E-Zoo deaths, drug use spark 'Molly' conversation
Jeffrey Russ, 23, a graduate of Syracuse University, died at E-Zoo after using the party drug Molly. Courtesy of Facebook
Olivia Rotondo, 20, a New Hampshire University student also died during the electric festival after consuming Molly. Courtesy of Facebook
There was loud music blasting through the speakers and the DJs on stage were spinning songs that made the entire crowd go wild. Streamers and glitter were taking over Randall's Island, while concertgoers jumped up and down feeling the beat rush through their bodies.
It was the first day of the Electric Zoo Festival, an electronic music festival held over Labor Day weekend on an island on New York City's East River. During the festival's first two days, two concert-goers died because of suspected drug use of MDMA, or Molly, which can be taken in powder or pill form.
But the first day of the fifth annual E-Zoo was a success, according to Ellen Hecht, a senior exercise science major.
Hecht was one of 26,000 people in the crowd at E-Zoo, which was canceled before reaching its third and final day. After the deaths, the mayor's office urged the festival's promoter to cancel the rest of the festival. UB students involved in the electronic-concert culture have different takes on the popular drug, the deaths, the cancellation and how the concert was run.
The first day, Hecht said everyone was excited and the vibe was incredible; the second day, however, the overall feel of the show was much more intense.
"There were so many more people," Hecht said. "People were pushing a lot. They were so much more aggressive about getting to the front. I knew the concert was going to be crazy, but I wasn't prepared for how crazy it would be."
By the second day at E-Zoo, two concertgoers - Jeffrey Russ, 23, a graduate of Syracuse University and Olivia Rotondo, 20, a student at New Hampshire University - died after taking Molly, the popular party drug, according to NY Daily News.
Molly is dangerous in excess, like all drugs, and is associated with dance music and concerts. The drug makes users happy, energetic, affectionate and possibly dehydrated. Molly has even worked its way into popular song lyrics by artists like Miley Cyrus and Trinidad James.
But the drug isn't only found at big-city concerts.
Ryan McTigue, a UB alum, said he sees many people on drugs at shows like Day Glow and Barstool in Buffalo.
McTigue said he sees teens running around with lollipops in their mouths and pupils enlarged and knows that they are "rolling," which is the term people use to explain the high from Molly.
"It's just not my thing or my scene," McTigue said. "I don't think one night of 'fun' is worth losing a life over like those two lives lost at Electric Zoo. I'm sure they didn't expect to end up passing out and dying; they probably thought it was just going to be another fun concert. It can happen to anyone and it's just not worth it."
At E-Zoo, Hecht saw many people in bad condition all around the venue. None of them were being attended to by security, she said.
"I saw so many people that were messed up," Hecht said. "A bunch of people were passed out on the ground, even at night in the field, where the main stage was amongst the crowd. I saw more people clearly on drugs than people that were sober."
Hecht was not surprised that two people died during the festival. Rather, she was surprised there were not more fatalities. Many people were cramped into a section of the island dancing while on Molly, so it was inevitable something bad would happen, she said.
UB students have mixed opinions on whether the concert should have completed its scheduled three-day run.
Hecht believed security should have been tighter and stricter on the third day. If fewer people were getting into the concert with drugs and more medics and security guards walked around to ensure concertgoers were being safe, then the deaths could have been prevented and the final day could have gone on, she said.
Michael Hogan* thinks the city should have provided free water bottles to concert-goers because the drug dehydrates users. He added it typically costs about $10 to get a bottle of water at house music concerts.
Kylie Golding*, a junior communication major, said she spent over $60 on water during E-Zoo so she could say hydrated.
Molly has become more popular over the past four or five years, said Rebecca Wanders*, a senior health and human services.
"I remember the first time I tried Molly was at Day Glow in Buffalo," she said. "I took the drug in the Porta-Potty; I put the powder in a napkin and swallowed it."
Her friends told her it was "impossible" for anything bad to happen to her. She believed them.
"Nothing bad happened, but what if it did?" she said. "What if I overheated and passed away like the two poor kids at E-Zoo? I think it's important that this is getting attention now so that more people like me aren't convinced to try this drug and potentially die."
Courtney Hass*, a sophomore English major, believes the concert was rightly canceled.
"Even if canceling the concert saved one life that would have been taken on the third day, that cancellation is worth it," Hass said. "You never know how crazy people would have gone, especially since the second day was reported to be so much crazier than the first. Who knows what the third day would have brought?"
Hecht said she would go to this type of concert again, but she could only do a three-day festival once a year because of its intensity.
She advises anyone who wants to attend a similar type of show to keep drinking water all day. People can also overhydrate, however, so it's important to find a proper balance in not drinking too little or too much. She also said it's crucial to take breaks from raving and jumping up and down because of the toll it can take on the body.
"The best spot to be is the front side of stage, where they hand out free water and spray you with a hose," Hecht said. "It's also not as crowded or as hot as in the middle. Also, it's important to have a meeting spot in case you get separated from your friends."
Hecht does not look down upon those who take Molly at concerts but she does believe people should know their limits. She said people often don't realize how much of the drug they've taken.
"Knowing not to overdo it can be pivotal to your own survival, especially at a festival like this," Hecht said. "It was dangerous to be in the middle. It took me 30 minutes to get out of the crowd during one of the main acts."
*Names have been changedfor students who wished to remain anonymous.
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