by Rachel Swan
Nothing like a new, constrictive, anti-dance law to galvanize an army of ravers. A spate of reported drug overdoses — and at least one death — inspired San Francisco Assemblywoman Fiona Ma to introduce new legislation that would outlaw raves in California. The text of AB 74 (dubbed “the anti-rave act”) will make it a misdemeanor for anyone to hold a public event with prerecorded music that lasts more than three-and-a-half hours. Possible punishments include a $10,000 fine, or twice the revenue generated by the event — whichever is more. Mostly aimed at outside promoters, the bill doesn’t apply to events that are hosted by a proper venue, so long as they accord with the venue’s business license.
Not surprisingly, the bill received lots of criticism from electronic music heads and promoters. “Assemblywoman Ma’s recently proposed legislation vilifying rave attendees is unfortunate in the extreme,” wrote Jason Sperling, owner of Skills DJ Workshop and chief organizer of this year’s Pop 2010: The Dream rave at the Cow Palace, which was clearly an impetus for AB 74. “If electronic music is criminalized,” he continued, “our government will succeed in alienating a generation of Californians and simply drive dance parties underground — a less regulated, less safe, less sane situation than we have today.”
Opponents of AB 74 insist that it’s part of a larger discriminatory agenda to squelch the electronic music scene in Calfornia. In the past couple days they set up a “Save the Rave” Facebook group that’s garnered 669 members thus far. Some are using it to decry the proposed legislation. Others, like Nicholas Lane Aranda, have their own promotional axe to grind. “You guys should give me your honest opinions about my filthy wobbleage,” Aranda said, posting a new dubstep mix via Soundcloud. “Comment on the parts you like, the ones you hate, and let me kno what I should add where.”
At this point, the arguments against AB 74 are pretty diffuse. Some people say it will merely target raves, without actually curbing illegal drug use. Others say it’s a big conspiracy. Others have practical fears, that an anti-rave bill could de-legitimize (and possibly destroy) what’s become a large, profitable industry. Last June, we reported that the Cow Palace makes about $75,000 on events the size of Pop 2010. When you consider the amount of people who, like Sperling, have built successful careers on raves, that could be a lot to lose.
UPDATE, Tues. 10:19 a.m.: On Monday, Ma announced that she's pulling the bill.