Over 1,200 people confirmed they were attending on Techno Tommy’s Facebook event page. Tommy’s Place has a capacity of about 200. How organizers would be able to handle the situation was a legitimate question. Also, recent negative publicity towards any large music event where eletronica/house/trance/etc. music is played has caused any event similar to it to be put under a magnifying glass.
Intense analysis of raves and the culture behind them surged after the death of a 15-year-old girl, Sasha Rodriguez,at the 14th annual Electric Daisy Carnival last summer. The girl died from a drug overdose while attending the rave event at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, and she was also one year under the minimum age requirement of 16.
Weeks following EDC and Rodriguez’s death, several news outlets in the area analyzed raves and security and safety issues that arise from them.
Eric De La Torre (DJ Alavei), an organizer and DJ at Techno Tommy, said he thought the media “overhyped” the situation.
“I do not disagree that it was tragic,” De La Torre said. “Anything like that, it is not one thing alone, but a combo of things. I think responsibility should be shared – why did the venue let her in, why was she taking drugs, who were her friends, her parents and what have they taught her about drugs?…I don’t know if you can point a finger at the rave – lots of things went into the rave. Ultimately it wasn’t the festival or the music – it was the drug.”
The origin of Techno Tommy was actually a previously scheduled event at Tommy’s Place, and the word “rave” was used to title the event. Organizers of the event said that conflicts arose soon after.
“USC has a whole policy against raves and for some good reason,” De La Torre said.
“I think the school doesn’t want to be associated with the term ‘rave’. The word ‘rave’ once came up with the original event and it was harmless, but we got a message from Tommy Place’s management asking why it was being called a rave. Fortunately, we are able to change it and this event is not a rave, just a regular event at Tommy’s with electronic music.”
Kyle Wheeler, another organizer and DJ of the event, said the term “rave” should never have had any negative connotation.
“To me the problem is larger concerts and larger electronic events are being associated with negative press. I wanted to express the best I could to fans what the event was going to be. People who know electronic music know what a rave is. To them a rave is not an excuse to do a drug. They know it is a meeting of a bunch of people. I wanted it to become a big group where people can enjoy a specific music type.”
He added that the first try at the techno event was “getting so much heat” from the university, and since he did not want the event cancelled, the name was changed to “Techno Tommy”
Just over a week ago, USC’s President Nikias sent an e-mail to the student body in which he expressed his concerns over the “danger” of raves.
Nikias wrote, “I wish to warn you about a specific danger that has become increasingly prevalent in the City of Los Angeles: raves. Occasionally, these are held close to our campuses, often at the Coliseum or the Shrine, and they present serious risks to all who attend. Ecstasy, which is common at raves, produces a number of adverse reactions that may include disorientation, anxiety, paranoia, panic attacks, and hallucinations… Therefore, with the collective support of the university’s senior administration—and as the father of two USC students—I strongly discourage your participation in rave events.”
De La Torre said he understood Nikias’ concern yet at the same time found it unfair to blame the music or event for certain problems that can arise during raves.
“I appreciate what Nikias is saying, “ De La Torre said. “Yet, I think his perspective is flawed. A rave, when you break it down, is really a large concert. There are other large concerts or festivals geared towards music like rock for example and people bring drugs in there. Whenever you get a bunch of people for anything, there is always a security question. I don’t think it is right to point at a rave and say it is the rave’s fault. It is personal responsibility and bad timing. It only takes one person for it to go wrong, and the more you can put into place to prevent that, the better.”
With so many people expected to come, it made sense to the organizers to send out a cautionary message to attendees. De La Torre messaged anyone invited to the event on Facebook early Thursday, saying Techno Tommy was meant be fun and safe. Both organizers and DJs wanted this event to go off without a hitch so future ones could be a possibility at USC.
De La Torre’s Facebook message said the following:
“…it is my hope that we are able to do many, many more of these nights at Tommy’s we really need your help tonight to make sure that is a safe and friendly event aka no pushing/fighting to get a space or to move to the front. We want to have a good time just as much as you do and there’s nothing worse than a good time getting shut down cause someone is acting a fool, so make sure that person isn’t you!!!”
“This is not work…This is for fun…I want to see people dance.”
Despite Nikias’ letter and any negative press on raves, organizers, DJs, and students at the event agreed they would like to see events like Techno Tommy continue at USC.
“I can’t see why USC wouldn’t want to have more of these events,” said Ali Wang, a sophomore at USC. “It brings us Trojans together, and we’re having a great time! DPS is also literally right here, checking IDs at the door and walking around inside. The safety and security here is incredibly better than any massive rave.”
Wang, along with the group of friends she attended the event with, added that this event was ideal for students who are under 21 and cannot attend clubs, but still want to be at a location that offers that same atmosphere.
Techno Tommy’s Facebook event page had over 1,500 people RSVP to the event (the number includes those who replied “yes” as well as “maybe” to attending).
Only a couple hours after music started shaking the walls of the underground USC venue, the floor was packed with students dancing and a fairly long line had formed outside the entrance.
Pitts said all he and any organizer or DJ at the event wanted was to have a positive night.
“To me, this genre of music is synonymous with love. It annoys me that it has become synonymous with bad things,” Pitts said.
Kyle Wheeler, another organizer and DJ who performed alongside Pitts during the first couple hours of Techno Tommy, said the two had worked incredibly hard on their set for the night, and would not have wanted that work “to go for nothing”.
Wheeler agreed the night was to basically be a fun event for students, and nothing more complex than that.
“We have a passion for music,” Wheeler said. “If I can make someone happy with music – great! This is not work. This is a hobby. This is for fun. For me, I want to see people dance. When you work with mixing music, you want people to feel really excited and take them on a journey. We want to make sure people have a good time, enjoy music, and play it to a point where they are touched by it.”