UMass officials call off Fantazia electronic dance party

By Patrick Hoff

Nicole Evangelista/Daily Collegian

Less than two weeks before the highly anticipated Return to Fantazia electronic dance party was set to come to the Mullins Center, University of Massachusetts officials cancelled the concert in an announcement on Wednesday, citing the recent tragic deaths related to the drug MDMA.

“To better understand and respond to these current instances, UMass Amherst is joining with a number of venues in the area and universities in the region to cancel these events and proactively educate our communities about the dangers of Molly,” Interim Vice Chancellor and Dean of Students Enku Gelaye said in an email to students on Wednesday.

Added Gelaye: “We don’t make these decisions lightly and do so with a clear focus.”

“We, along with the University, felt that, at this particular time, in light of recent incidents, that it would be in everyone’s best interest to cancel this particular show,” Ike Richman, who is the vice president for public relations at Comcast-Spectacor, which manages the Mullins Center, said in a press release. “It’s unfortunate as we know a lot of people have been looking forward to it, but we all felt it was what needed to be done at this time.”

Electronic music and drugs, especially MDMA, are quite frequently paired together by concertgoers in a belief that doing drugs at EDM concerts will enhance the experience.

“How much of that type of music really necessitates drug use in the first place (though)?” said Jim Lyons, treasurer of the UMass Association for Musical Performance and journalism major.

“I understand enjoying yourself but … it’s too much,” added Mitch Bordage, president of UMass AMA and an English major.

Other students similarly were not heartbroken over the cancellation of Fantazia.

“I think that the concerts are just UMass sponsored raves anyway,” said Chris Hicks, a sophomore at Holyoke Community College. Hicks grew up in Amherst and said that the concerts “have been going on for years.”

Added Hicks: “I’m all for people having their fun but ignorance is not safe.”

Some students, however, were not pleased that UMass is revoking certain privileges on campus.

“Personally I don’t go to these kinds of things,” said Paul Merriman, a senior management major. “But I think it’s ridiculous that they ban that kind of thing, along with tobacco and soda.”

Junior Reed Fox was just confused by the cancellation of the concert, wondering if UMass was just following a trend or whether its fears were legitimate.

“They’re the ones who switched our concerts to electronic,” Reed said, citing the fact that there were a variety of concert performances of other types of music available to him when he was a freshman.

MDMA, also known by its slang names of Molly, E, X, clarity and beans, comes in a variety of forms and colors but is a dangerous and illegal stimulant. The drug can lead to hypothermia, kidney or heart problems or even death, despite the myth that it is a “safe” drug.

It is prohibited on campus, according to the Student Code of Conduct.

Throughout the United States, and particularly in the Northeast region, MDMA has been in the news for being responsible for the death of several college-aged students, most recently at the Electric Zoo music festival in New York on Aug. 31 and during a concert at the House of Blues in Boston on Aug. 27.

Lyons and Bordage both said they were “not disappointed in the cancellation.”

“It’s one less night with kids running around on bath salts,” Lyons said.

“The event cancellation gives our community the opportunity to better understand Molly-related dangers by using campus resources and by talking to each other about the realities of this illegal substance,” Gelaye said in her email. “While we can’t cancel and ward off every potential issue, we can get better informed, support each other with good clear information and encourage better decision making in our respective communities.”

Patrick Hoff can be reached at [email protected]