At 10pm on September 29, I stepped into line outside of the Showbox Theater in Seattle to hear Zedd—the internationally known, exceptionally talented, twenty-four-year-old DJ. As I waited, I watched intimidating men in dark suits and earpieces pulling kids aside and searching their pockets and bags.
These security measures seemed harsh. I wondered if the extra precautions stemmed from the tragedy that had occurred barely a month earlier in Boston. One of the first stops on Zedd’s Moment of Clarity tour was at the House of Blues, where nineteen-year-old Brittany Flannigan died of “an apparent overdose,” according to WHDH, a Boston TV news channel. They made the girl’s death out to be a direct product of the show—a sort of necessary evil of electronica.
Maybe that’s the only way to sell a story.
When I was let in, the place was already packed with children and teens and old men alike—there was, after all, no age limit. Guys wore neon tank tops; girls wore neon next-to-nothings. The crowd was divided: younger members occupying the wall on the right, sporting anime-character backpacks, arms laden with multi-colored beads; older Zedd fans lingering by the bar and VIP section. The opener was still playing, and the overhead lights shone dimly on the dance floor, grimly reminding us, as though we were anticipating the start of a movie, that the main attraction had yet to come. I took this opportunity to let a few vodka tonics chase each other down my throat until Zedd finally appeared on stage, accompanied by an impressive display of digital production with lights and lasers colliding and kaleidoscoping over our heads.
He played tracks from many of the giants of house music like Swedish House Mafia and Hardwell and remixed top forty favorites such as Avicii’s “Wake Me Up” and Skrillex’s “Breakin’ a Sweat.” Some criticized Zedd for not playing enough of his own songs, but for the most part the crowd was in thunderous agreement: this was a great show.
I was, at that point, caught up in an overwhelming feeling of positivity that permeated the venue. Dizzy from the mass excitement and too much bottom-shelf vodka, I swayed and sang with others. For an encore, Zedd played his most popular song, “Spectrum,” and as his performance came to a close, the beat dropped one last time and the ceiling exploded in lights and confetti.
The entire crowd cheered.
Then the theater lights turned on, reality stung our eyes, and I looked at all that beautiful confetti stuck to the grimy floor.
As people formed a line, this time to get their coats, and slowly began filing out, I looked around for telltale signs of a stretcher or ambulance, struck as I was with a terrible if slightly paranoid thought. To my dizzy relief, no one had died or needed hospitalization, but I couldn’t help noticing that my own experience had been tempered with memory of Ms. Flannigan’s death. I wondered if they guy next to me, pupils dilated and sweating profusely, had heard about her. A good chance he had—after all, Zedd had canceled the show immediately following her death, had even tweeted to his 650,000 followers, “PLEASE, everyone… BE RESPONSIBLE!”
The man noticed me looking at him. He said, “Hey, you want to go to the after-party tonight? It starts at three and goes til morning. Or some time.”
I hesitated a moment. Then I declined.