The DEA arrived at the theatre with a search warrant about 45 minutes before the rave’s 10 p.m. start time August 26. Though the warrant was sealed, reports said agents were looking for “documents and paraphernalia.”

State Palace Theatre Director Robert Brunet, who spoke with Pollstar exclusively, said the feds searched the entire building and found nothing drug related. They seized financial records and documents, and all of Brunet’s show files.

Police took several juveniles and others suspected of minor drug violations into custody, DEA Assistant Special Agent Bill Renton told The New Orleans Times-Picayune.The rave-goers waited outside for hours and were let into the venue at about 1 a.m., after authorities finally left.

By the time the event was over, five partiers were treated at Charity Hospital for drug overdoses. Four were treated and released while a fifth, who experienced seizures, kidney failure and a 106-degree temperature, was unconscious in the intensive care unit. The next day, he was alert and responsive, though still in ICU.

Urine tests indicated the hospitalized ravers had used some sort of stimulant such as Ecstasy, LSD or amphetamines.

Raves have become hugely popular and their bad rap is becoming just as big; the hype grows exponentially when someone dies. That was the case in 1998 when a girl from Alabama overdosed during a rave at the State Palace.

Apparently, the bad publicity was enough to catch the attention of the federal government.

Brunet said he believes his building’s raid was part of an ongoing rave investigation by the DEA. “They feel that in some cities, the promoters and the DJs themselves are the drug dealers and that the promoters and the sound companies bring drugs in through speakers or the DJs keep them in their record bags and all that kind of foolishness,” he said.

Brunet said he runs a legitimate business and promotes a variety of events that have nothing to do with raves or rave culture. “Unfortunately,” he said, “the message that was sent to me through this was that if we stop doing raves, they’ll leave me alone, and if we continue to do raves, they won’t leave me alone.”

In Part II: Are raves a serious problem in New Orleans or have the media and law enforcement blown the dangers out of proportion?