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Duncan DiTullio (L) and Chris Wright (R) of the Illuminators, a Pretty Lights street team, display signs they used to conduct an informal fan survey | Jeff Gebeau

Pretty Lights return draws concern, and the devoted

WALLINGFORD — Electronic music artist Pretty Lights made a return to the Oakdale Theater Saturday night, following a concert a year ago in which 22 people were hospitalized as a result of drug and alcohol overdoses.

“It’s just a drug fest, and everyone knows it,” said Ken Welch, of the Coalition for a Better Wallingford, on Friday.

Pretty Lights fan Dana Drevermann, who was waiting to enter the theater Saturday night, disagreed. Drevermann decried a prevailing stereotype against electronic music. He said many people observe the trappings of the subculture, such as the pulsating rhythms and lights, and automatically link it to the club drug scene.

Concert attendee Ryan Dalton supported Drevermann’s point of view. He said he considered taking drugs before the show but decided he’d have more fun sober.

Others attending also said that it was unfair to stigmatize Pretty Lights or electronic music for an association with drugs.

Yet even as fans defended Pretty Lights outside the theater, an employee emerged from inside to provide a reminder of the heightened security as a result of the events of last year’s concert. “No backpacks will be allowed inside the building tonight,” he announced, directing those that had backpacks to return them to their vehicles.

Drevermann observed that more ambulances were parked in front of the venue than he had ever seen there before—for any type of musical performance.

Through a fire department representative, Wallingford Fire Chief Peter J. Struble said his department, which runs the town’s ambulance service, had “an operational plan in place” to respond to emergency medical situations that arose at the event.

Welch credited the presence of the department with preventing any fatalities among the overdose victims at last year’s concert.

Lt. Marc Mikulski, of the Wallingford police, said the police department did not have a presence at the event because the Oakdale is a private facility that has its own security. However, he said the department is fully staffed on Saturdays and was prepared to respond if necessary.

Mikulski said the venue took “additional precautions” to avoid a repeat of last year’s episode.

“We are staffed appropriately,” said Oakdale General Manager Royce Lee.

Michael Grozier, executive vice president of clubs and theaters for Live Nation, which staged the event, said the company had “worked very diligently” with local safety responders ”to make sure we’re geared up for the night.”

Marlene McGann, executive director of the Meriden and Wallingford Substance Abuse Council, said she provided training to Oakdale staff to familiarize them with some of the newer drugs that are associated with the electronic music scene. Her training also covered how to identify and respond to individuals who are under the influence of substances traditionally associated with the scene, such as bath salts, MDMA, and regular ecstasy, as well as alcohol.

Welch said his organization asked the Oakdale to cancel the concert but received no response. They also attempted to get the town’s ordinance committee to block the show, but the committee was “not inclined” to take such action, he said.

Welch also sent out an e-mail attempting to assemble a contingent of protesters to picket the event.

Chris Wright, a member of the Illuminators, a Pretty Lights street team, acknowledged the negative reputation of the electronic music genre in some quarters and of Pretty Lights in particular, which most recently prompted a cancellation of the artist’s show at the University of Massachusetts Amherst on Wednesday.

“We know the scene’s not perfect, but we’re here to make it better,” he said.

Fellow Illuminator Duncan DiTullio said the group was at the show passing out water bottles and doing other things to help fans stay safe.

“We’re just making sure everyone has a good time,” he said.



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