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Last Saturday, October 18, dubstep auteur Skrillex (aka Sonny Moore) took the stage at Navy Pier for a crowd of thousands; now a spokesman for the pier has confirmed that 16 attendees were transported from the concert to nearby hospitals. Skrillex's show is the latest incident in a trend of EDM concerts that have raised concerns about drug and alcohol abuse. The popular Swedish producer Avicii has seen dozens of hospitalizations at his U.S. shows, with nearly 40 people leaving his Boston concert in ambulances last summer. Two deaths were reported after this year's Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas, while Miami's mayor called for an end to Ultra Music Festival after 118 participants sought medical attention.
The numbers look scary, but event promoters are often prepared for overdoses or other medical emergencies at major concerts. Andrew Bazos, president of the company that handled medical safety for last weekend's Skrillex show, spoke to NBC about the precautions in place at events like these. "We're there for people who haven't been smart, and safety is number one," he said, noting that an emergency medical doctor attends every show his firm oversees. He also estimated that many of those hospitalized at Skrillex's Chicago show had overdosed on alcohol, not illicit drugs.
Although safety precautions are usually in place for concerts that present a high risk of drug use and overdose, the city of Chicago has expressed concern about EDM shows at the currently dormant Congress Theater. At the end of July, the owner of the venue and the city signed an agreement banning EDM concerts from the Congress indefinitely, citing safety concerns. The city's liquor commissioner Gregory Steadman stated that the EDM ban may affect any new liquor licenses the city issues.
EDM shows may have developed a reputation for substance abuse, but they're not the only type of concert sending people to the hospital. In July, 22 Keith Urban fans were hospitalized for alcohol-related illness after the country star played the Xfinity Center in Mansfield, Massachusetts. Still, there's no ban on country shows in the Congress's paperwork.