Accountability for Astroworld: a preventable tragedy

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Alexander Londoño (Free to use under the Unsplash License)

On November 5, in Houston, Travis Scott’s music festival, Astroworld, lead to a fatal disaster due to a multitude of reasons.

By Athena Tseng, Liberty High School - TX

On November 5, 2021, 50,000 people headed to Astroworld, a music festival in Houston. A night that was supposed to be a fun, one in a lifetime opportunity would become the seventh-highest mass casualties at an American concert with most of the attendees leaving traumatized, and injured or for some, even dead

Astroworld was hosted by Travis Scott, an eight-time Grammy-nominated American rapper. The music festival started in 2018 with the name coming from his chart-topping album, Astroworld. This was the third annual Astroworld with well-known artists performing such as Drake, SZA, Tame Impala, Lil Baby, and Earth, Wind & Fire

A sold-out show, approximately 50,000 people were all at one stage when Travis Scott took the stage. At that time a crowd surge towards the front lead to people getting trampled and pushed up against each other, with many passing out, losing the ability to breathe, and at least eight deaths. 

“Once (Scott) started, all hell broke loose,” concert-goer Alexis Guavin said via CNN. “All of what is to be 50,000 people ran to the front, compressing everyone together with the little air available.”

“The crowd was squishing me so much that I felt like I couldn’t breathe,” concert-goer Emily Munguia said via CNN. “I started screaming for help … I felt so scared like I was going to die.”

The previous two Astroworlds ran just like any other music festival. So, how did the 2021 Astroworld lead to hundreds injured and eight dead?

Right now with the Astroworld tragedy trending, on Tik Tok, people have released videos of not only the festival but also other concerts and festivals where the performer had to handle a situation with people getting hurt. 

The first person that everyone looks to blame is, of course, Travis Scott. As many regular concertgoers know, the performer controls the stage and concert. This can be seen in countless concerts and music festivals. 

At Adele’s concert, immediately after she sees someone passing out, she stops the concert and gets them help.

On Harry Styles’ recent tour, a clip shows when he sees a fan in the pit on the verge of fainting, he gives his water to the fan and calls security. 

At Niall Horan’s concert, many people were pushing up against each other in the pit causing him to stop the concert and have them move back. 

At Playboi Carti’s show, many people were sneaking to the pit and were pushing against each other leading to them demanding cooperation or the show was going to end. 

Even at Travis Scott’s 2015 show, Scott lost his shoe leading him to stop the concert to be able to retrieve his shoe. 

These all show the power that performers have during a show that Scott didn’t utilize during Astroworld. 

During the festival, videos were shared of Travis Scott and there are a lot of examples where he ignores the agony in the crowd. In the Apple Music live stream, you can hear people screaming for help. If the recording can pick it up, why was the concert not stopped? Why did Travis not hear it? 

People were passing out and losing consciousness. Throughout the crowd, people were giving CPR and if they could get over the barricade or were lifted from the crowd, injured concert-goers would have to walk right past Travis Scott to get medical help. 

A clip has become viral on Tik Tok where Scott points out the ambulance in the crowd in confusion and his team of workers come up to him and say something and he immediately moves on and shoos them away. While we don’t know what the people told him, we can tell that he knew something was wrong.

This is not the first time Travis has gotten in trouble. Scott has had issues with crowd control before. In 2018, Scott pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges, one being for inciting a riot.

However, another video has surfaced from the Apple Music live stream of Travis Scott seeing a fan unconscious and him pausing and calling security like what Adele did. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, maybe he was unaware of the extreme conditions as he said in his Twitter statement, although many signs say otherwise.

Because of this, there has been a lot of racism disguised as criticisms. Writing about the situation as a result of the “aggressive” nature of rappers and their fans not only conveys a false narrative, but it is also dismissive of the tragedy that occurred. 

Astroworld isn’t the norm.  

Plenty of people are also are blaming the audience’s violent and hostile behavior. However, crowd surges are caused by poor crowd-management systems, the design of the event, and/or crowd density

This is how other music festivals with good crowd management, like Coachella, Lollapalooza, and Austin City Limits with around five times the amount of concert-goers, do not run into this issue of crowd surges despite artists encouraging mosh pits. In the event details for Astroworld, it’s obvious that the event organizers’, Live Nation, and Travis’ team, poor planning lead to these crowd surges. 

Because of past drug-related incidents occurring at Astroworld, event organizers presented two plans to the Houston police and first responders, a medical plan by ParaDocs Worldwide Inc., and a security plan by ScoreMore Shows addressing potential emergencies. Despite extensive plans being set in place, this prevented nothing. Looking into the plans themselves, it fails to mention crowd management of the audience in front of the stage such as moshing and crowd surfing.

Looking at the consensus of people’s experiences, a lot of security and medics did not know how to properly conduct CPR and medical equipment was hard to find or not to be found. This clearly shows the faults in the plans.

Even comparing the past schedules to this year, it is abundantly clear that there is something terribly wrong. During most music festivals, there are two or three stages for artists to perform at. 

Organizers usually try to split the crowd up so there are not too many people at one stage. This can be seen in the 2018 Astroworld setlist when Travis Scott and Lil Wayne overlap times at two different stages. In 2019, although no acts are overlapping, Scott was on one on stage with Rosalía’s performance on another stage ended right as Scott started.

The 2021 setlist was a different story. On the first day of a two-day festival, there was only one performance scheduled on the larger stage, the Chills stage: Travis Scott. There were no performances overlapping or right before Scott’s, leaving everyone in the crowd to be in one place at the same time.

Countless things could have been done differently from how Travis Scott could have handled the situation to Live Nation’s organization, and there is more than enough blame to go around, but none of that will reversed the damage done: hundreds traumatized, dozens hospitalized, and eight lives lost.

This story was originally published on Wingspan on November 10, 2021.