Panic in Detroit? Hardly. In a city where T-shirts inform you that "The weak are killed and eaten," an influx of a million or so blissed-out souls is hardly cause for alarm.
Gleeful organizers of the inaugural Detroit Electronic Music Festival (DEMF), held over the long U.S. Memorial Day weekend, served heaping helpings of crow to Toronto politicians and cops who have banned raving in city-owned facilities.
The three-day party, held in downtown Detroit's Hart Plaza, had, according to police figures, an "overall attendance of 1.5 million visitors," says Barbara Dale, a spokesperson for Pop Culture Media, which helped organize DEMF.
Curiously, while visitors from Tokyo to Toledo partied to tracks laid down by techno gods like Derrick May, Juan Atkins, Kenny Larkin and Canada's own Richie Hawtin, the only significant incident was a tumble taken by a partier who tried to climb the Hart Plaza fountain.
A trip around the main festival stage revealed none of the crazed drug-taking so feared by our own city fathers and mothers.
About the worst visible signs of drug abuse were periodic appearances of rather large fatties.
Clubs catering to the techno-savvy in Detroit and next-door neighbour Windsor reported a booming business servicing crowds that wanted to keep the party going after the festival stopped at midnight. Don't forget that all those Tokyoites and Toledoans had to find places to stow their knapsacks.
Detroit mayor Dennis Archer's press secretary, Greg Bowens, says that for the first time in anyone's memory all the hotels in Detroit were full on Memorial weekend and that the estimated crowd of 1.5 million in Park Plaza was the biggest they'd ever seen.
"The restaurants and the bars got a nice boost out of it, too. Everyone was pleasantly surprised, everyone was really happy with all the people who came. It was just a really cool time," he says.
Mind you, there are promising signs that Hogtown might be shedding its rather tight-assed stance. After all, there are tourist megabucks at stake, and business-minded T.O. wouldn't want to miss out.
A city of Toronto official has contacted Detroit's director of special events, Phil Talbert, to ask for pointers on running such an event.
A spokesperson for the mayor confirms that Mel's office put in the call to Talbert. "We give nothing but kudos to our neighbour," the Mel mouthpiece says, adding that the city and the mayor's office watched the goings-on in Detroit "with great interest."
"We're extremely interested in the way it was done. Everybody had a hell of a time."
Considering that the event exceeded organizers' most optimistic projections for attendance, that's not surprising.
Mel's spokesperson also confirms that the city's rave ban is under review, but won't provide a timetable for when it might be lifted.
"We don't want to alienate the young people," the spokesperson says.
Good to hear, Melsy. Good to hear.