Pill Testing At Festivals Saves Lives So Why Aren’t We Just Doing It?

In 2018 we got hard, tragic evidence on what saves the lives of young people and what does not. It's time to stop talking and start acting.

On the weekend, 19-year-old Callum Brosnan died after what is suspected to be an adverse reaction to drugs while attending the Knockout Games of Destiny rave in Sydney.

In September two people died at the Defqon.1 event, also in Sydney. And we’re only at the beginning of the festival season.

Now, there are a couple of ways to address this so that it doesn’t happen again.

One is to go the law enforcement route with the hopeful end point of getting rid of recreational drugs altogether – a policy which has been adopted by Australia and much of the rest of the world for 50-plus years, and which has shown zero sign of working.

“Here’s hoping someone else dies instead of you. Toodles!”

The other is harm minimisation, where the “drugs are bad and dangerous” message is leavened with “…but if you’re going to take them, they should be taken as safely as possible”.

And at festivals, that includes pill testing.

Case in point: at the Groovin’ The Moo event in Canberra earlier this year there was a pilot pill testing project. And they found two pills with potentially deadly chemicals in ’em, which the people holding them did not therefore take.

That’s two potential deaths that didn’t happen. Two funerals which didn’t happen. Two families not torn apart. Two communities not in mourning. Two young people that went to a music festival, had a great time, then went home and got on with their lives.

The NSW government, however, see things differently.

NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian insisted that adopting a harm minimisation approach would give people a “green light to take substances”.

Except, as we know, people aren’t waiting for a green light from their government in order to take drugs. Case in point: all of the cases, ever.

Although this green light is admittedly pretty trippy.

Her message was slightly finessed with Today, telling them that drug testing isn’t useful because… um, some people are immune to poison, or something?

“If we thought it would save a single life, of course we would go down that path,” she confusingly claimed. “Unfortunately, what pill testing doesn’t do is really take into account people’s different physical attributes. What is safe for one person isn’t safe for another.”

“We brought in some pretty substantial changes, including increase penalties… for those supplying those illegal drugs,” she insisted. “The strongest thing we can do is to send a message to young people: please don’t take any illegal substance.”

Sorry, Gladys, that’s the strongest thing you can do? Say “nah, don’t”?

The Just Say No campaign was invented in 1982 and hasn’t seemingly eliminated drug use in the 36 years since, but the NSW government is banking on it finally getting results any old tick of the clock?

Honest to god, the second you say “you don’t need drugs to have a good time” you’ve lost the respect of any young person watching, Grandma. Because what they hear is “we don’t care about your opinions”. And they’re not wrong.

And this is made all the more clear because the response from the government appears to be to consider shutting down festivals – which the Premier announced plans to do with Defqon.1 – rather than address the actual issue.

Then again, Berejiklian was also in the state government that responded to street violence with lockouts which did less-than-stellar things for Sydney’s CBD entertainment precincts.

And there’s an argument that young people, excited and inexperienced and not great at assessing risk, shouldn’t face a death sentence for doing a far from unusual or unpredictable thing because they crave a moment of feeling good. Which is why people take recreational drugs.

We’re at a point now where we know what doesn’t save lives – what we’re doing – and what does save lives. Pill testing is in category B.

To not do it now, knowing what we know, is to say that political rhetoric is more important than the actual lives of young people.

A Computer Combined Morrissey Lyrics With Fitness DVD Reviews And Wrote The World's Best Song

Finally, a horrifying automated future we call all agree with!

Do you remember that amazing Harry Potter chapter created by a computer loaded with a neural network and all of JK Rowling’s output, entitled Harry Potter and the Portrait of What Looked Like a Large Pile of Ash?

Or the fake Coachella line up made by feeding a neural network band names, creating such real-sounding headliners as Lil Hack, Fanch and One Of Pig?

Well, the folks behind both the above triumphs – Botnik Studios – have been hard at work training predictive text and neural networks to solve the problem of music for their debut album, The Songularity, which has recently hit its target on Kickstarter. And this is possibly going to be the greatest album of all time.

For example: it contains a song written using predictive text on a system trained on Morrissey and Amazon reviews of the P9OX Home Workout DVD System.

And the result is… well, possibly the greatest song in human history.

Well, we did say possibly the greatest song in human history. Individual results may vary.

