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Shockwaves reverberated through the West Coast dance music scene yesterday, March 22, as one of Los Angeles' leading promoters was arrested and another was charged in an ongoing investigation of financial and legal improprieties at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
Two former officials from the venue were charged and arrested along with Reza Gerami, of Go Ventures, on Thursday morning, although the details of the case were not disclosed by city attorneys. While Pasquale Rotella of Insomniac Events was also named in the case, he was not arrested Thursday as he is in Miami for Winter Music Conference.
A statement from Insomniac maintained his innocence and indicated he would return to California ahead of schedule to "defend himself against any baseless charges."
While it hasn't been specified what those charges are, the trouble for Insomniac and its former partner Go Ventures began in 2010, when a 15 year old girl, Sasha Rodriguez, died from an apparent drug overdose at the annual Electric Daisy Carnival, held at the Coliseum.
As the one time home of two Olympic games, the Coliseum is a city landmark, so any irregular activities there garner a great deal of scrutiny. This tragic incident sparked an ongoing debate about the nature of electronic music events and what a promoters responsibility was for attendees. Insomniac was subsequently barred from holding EDC at the Coliseum, and so it left the Southern California market entirely, moving the the event to Las Vegas. They maintained top level talent like Afrojack, Above & Beyond and Skrillex, and enforced its status as a major festival in the fast growing EDM scene in the US.
Go Ventures and Insomniac had operated as separate companies, though they regularly collaborated until last year when they officially split amid the filing of a lawsuit against them and the Coliseum officials who were arrested Thursday.
Mixmag spoke with Erika Raney, Insomniac's communications director, and she assured us that despite the pending arrest of the company's owner, everything was "business as usual for the rest of the Insomniac team." All future events, including this summer's series of Electric Daisy Carnivals in Las Vegas, Denver, and for the first time in New York, would not be impacted by these proceedings.
A press release from the promoter asserted that the charges themselves were "clearly politically motivated and publicity driven." Insomniac is no stranger to a publicity campaign.
In August, 2011, Rotella vigorously defended his company and the LA rave scene in an editorial for the Los Angeles Times, claiming that the Electric Daisy Carnival had been scapegoated and unfairly targeted because of the type of music it featured. Raney explained this week's events as a result of the politics against the dance scene in LA, telling Mixmag "Insomniac has done a lot to pioneer the EDM community," and has therefore become a target of city politicians.
Last night, EDC's twitter fans populated the hashtag #PasqualeIsInnocent, and while it's almost certain that won't impact his legal issues, having a loyal fanbase could very well keep Rotella and his company afloat for the coming year, in spite of what looks to be a lengthy and complicated legal process.
Watch this space for more info as it unfolds.