I am a local DJ here in Buenos Aires. I attended Timewarp on Friday, and attended it last year. As a result of what I feel has been a lot of misinformation, and poor reporting on the events that took place at Timewarp last weekend, I’d like to share my analysis as a concerned member of the electronic music scene. I ultimately hope that Argentina can mature in a way we’ve seen other countries with large electronic music scenes have as it moves through this tragedy. There are a lot of things we know about what happened, and a lot of things we don’t, but let’s start by analyzing some facts.
There is going to be a lot of finger pointing, but the reality is, it is a culmination of many things that lead to these deaths. Arresting the organizer as the scapegoat might make the public feel good, but he is one of the last people I would blame.
First, what we do know about the venue, and has been reported. It was extremely crowded, extremely hot, and once you got yourself into a decent position to hear and see the artists, it was not easy to move from there to the nearest bar that had water, or hydration station, which yes, they did have (to my surprise), and I did get a glass of water rather quickly from it before heading into the chaos of the staged area. But this was no different from last year’s TimeWarp, where I would have recommended to any sane event organizer to move an event like this to somewhere open air. Even at the busiest stages in Creamfields, an open-air event, you can escape relatively easily for some fresh air. It was a rather cool night, but with 11,000 kids dancing, indoors, with elevated body temperatures, and no proper ventilation, sweat was pouring down from my body, and I immediately was aware of the danger this posed to anyone who might over consume, or buy drugs from strangers without knowing the drug’s actual composition. While I’ve been to shows similar to this, this pushed what I thought to be an acceptable, and expected level of techno-rave sweatiness a touch over the top, and that touch, can be deadly when mixed with generous doses of unknown drugs.
Most people take drugs at these events. They have since electronic music emerged, and will continue to do so. If you think the problem is security, and searching for drugs, that is wrong. I wasn’t searched, which was unusual, but being searched has never stopped anyone from bringing drugs into any venue. An average woman with padded bra could bring in enough ketamine to tranquilize the Kentucky Derby and then some. Strip searching 11,000 attendees is not an option, and it should be noted that when the line got to be several thousand people long, they stopped searching all together.
As far as the responsible consumption of these drugs, yes I saw many, many young people there high off their faces, not unlike a crowd of freshmen college kids who can’t handle their liquor. But all those kids I saw made it home alive that night and were not at serious risk.
Ecstasy, while too often horribly described in the media, is supposed to refer to the street name for MDMA. MDMA is a pure white powder that is often pressed into pills to regulate dosage, and to cut the purity of the MDMA. Sometimes they are cut with drugs that are cheaper (caffeine, ephedrine, etc) that mimic some of the effects of MDMA and benefit the drug producer’s bottom line, but more often, they are cut with drugs that simply emphasize, or balance some of the less desirable effects of MDMA, providing a better high. MDMA, an amphetamine, is not so chemically dissimilar from Adderall, or Dexedrine, who’s side effects also include dehydration, though your average ADHD patient’s setting is their class or dorm room, not Timewarp. While the combination of the venue and drugs with dehydrating side effects (including alcohol), are dangerous, it’s not dangerous enough to kill in most cases, and happens every weekend in hundreds of clubs across the country.
Some people are placing blame on a specific pill known as “Superman pills”. These pills are linked to several deaths throughout the UK as reported as far back as 2014 (which is could be the source of this unconfirmed rumor that the victims took these). Superman pills are manufactured using a high dose of PMMA, which is a cheaper, more toxic amphetamine. There is a whole other argument that by banning the precursors to make MDMA, as the drug policy of many western countries have done, it simply leads to the research and development of unsafe alternatives where the short and long term effects are unknown. Way to go “War on Drugs”. If these reports are true, however, that they took Superman pills, the tragedy would be leave most to blame on the manufacturers, dealers, and a lack of institutional education towards safe drug consumption. Though these people are much more difficult to publicly shame, making the Timewarp organizer the preferred target.
I doubt there is any actual evidence that these exact pills were consumed by those who passed away, but it’s not really the point either way. Whether they had PMMA, the superman logo, etc, it is not as relevant as the fact there are tons, of low quality, often outright dangerous drugs being sold and purchased by people who don’t understand drug manufacturing and the culture behind pill testing that exists in other countries. Organizations, mostly in English, like Dancesafe.org, ecstasydata.org, amongst others, work to keep people safe in dance clubs across the west, a cultural phenomenon that simply lacks here. Clubs throughout Holland, Germany, and other parts of Europe offer free drug testing areas, where you can test drugs for purity. Beyond that, the education on safe drug consumption has existed there for such a long time, to the point where designer drug related deaths are extremely uncommon. I could not say the same for Argentina, where the consumption of more than the amount necessary to get high is far too common, and the testing, and public interest in safe drugs is nonexistent.
If you combine this lack of education, and ignore the fact that people are consuming drugs at a high rate at these parties, with the poor venue choice, overcrowding and questionable access to water, there was an avoidable disaster waiting to happen.
Toxicology reports should be able to tell us what was found in their systems, but I can only hope that the doctors, and reporters are smart enough to report the fact that PMMA, or another adulterant, was the main cause of the cardiac arrest the lead to their deaths. Yes MDMA could also turn up in the toxicology report, but the same would happen for the other 9000 attendees who are currently enjoying their Tuesday in class or in the office with a mild, lingering, drug hangover. It’s not as black and white as often reported, and I anticipate the next big headlines to read “Toxicology reports test positive for Ecstasy”, not focusing on the true culprits of this tragedy.
Argentina needs to take a step back, and analyze how they will proceed with large, electronic music productions, from an organizational level, but the drug issue must also be addressed. While I trust the deaths will scare many into wiser drug choices, a change needs to happen at a cultural level when it comes to enjoying electronic music safely, and it starts with drug education.