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Photo by Jeanne RiceIf you're keeping track, count Huntington Beach-based B3Cande Productions as the latest casualty in the drug-war hysteria against raves.
Los Angeles sheriff's deputies preemptively killed B3Cande's fourth annual JuJuBeats rave last week when they arrested for felony vandalism an independent contractor employed by event promoters.
Deputies say they busted Stanley Edward McCullom for bulldozing, irrigating and laying sod on about 36 acres of desert land near Antelope Valley, home to the desert tortoise. McCullom reportedly had none of the permits required for the work and didn't own the land.
The question of legal ownership is a bit cloudy: the 42-year-old contractor had purchased the 36 acres; escrow was scheduled to close Aug. 10.
Sheriff's deputies say they told the sellers, 84-year-old Dorothy Powelson and her 59-year-old son, Robert, that McCullom was preparing the land for an Aug. 18 rave. The elderly woman reportedly believed the worst was going to happen, Robert Powelson told the Los Angeles Times.
"She totally panicked," he said. "The thinking of an 84-year-old is, 'If there's drugs, there are guns.'"
The Powelsons killed the land sale and, in the process, JuJuBeats. B3 met for five hours and weighed moving the rave to a last-chance venue: the National Orange Show Pavilion fairgrounds in San Bernardino. That idea was quashed because Orange Show contracts stipulate events must end at 2 a.m.; B3Cande advertised on thousands of fliers distributed throughout California that the show would end with an 8 a.m. set by Doc Martin.
On Aug. 10, B3Cande asked its retailers to offer refunds on 6,000 tickets already sold. Ticket seller Dean DeCosta of Huntington Beach's Higher Source Records did not think B3Cande's relationship with fans would sour. "These guys are the most professional promotion group in Southern California," he said. "They're not looking to cheat anyone."
In the end, the LA County Sheriff's Department got a two-for-one deal: it caught someone in the act of vandalizing land and killed a rave in the name of the drug war.
"We're naturally concerned there's an element that possibly supplies drugs to kids that shows up at those events," said Sheriff's Deputy Mark Round.
Ravers have some history of drug use—especially Ecstasy—but the Sheriff's Department and the Powelsons apparently don't know much about B3Cande's history. The B3Cande trio—Brian Alper, Brett Ballou and Brock Anderson—built their reputation on following the rules. They actually pay their talent and jump every bureaucratic hurdle to ensure they have all the necessary permits for their JuJuBeats and How Sweet It Is Raves, which usually attract between 20,000 and 35,000 people. B3Cande had gone through all of the necessary paper work for JuJuBeats. According to Alper, the Los Angeles County Fire Department and the California Highway Patrol had signed off on the event.
Yet the sheriff served the ravers a poison pill. "They had to do what they could do to get us off the property," Alper said. And local newspapers took the sheriff's bait to publish yet another drug-hysteria story—the Times ran an Aug. 10 story calling the JuJuBeats rave "illegal."
Yet truth has a way of squirming through mountains of garbage, and the next day, the Times ran another story, this one pointing out that McCullom was in the process of purchasing the land and B3Cande had taken pains to follow the rules.
This sort of treatment shouldn't come as a shock to anyone who follows the rave scene. In the mid-1990s, the Santa Ana and Irvine police departments used undercover agents to bust parties. With more sophistication, the Drug Enforcement Agency tried in March to send rave promoters in New Orleans and Florida to prison under a new anti-crackhouse law that classified as drug paraphernalia such rave accoutrements as glowsticks and pacifiers. However, the charges didn't stick in court.
American Civil Liberties Union activists, like Graham Boyd of the ACLU's Drug Litigation Project, noted a pattern of cutting ravers' civil liberties to ribbons. "Anti-Ecstasy hype is fueling an effort to shut down electronic music rather than enforcing the drug laws," Boyd said. "If police want to enforce drug laws, that's their prerogative, but dancing and music are protected by the Constitution. It's no different from shutting down rock concerts in the 1960s or jazz clubs in the 1920s because some people are using drugs."
And if Round is right, raves shouldn't be on the arresting deputies' radar screens because these events aren't a problem around Lancaster, where the sheriff's department patrols. "Considering we're out in the desert, we don't have many [raves] at all," he said. "And if we do have them, they're out in the middle of nowhere."
Speaking of nowhere, B3Cande's investor has now lost a huge chunk of change—about $275,000. At press time, McCullom was still being held at the sheriff's Lancaster station in lieu of $10,000 bail. Rave on.