic pushed forward the notion of virtual events and live streams, fans are eager to be together in person once again. The energy of a physical, in-person event is practically impossible to replicate even with all the VR technology in the world. The pent-up demand for in-person events is evident: festivals and shows are selling out at a record pace. The rapid pace of vaccination within the United States has led to several states fully reopening by summer 2021, with events companies quickly announcing a return to full-scale festivals and concerts. Many promoters and artists, 6AM included, were not comfortable throwing events during the height of the pandemic, but that sentiment is quickly changing as several countries are beginning to beat the novel coronavirus with aggressive vaccination campaigns.
How will artists, promoters, and fans alike handle the reopening of the nightlife industry?
Promoters and venues are in a tough spot right now experiencing financial hardships because of the pandemic. Now, they must ensure events do not unwillingly contribute to the spread of COVID-19 not just amongst event attendees but as well as in the community.
Certain venues are going to require attendees to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test for entry. In New York City, for example, clubs can re-open at 100 percent capacity with no social distancing or mask regulations if all attendees are vaccinated.
Los Angeles will allow indoor events to resume in a similar fashion so long as attendees provide either proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test result. These safeguards are in place to ensure raves can come back safely without jeopardizing another shutdown. Furthermore, these safety protocols work. Several test events show minimal-to-no spread when attendees are tested for COVID-19 prior to entry. For now, the community must come together and respect these rules in exchange for a full re-opening of nightlife.
While getting back to your friends and dancing the night away is within arm’s reach, the music community needs to also look after one another as nightlife returns. Unfortunately, another major public health crisis is also occurring alongside the COVID-19 pandemic: the opioid epidemic. The amount of deaths attributed to opioid overdose United States has been rapidly increasing in recent years, doubling in the past decade alone. According to data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, drug overdose deaths involving any opioid rose to nearly 50,000 in 2019, up from 21,089 in 2010.
🚨There’s fentanyl in the coke going around in Brooklyn and Queens. 🚨Someone died in Ridgewood. Please be safe out there.
— Montreal Bust For Laughs Cumedy Festival (@feraljokes) May 25, 2021
Recent social media posts from community members in New York City indicate an uptick in fentanyl-laced cocaine going around the scene. With New Yorkers returning to the rave, so have potentially lethal drugs. Unfortunately, several people have died so far. Fentanyl-laced cocaine is sometimes even more lethal to the casual substance user if they are not using opioids such as heroin. Opiate-users can build up a tolerance meaning lethal fentanyl doses will be greater for this population. However, non-opioid users will not have this same tolerance, meaning a smaller dose of fentanyl, like the doses found in cocaine, is enough to be lethal. According to city data, fentanyl was involved in more than two-thirds of the 1,463 unintentional drug overdose deaths recorded in New York City in 2019.
For someone who’s opioid-naive, a really small amount of fentanyl, given its potency, really does carry a higher overdose risk.
– Michelle Nolan, an epidemiologist at the New York City Health Department
Following the same alarming pattern, drug overdose deaths involving cocaine with an opioid-involved, such as fentanyl, have tripled in the past decade. Little-to-no deaths were attributed to fentanyl-laced cocaine up until 2013 when cocaine cut with the lethal opioid began surfacing more and more frequently. In New York City, the police department found nearly 1 in 10 cocaine seizures test positive for fentanyl currently, a dramatic increase from just a few years ago.
Lauren Flax, a DJ based in Brooklyn, heads up an initiative in NYC to teach training on how to use naloxone, a life-saving antidote for an opioid overdose, at radio stations and clubs in 2019. Given the new uptick in fentanyl-laced substances of all types, Flax hopes to re-start the efforts as clubs begin to re-open this year. Flax is outspoken about practicing safer partying habits and promotes a drug-free party lifestyle to those who wish to break out of their habits. Hear her discuss her journey in the Sober Stories podcast series with Rose Romain.
Acquiring naxalone can easily be done in all 50 states in many pharmacies. Practice safer partying by testing your substances with fentanyl strips. You can purchase batches of test strips online, or ask your local harm reduction centers for some.
With mental health issues at an all-time high amongst the younger generations due to the pandemic, please be there for your friends and loved ones if they are struggling with a substance abuse issue. Keep yourselves and your friends safe as you return to the dancefloor.