Fireworks Ignite Stage, Bad Trips Abound at Colombia's Summerland Festival

More than 100 attendees received medical treatment for drugs and alcohol; LSD was smuggled in chewing-gum packs, says one official

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Philip Sherburne WRITTEN BY
Philip Sherburne

Four people sustained minor injuries when a pyrotechnic display malfunctioned during Nicky Romero's set at Cartagena, Colombia's Summerland festival over the weekend, reports El Tiempo. As visible in various videos uploaded to YouTube, the fireworks ignited a fake castle tower in the upper portion of the stage rigging, cutting short Romero's set while the flames were brought under control. With the flames extinguished, the Colombian DJ Moska returned to the main stage to close out the festival.

Dimitri Vegas, who was on stage at the time, tweeted, "half my crew & @wolfpack got impact burns all over their bodies & 2 even got rocketexplosion on the ear."

This was Summerland's second year in Cartagena. The three-day event included main-stage sets from Afrojack, Nervo, Cedric Gervais, Dash Berlin, Armin Van Buuren, and Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, while the tech-house-oriented "Underground" stage featured Marco Carola, Loco Dice, DJ Sneak, Marc Houle, Geiser, and Paul Ritch, among others.

The explosion was just the most flagrant mishap at a festival where, local media report, the first night saw more than 100 people treated for adverse drug reactions. According to María Elena Vélez, interior secretary of Cartagena, "In emergency treatment areas, more than 100 people were treated for the consumption of hallucinogenic substances or the combination of alcohol and pills," reports El Tiempo; Vélez claimed that one young woman who was given medical attention confessed to having sold LSD camouflaged in packets of chewing gum.

But Javier Alfonso Guevara, Summerland's chief of operations, contested Vélez claims. Guevara told El Universal, "Not all of the intoxications were due to hallucinogens. Many people who came to medical-treatment points did so because of dehydration, because they were moving constantly and had not ingested the necessary liquids." Guevara added, "We can't turn a blind eye, nor should we magnify the behavior of a few without also working to create more space for the fight against drugs."

Commenters on the event's Facebook wall, meanwhile, registered their dissatisfaction that Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike's set was cut short after just 30 or 40 minutes — some claimed only 25 — with as many as five police officers taking the stage and forcing the Belgian duo to kill the music mid-song, in accordance with the 2:30 a.m. closing mandated by local officials.

One attendee wrote, "It's sad to see the ignorance of the Cartagena police, who don't understand the magnitude of the event or the importance of the artists who appeared ... That they can kick artists like these off stage and throw people out of the festival whenever they want — please. It's an electronic-music event. It's obvious that there would be many people who went to take drugs, drink alcohol, and have a good time. What did the Cartagena authorities expect, a carnival? A festival of flowers full of colors and love?"

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