Michelle Lee, a UC Irvine student, was 20 when she went to the 2007 Monster Massive at the Sports Arena.

Marcus Gaede, who attended the concert, came upon Lee after she collapsed on an unlighted walkway. "She was really jittery," he said. "Her words would get turned backward. She was really, really scared."

According to the coroner, the Ecstasy in Lee's system pushed her temperature to 108 degrees, shocked her liver and began destroying her kidneys and lungs. She died six days later.

As concerts like Monster Massive have become more popular, overdoses and other drug-related emergencies have soared, according to physicians and health officials — who said the problem is far worse than anything they see with rock shows or sports events.

Dr. Marc Futernick, medical director of emergency services at California Hospital Medical Center in Los Angeles, said teenagers and young adults on Ecstasy overwhelmed his emergency room when raves were held at the Coliseum or Sports Arena.

"It's a nightmare, and it's really sad to see," he said.

There have been plenty of warnings.

A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report in 2010 urged elected officials to closely scrutinize raves because of potential Ecstasy overdoses. It cited 19 overdoses, one fatal, involving an earlier Sports Arena rave co-produced by Rotella and Gerami.

Then-Los Angeles Deputy Police Chief Pat Gannon told Coliseum managers that the 2010 event would invite widespread Ecstasy use. Gannon, who retired last year, said, "Other events didn't have the need for a massive amount of medical personnel or a quasi-emergency room, MASH unit in order to keep people safe."

Gannon said the risks could be reduced somewhat by increasing security checks and restricting concerts to smaller, more-manageable arenas. Even those measures would fall short, he said, if promoters failed to convince concertgoers about the dangers of Ecstasy. "The promoters need to take responsibility," he said.

But the lure of the events for local governments is strong.

Las Vegas cheered Rotella's decision to move the Electric Daisy Carnival there from the Coliseum after Los Angeles officials withdrew their support. Then-Mayor Oscar Goodman saluted Rotella with a proclamation of Electric Daisy Carnival Week. A Rotella-commissioned survey said the 2012 concert injected $207 million into the Las Vegas economy and yielded $13.1 million in state and local taxes.

There were two drug-related deaths among people who attended last year's Electric Daisy Carnival at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, which the Pollstar concert trade publication said drew more than 320,000. Another concert is scheduled for the gambling capital in June.

Last summer, Rotella's company cosponsored the four-day Electric Forest rave near Rothbury, Mich., where an audience of 25,000 filled campgrounds. One 37-year-old man died of heart inflammation and an overdose of oxycodone and amphetamine, according to a coroner's report.

"It's always sad when anyone passes away under those kinds of circumstances," said Grant Township Supervisor Roger Schmidt, whose board approved the rave. "But as far as we could tell, there was no fault of the people sponsoring the event."

Schmidt said the rave benefits the community on the whole: "It pretty much doubles the population of our county. So it's quite an economic boost, really, for the community."

But in some jurisdictions, the raves have not come back.

The state-run Cow Palace in Daly City, Calif., banned raves in 2010, the year two people died after overdosing on Ecstasy at a concert produced by Bay Area-based Skills DJ Workshop. "We just couldn't implement enough procedures to give us enough assurance that there wouldn't be a repeat," said Joe Barkett, the Cow Palace chief executive.

The Electric Daisy Carnival did not return to Dallas after 2011, when two people died after taking drugs. A third person had died of an overdose the year before.

The Coliseum commission stopped allowing raves in 2011 after The Times reported that Insomniac had been making side payments to the stadium official overseeing the concerts.

Gerami's productions waned after the scandal unfolded, but Rotella has kept a brisk schedule, holding 23 festival-sized events since March 2011, Insomniac's website says.

Last May, he expanded into the New York metropolitan market, taking the Electric Daisy Carnival to New Jersey's MetLife Stadium, home of the NFL's Jets and Giants.

Insomniac made its Bay Area debut four months later, with a Beyond Wonderland rave at the O.co Coliseum in Oakland, where the Raiders football and A's baseball teams play.

The Electric Daisy Carnival will make its first visit to the Greater Chicago area on the Memorial Day weekend. Tens of thousands of fans are expected at the Chicagoland Speedway.




Times staff writer Doug Smith contributed to this report.