With roughly 100 kids armed with Red Bull in a fume-filled military bunker, no one would confuse the January 30 rave at York Redoubt with a scene from Go. But for a party with near-fatal consequences, the Facebook group memorializing the rave has a surprisingly optimistic tone.
"It was sketchy, yes it was dangerous, yes it was illegal. But I had fun," partygoer Niko Bentley posts on the group's wall. "I know others that had fun while it lasted too. So can people stop joining this group to bash us...when we were just having fun and making the best of everything that happened."
But carbon monoxide poisoning isn't Shane Duncan's idea of fun.
Duncan, a 19-year-old Citadel High student who attended the rave, says the city doesn't have any viable options for all-night, all-ages parties. And without accessible, safe venues, he says, raves are forced into riskier locales---like York Redoubt.
"That was our Chernobyl," he says. "The party scene has been kind of dead, because the RCMP is shutting down all the locations where we could hold parties."
Duncan says local property owners have become wary of renting out spaces for raves because of their reputation for drug use, underage drinking and violence. And that reputation isn't without precedent---Halifax's once-thriving rave scene never fully recovered from the death of Jaimie Britten, who died of an ecstasy overdose at a 1999 rave, and the few venues that were available, such as King's Palace and SubRosa, have shut their doors to parties.
But local DJ Jorah Kai, AKA Freedom Danish, says the lack of venues isn't going to prevent parties from happening. For Kai, who has also lived and DJed in Ottawa and Vancouver, thinks the kids are alright. Some will experiment with drugs. Some will drink too much. But he says that it's important to offer them a safe, controlled environment to listen to music.
"It can be on the fringes where there's no support, but the kids are going to party," he says. "But you can give them a space. It's better than dying."
As evidenced by York Redoubt, he says there's a real demand for all-ages raves. Kai, who also throws 19-plus parties at Club 1668, says if the city doesn't offer any spaces to party, kids will look elsewhere,which opens up doors for inexperienced promoters.
And that's where green promoters like Travis Dzielak, who organized York Redoubt, enters. Dzielak's company, Kazhamet Entertainment, hosts monthly, non-alcoholic "teen parties."
York Redoubt "was almost comical, if it wasn't tragic," Kai says, of Kazhamet. "If I offered someone to come to my house with no running water and poisonous gas and it's freezing, I'm not a good host."
Evolve festival organizer Jonas Colter also pointed the finger squarely at the York Redoubt's promoters. He says safety should be the number-one priority for anyone throwing a party. The Antigonish outdoor festival has DJs playing late into the night, and Colter always has paramedics, security staff and food vendors on hand. He says York Redoubt seemed like a "cash grab," and promoters who risk the safety of partygoers lose their privileges to throw parties.
"Chalk it up to irresponsible promoting," he says. "If they do, they lose their right. You don't gamble that way."
While electronic music still thrives at licensed clubs like Club 1668 and Tribeca, Kai says it's important for the music community to find all-ages venues.
"There's a good reason why bands target 12- to 15-year-old audiences, and that's not because they want to have sex with them," he says. "You're investing in the future."