We need to talk. It seems so silly that this needs to even be said or that an article on this subject needs to exist, but here it comes. Yes, after the controversial remarks made by Diplo about the kandi bracelets that have become a dance music staple, millions of fans are up in arms over the decision to ban the bracelets from festivals. The reasoning behind the move is what makes it all the more worse.
Let’s talk about festivals very broadly for a minute. It’s no secret that in live concert culture that music and drug usage go hand-in-hand. This has been the law of the land for decades, in nearly every country, within every venue, and throughout every unique genre and music scene. There are simply two kinds of concert-goers. The first is the kind who goes for the live experience. This person loves the idea of concerts. He or she loves the music, the culture, all of the artists, celebrating with friends, meeting new people, and just feeling carefree for a weekend. We all need to let loose, and music is probably the best therapy there is on this Earth. The second concert-goer is the kind who goes mainly for the drug usage. Whether it is the easy accessibility to drugs, the desire to reach a high for a supposed ‘enhancing’ of the experience, or just to have a story to share with friends the next day, this person connects going to a concert with the desire to use drugs. That is just the way the tide turns. It’s how humans work.
Clearly there is a huge problem with the natural state of concert-going. The drug-related fatalities prove that. We can’t just ignore the problem (because that wouldn’t be very ‘PLUR’ of us), but we also have to work harder to find the right solutions. I applaud festival organizers who are trying different tactics to save as many lives as they can. After all, this is supposed to be an enjoyable experience for everyone. However, we really should be questioning the direction this solution process is heading in. Drug-sniffing dogs, while frightening for this type of atmosphere, are at least understandable and kind of makes sense for the goal of preventing drug-related accidents. Restricting outside bags and beverages, while making getting through security ridiculous, makes sense for protecting the naive from purchasing drug-laced products. On the other hand, banning beaded bracelets that are no more harmful than making a statement? Where is the logic in that? How will banning kandi bracelets stop people from buying drugs, selling drugs, taking drugs, overdosing on drugs, and worse? The simple answer is… it won’t. While this is the main reason banning the bracelets is an act of stupidity, there are many more beyond that.
Kandi bracelets have been a part of rave culture for… like… ever. Some people view the bracelets as just a weird and irrelevant fashion accessory, and that’s fine. There was a time when I raised an eye to them as well. But come on, let’s be real. Festivals are fun-loving environments that encourage individuality and imagination, and kandi is totally harmless. They are used for self-expression. You can learn a lot about a person by checking out their bracelets, and they make the perfect ice breaker for starting a conversation with another friendly face in the crowd. Whether a bracelet is worn to display favorite colors, a name, a meaningful word or phrase, a social awareness a charity, or a nationality, the beads people string together hold value. They create a sense of identity. While we all come together as one, these little things are what make us unique, and that is something that should be appreciated rather than destroyed. Not only does banning kandi discourage positivity and self-expression, but it also discourages any other forms of art from flourishing. That seems so silly; without supporting different forms of art, would we even be holding these concerts and festivals today?
Let’s continue to be real here. We are talking about concerts… festivals; events like Electric Zoo Festival, Ultra Music Festival, and Electric Daisy Carnival come to mind. These are all outlets for a sense of escape and freedom of the mind from the harsh current state of reality. This is an honest and open discussion about the world we live in today. Half of the country is pushing for the resurgence of warfare in Iraq. Tensions rise every day in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. North Korea is constantly threatening other nations with their nuclear supply. African nations are facing a pandemic with Ebola. The media questions an impending World War III nearly every month. Stateside, we are facing the largest political preschool fight between the left and the right in recent memory. Socioeconomic imbalance lives on as the middle and lower classes are still living on tight budgets while the richest of the rich and corporations seek tax breaks. Public workers are belittled despite their strong work ethic. Yet, at the end of the day, the only thing people know how to do to feel better about themselves is to pour a bucket of ice over their head for their Facebook friends to enjoy. Yes, this may seem like a tangent, but think about it. There are so many problems going on in the world right now, and we haven’t walked a mile in the shoes of that stranger walking down the street. It’s healthy for people to seek an escape, somewhere where positivity is the law of the land. Festivals have offered that for years now. Should people be punished further by getting their beloved beads confiscated upon entry? What are we going to say no to next? Livestrong wristbands?
The point has been pushed far enough. Obviously there is no correlation between wearing kandi and drug usage, and this ban will be more detrimental for the community than beneficial. What about CamelBaks though? These large water-holding backpacks are second only to kandi in usage at a festival. Almost everyone has one, because you really need one to stay hydrated out there! So, why is it that festival organizers are saying no to the thirst quencher this year? As mentioned earlier, it does make sense to play it safe and ban any container that can lace drugs with food or drink, but is a supposed solution going to just create another problem? Without the CamelBak, there will likely be hundreds of more incidents of dehydration that would have been prevented otherwise. Those water station lines are going to be more crowded than ever, and those who don’t want to leave the party every five minutes to refill that tiny cup are going to pay the price. All in all, this is going to decrease the value of this year’s festival experience at all events where this ban will be upheld.
I’ve been writing quite a bit, so if you’ve made it to this point, thank you. I will leave you with some short, serious thoughts. Are we punishing drug abusers, or are we punishing fun-loving, music-addicted concert-goers? Are we promoting safety, or are we promoting more unhealthy choices? Are we encouraging imagination and self-expression, or are we encouraging conformity and self-repression? Is this still where we are escaping to, or is this becoming where we must escape from?
‘PLUR’ may be an overused phrase, but consider its philosophy. Let’s all try to practice the art of understanding.