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Harm Reduction and Why It Matters

Article by: Kale Ryan It’s the summer of 2020, and the lives of the electronic dance music community have come to an almost complete stop. We will never complain again about how hot the sun is as it comes through our tents at 6:00 a.m. at our favorite festival. We will no longer wait until 5:00 p.m. to get through the festival gates because we wanted to rest from the night before, missing out on some really good sets from smaller artists. And for people who help with harm reduction as ground control at these events, we will no longer take our jobs for granted, or even so much as complain about how hot it might be or how tired we are.

Did you know that almost every major festival has harm reduction people walking the grounds, sometimes blending in and other times wearing a specific color shirt, to ensure that all attendees stay safe? Any of the Arizona festivals run by Relentless Beats, if you pay attention, will have a team of Relentless Rangers, who are there for whatever assistance you may need. The same is true about the Lunar Landing Team at the Full Moon Festivals that take place at The Pressroom in Phoenix.

The concept of Harm Reduction is exactly what it sounds like - to reduce harm. As someone who is heavily involved in the EDM community, as well as harm reduction, I feel it is imperative to bring light to this subject. Considering I have written numerous posts about this topic on social media, what better topic for my first-ever article on Moon Landing? Sometimes things just don’t go as planned, so now working in harm reduction as ground control my only goal is to be the helpful person I might have needed.

There are more than five major festivals, and over a hundred more shows throughout Arizona. It is no secret some of the attendees might enjoy substances that cause some unwanted side effects, or maybe whatever it was they took wasn’t really what they thought. Harm reduction can be a touchy subject, considering to some it might sound like ways to encourage more use, but the reality is that harm reduction exists to keep people safe, mainly through educating them about the substances they are using.

One of the most basic steps of harm reduction is utilizing a test kit to ensure one knows what is in the substances they plan on using. These kits are especially helpful at festivals, but fair warning, test kits are not decriminalized in all 50 states, unfortunately. Test kits are the most common form of harm reduction used, however people need to understand these kits only test for the presence of a substance, and cannot really determine the potency of the substance.

For harm reduction teams like the Rangers and Lunar Landing, team members spend their time walking the ground of the festival to ensure all of the attendees are safe. It can be intimidating to have someone working for the festival come up to you when you’re having a rough time. We get it! People assume we might kick you out, but that is not our goal. Our goal is to help you get well, get back up on your feet, and get back to making memories to last a lifetime.

The Relentless Rangers at Rawhide

We understand people spend a lot of money to come to EDM events and do their thing, and we want to be able to help people turn their experiences around so they can enjoy their time there. Just as important, if anyone is harassing you or making you feel uncomfortable, please come find us. We will put a stop to it! Sexual harassment will not be tolerated!

Most harm reduction teams offer resources like water, spray bottles, and fans to cool attendees down if they are overheating, and if someone is struggling team members can also speak with them to walk them through something mentally, emotionally, or even spiritually. Usually these ground control teams also have dedicated “safe spaces” for people to go to if they need some time away from the festival or event. These safe spaces are typically stocked with first aid kits, snacks, water, blankets, pillows, and cots so people can reset, recharge, and regroup safely and comfortably.

Shanta, the lead manager of the Relentless Rangers once said “the most powerful thing someone in need can give us is their trust,” and that quote really stuck with me.

It was great getting to talk with Shanta about the Rangers because, in a way, I started my Lunar Landing team at Full Moon Festival to bring the same kind of precaution, safety, and happiness the Rangers bring to Relentless Beats events. I quickly found out we see eye to eye in terms of what harm reduction means to us and what we found to be most important in helping our EDM community.

Her favorite part about working with the Rangers is seeing the compassion they have for the attendees of the event. My favorite part of running Lunar Landing is watching my team members overcome the challenges they might encounter, and the look of satisfaction on their faces when they are able to help others.

Lunar Landing Team at The Pressroom

Ever been to Electric Daisy Carnival before? Did you notice the people walking around in purple shirts? They are part of Insomniac’s ground control team, and do the same type of harm reduction work we do. I got to speak with someone from Insomniac’s ground control team and it was unbelievable how much time, effort, and money they have invested to keep attendees safe.

In one anecdote, she recalled how a girl busted her head open on the rail from headbanging too hard. After assisting her to the medical tent, which by the way is basically a full on emergency room, this girl was able to get stitches for free and then return to her regularly scheduled festival activities. Can you imagine how much she would have spent going to an actual emergency room? Not only did she receive medical treatment, but there are also cameras all over the medical tent, just another step Insomniac takes to help their headliners feel safe.

Our advice to ravers once our beloved shows and festivals return would be to arm yourself with knowledge and be informed. Know that we are here to help. We are here for you, we are not out to get you. If you happen to make it to State 48, you can find Relentless Rangers in neon green shirts and the Lunar Landing team in light blue! Come give us a high five, trade us some kandi, or just say hi - harm reduction teams love interacting with the EDM community.

We love you all, and we are here for you. Thank you to all the other harm reduction teams that dedicate their time to do this meaningful work. Most importantly, thank you to all the members of our team, and all the other teams out there making EDM events safer for everyone. They walk 10+ hours a day, and face some difficult situations that can be hard to tackle, so keep in mind these harm reduction efforts would not be possible without them.

Spread Love, Spread Light, Stay Healthy!

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