By Stephanie Hyde | November 15, 2021
Attending a concert is the pinnacle of entertainment for a music fan. Rather than listening to one’s favorite artist on your own, a concert provides the real-life experience of seeing them in action. On Nov. 5, this turned deadly at Travis Scott’s Astroworld Festival in Houston, leaving nine people dead as another victim passed away from injuries in the hospital as of Nov. 11, according to AP News. Among the 50,000 fans in attendance, the ages of the victims ranged from 14 years old to 27, according to Sylvester Turner, Mayor of Houston. The Houston police department canceled the rest of the 2-day festival, but not before it left many concertgoers traumatized from Friday’s events. It is unacceptable for even one person to die at a concert. What happened at Astroworld is an atrocity that was caused by a lack of empathy and negligence.
As a fellow concertgoer, I can relate to the chaotic concert experience. In 2021, I went to two concerts that handled similar viscous crowd surges differently. The first concert was the homecoming concert at the Times Union Center put on by A Little Booking Agency. The featured artists included Stunna 4 Vegas, Dusty Locane, Toosii, Capella Grey, Fivio Foreign, and Lil Durk. Aside from the standard announcement indicating the exits, there was little assistance with controlling the crowd. I was located on the floor right in front of the stage and a few rows of people back from the guardrails. From the first artist who took the stage, the crowd surges increased so much that people were fighting for space that just wasn’t there. It was impossible to move your hands at all or to break away from the crowd. At least two times in the show I was almost knocked off of my feet as the crowd of approximately 7,000 people lurched to push anyone who wasn’t strong enough to stand. Aside from standing your own ground all you could do was hope people would be calm enough to move back between the artists’ sets. It also didn’t help that numerous artists were throwing merch into the crowd which caused many people to act up for the chance to grab at the artist’s apparel.
Less than 24 hours later, I attended UAlbany’s Homecoming Fallapalooza Concert with Sleepy Hallow and A Boogie and experienced the same chaotic crowd surges again. This time, there was more of an authoritative presence that prioritized safety. From the beginning, many people were already pushing their way towards the front of the stage. It was so severe that the SEFCU Arena lights came back on as security threatened that if people refused to move back away from the barriers, A Boogie would not perform. The crowd eased back until A Boogie came out and became just as rowdy as before, though at least the small break helped people who needed to get out of the claustrophobic audience.
A crowd warning at the Astroworld festival could have provided time to see distressed fans among the uncontrollable, deadly crowd and taken the steps earlier to shut down the event.
Travis Scott's apology video after the Astroworld tragedy
(Video Credit: Reuters)
The biggest difference between the concerts I attended were the safety precautions at a public venue versus a university. A public venue is not as likely to shut down a concert because there is money that can be lost. There will always be more procedures that prioritize student safety at a college concert, due to the threat of lawsuits if a student were to die. Live Nation Entertainment, which was the Astroworld event promoter, has had 200 deaths and 750 injuries in the events it has worked on, according to NPR. There have already been 100 lawsuits filed by Astroworld victims against Travis Scott and even Drake, who was a special guest at the event with the help of attorney Ben Crump.
The Astroworld Festival should have expected rowdier crowds after the 2020 concert was canceled due to COVID-19. Many fans are attending their first live concerts in over a year. Without proper precautions such as increased security or extra medical staff, it was easier for things to get out of hand. Many people blame the rage culture that Travis Scott promotes at his shows for what happened. The act of raging includes stage diving and moshing to release emotions in a healthy way encouraged by the extreme energy of the music, according to Okayplayer. While the raging was a major component of the show, crowd surges are common at any venue that can hold thousands of people. The difference lies in what the venue does to control it. Many fans pleaded for staff members to stop the show just for nothing to be done to save lives.
(Video Credit: KHOU11)
It also comes down to concert awareness from Travis Scott. While it may have been hard to see every injured individual from the stage, the ambulance in the crowd should have indicated danger. At the homecoming concert, Lil Durk threatened to leave if the venue didn’t fix the quality of his vocals. He actually ended up leaving a concert early at Howard University because the crowd was not engaged enough for his standards. If artists can leave their performances early for the most trivial reasons, then they can stop the show for more dire circumstances, especially fan safety. When an artist threatens to leave and does, there is no reason for the audience to stay. Travis Scott could have given a warning to the crowd to back up and immediately left if people refused to compile. This would have released the tightly packed crowd and possibly could have saved lives.
Learning From the Past
A lot of times it takes devastation for people to see the necessity for change. There has already been an increase in prioritizing fan safety. Teyana Taylor and Sza completely stopped their shows to make sure fans could reach a safer destination. It will be a long time before Travis Scott will perform again. But going forward, there should be serious consideration into how major music festivals protect fans. One possibility is for venues to have only stadium seats available instead of floor access, especially for artists who have a reputation for wild shows. Rather than trying to rush to a conclusion, there needs to be proper tactics established so a tragedy like this never happens again.