But certainly, if you’ve ever felt that the Smiths were musically OK but really needed more lyrics about getting ripped, then Botnik have you comprehensively sorted.

And while the album has hit its target, there are still some stretch goals there for those that wish to contribte – including this one, sadly open only to US backers:


Who wouldn’t want this played at them from outdoors by a trenchcoated John Cusack-alike? NO-ONE IS WHO.

Maybe The Problem With The Bohemian Rhapsody Movie Is That All Of Queen's Music Is Awful

Freddie Mercury deserved a better band with better songs.

The reviews for the Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody have been less than glowing. While lead actor Rami Malek has received plaudits for his performance as the band’s legendary frontman Freddie Mercury critics have had a field day castigating the melodramatic script, indifferent direction, the playing down of Mercury’s sexuality and the many biographical inaccuracies, ranging from the way the band formed to the reveal of Mercury’s HIV status years before even he was aware of his health status himself.

But I’d like to suggest there’s another reason why the film isn’t a triumph. Bohemian Rhapsody is filled with the music of Queen, and Queen’s music is terrible.


Queen are unique in that all four members – Mercury, guitarist Brian May, drummer Roger Taylor and bassist John Deacon – all contributed songs to the band. They are also unique in that a band with four songwriters created a catalogue in which all the songs are awful.

This is not a reflection on the band members, all of whose musical and performance talents range from the spectacular (Mercury) to the entirely competent (Deacon). May has made genuine contributions to the world of astrophysics. Taylor has… um, nice hair.

They’re perfectly fine human beings, as best I can tell. And the only reason that they have a shell of a career now is because a generation of dads were 14 when they were on the TV and have been playing Best Ofs in their cars ever since.

Can you imagine what might have been had Mercury been in a good band? Alternatively, has there ever been a band more dependent on their frontman’s charisma? Live they could get away with a lot because audiences were going “wow, look at that guy in the catsuit!” rather than “hey, this song is pretty lousy!”

Every single song is a weird combination of absolutely meticulous studio craft and perfectionism over second-to-fourth-rate material, like a director pouring their heart and soul in capturing the absolute perfect lighting to tell the deeply personal story of this shampoo commercial.

While artists like the Beatles, the Who, the Kinks and David Bowie played around with different styles and genres through their careers, Queen similarly turned their talents to glam rock, proto-metal, neo-classical, disco, funk, doo-wop, synth pop and more, and succeeded at zero of them.

Like Men At Work their biggest power move was adopting music videos before anyone else realised what a marketing tool they were about to become, giving the band a visual identity which plastered over the musical shortcomings. Although Men At Work at least knew a good hook when they heard it.


Queen are often described as a singles band, which is code for “could never do a consistently strong album”. And this is accurate: even those records generally noted as being classics, Sheer Heart Attack and A Night At The Opera, are chock-full of filler.

May even thought Taylor was taking the piss when he first presented the band ‘I’m In Love With My Car’, and who can honestly blame him?

Taylor was also responsible for ‘Radio Ga Ga’, the insipid synthesiser demonstration exercise in which not even Mercury can get make “Let’s hope you never leave old friend / Like all good things on you we depend” sound effortless.

Elsewhere we have classics like ‘Don’t Try Suicide”s powerful message of “Nobody cares… Baby when you do it all you do is get on my tits”. Or Mercury’s timeless tribute to the late Beatle, ‘Life Is Real (Song For Lennon): “Breastfeeding myself / What more can I say?”. And ‘Under Pressure’ is proof that David Bowie’s genius can’t be dimmed by third rate collaborators. Or even Vanilla Ice.


Even BoRhap, the song which legendarily became a hit because its epic length gave radio DJs a chance to take a dump, is a waffling garbage dump of faux-profundity over a bunch of unconnected song ideas indifferently welded together into a weak facsimile of prog rock. Admit it: when it plays in your head, it’s not carrying you to a beautiful place; it’s soundtracking that scene in Wayne’s World.

If there’s a good thing about the song it’s that popular culture realised the poison that had been released and was forced to invent punk as an antidote.

In short, Queen were a band for people that didn’t really care that much about music. Is it any shock that they inspired a biopic for people that don’t really care about film?

Freddie Mercury really deserved a far, far better band.

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