Astroworld festival described as “hell”

Credit%3A+%40houstonchron+on+Instagram

Credit: @houstonchron on Instagram

Britni Dunn, Editor-in-Chief

After almost two years without large in-person gatherings and concerts, avid concert-goers have been eager to return to an event that should have been an uplifting and connecting experience. Instead, on Nov. 5, Travis Scott’s highly-anticipated Astroworld Festival in Houston, Texas unfolded in chaos and tragedy. After a horrific crowd surge and what could be considered a stampede, 8 people were killed and many more injured during the performance. 

Videos that surfaced from the tragic night appear as footage from what many of the attendees have called “hell.” Hands and chins lifted gasping for breath, drowning in the sea of sweaty bodies crushed up against each other. There are videos of Travis Scott watching an unconscious body being passed along in the pit—although clearly aware of what’s happening, he says nothing. Each video from the concert is haunting, leaving more and more questions about how this could possibly happen.

 

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The energy throughout the day on Nov. 5 was abnormal and many concert-goers sensed that something was off. The entire day the festival played intense, piercing beats, like something out of a horror film. From the start of the festival, security was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of people in attendance. People began to break down the gates surrounding the venue at 9 a.m., according to CNN, and by 5 p.m. there were an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 people not scanned that had entered the concert. Many fights broke out throughout the day and there were at least eight security breaches. Ambulances were taking away injured people long before Scott’s performance even began, prefacing the unpredictable chaos that ensued the rest of the night. 

Scott’s performance began at 9 p.m. A short 52 minutes later, a mass casualty was declared. As the performance continued, attendees from the back surged to the front, causing a chain reaction of pushing until there was no air between people. Most of the crowd was left struggling for a breath, with security being unable to halt what can only be described as violence. In the sea of people, there were what have been described as “sinkholes,” if one person falls, then another, then another; and there was no getting back up. 

Ambulances were on the scene, even in the middle of the crowd, but there was nowhere they could go. Scott even acknowledged an ambulance at one point, saying “there’s an ambulance in the crowd, woah, woah, woah.” This was the only point in the evening that the music stopped. He asked the crowd to put a middle finger to the sky if they were “good.” Amid the squished bodies, their hands held up their middle fingers. Scott responded to the crowd by telling them “Y’all know what to do,” and urged the crowd to make “the ground shake.” 

Scott has had a history of encouraging this type of behavior at his concert. Many fans have claimed that his concerts are a place to “rage,” and have commented on the lack of care for those who passed away or were traumatized at his latest festival. In May, Scott posted a now-deleted Tweet reading “NAW AND WE STILL SNEAKING THE WILD ONES IN. !!!!!” 

At the Lollapalooza Music Festival in 2015, Scott was on stage for five minutes before police intervened. Scott pled guilty to reckless conduct charges. He led the crowd in a pulsing “We want rage” chant and told them to put their middle fingers up to security. Again in 2017, Scott was charged with three misdemeanors after encouraging fans to ignore security at a show in Arkansas. At Terminal 5 in NYC, Scott was also under fire in 2017 for encouraging a fan to jump off a balcony to be caught by fans below. The fan is now permanently unable to walk. 

The Houston Police are still investigating the incident. The mayor of Houston, Sylvester Turner, stated, “We owe it to the family members, all of those who attended and quite frankly the city as a whole, to the first responders, all of them, how did this happen?” According to The New York Times, there is a deleted video of Scott shooing away two men from his team during his performance, likely letting him know the extent of the destruction happening below him. 

While some argue that there was no way Scott could have seen what was going on in the crowd, there are multiple online videos concerning situations that the artist saw while still not stopping the performance. There is little that security can do when an artist incites chaos from a crowd. From encouraging break-ins to continuing his performance, Scott left the already overwhelmed security helpless to the mob mentality of the crowd. 

In a Tik Tok video from an EMT within the concert, the medic described the scene as he was called to help. He horrifically describes being called to a woman who had been passed out for over ten minutes with no assistance and had no pulse. As he made his way through the crowd, he is presented with more and more people needing help without any way of getting them out of the crowd. He is one of many medics traumatized by not being able to reach people suffocating in the crowd.

Social media is plastered in disturbing videos that give more insight into the AstroFest. Eight people were killed in the crowd, and one 22-year-old college student passed away a few days later in the hospital after being placed on a ventilator. Those who passed range from ages 14 to 27 as the crowd was full of younger people. A nine-year-old boy was in a coma after being separated from his father in the crowd. The young boy suffered from damage to his liver and lungs, along with swelling in his brain. He heartbreakingly passed away on Nov. 15, becoming the tenth person to pass due to the concert. The victims of this senseless violence came to the festival with a goal to spend a day full of fun and music and left the night with a demoralizing message: no one should ever lose somebody at a concert. 

Scott released a public statement stating, “I just want to send out prayers to the ones that were lost last night, we’re actually working right now to identify the families so we can help assist them through these tough times.” He continued, “Anytime I can make out anything that’s going on, I stop the show and help them get the help they need. I could just never imagine the severity of the situation. We’ve been working closely with everyone to just try to get to the bottom of this.” Scott will be covering funeral costs of the victims and is partnering with the mental health organization, BetterHelp. BetterHelp has often come under fire for their practices and Scott still ends up making profits from the deal. Kylie Jenner, Scott’s girlfriend, posted a video on her Instagram story the night of the concert clearly showing an ambulance in the crowd. Jenner has since apologized and wrote: “Travis and I are broken and devastated. I want to make it clear we weren’t aware of any fatalities until the news came out after the show and in no world would have continued filming or performing.” 

The tragedy at Astroworld in Houston has shaken the world as people horrifically read and listen to more details of the hellish night. This is not the only time people have been killed at a concert or festival. Shockwaves were sent through the nation after 11 people were crushed to death at a WHO concert in 1979. In 2000, 8 people were killed in an unruly crowd stampede at a European music festival. More recently, at the 2010 Love Parade in Germany, 21 people were killed in another stampede. There is a clear need for tighter precautions when it comes to large crowds with the potential to get out of control. There is a history of crowd surges ended in mass casualties, and Astroworld is yet another example of the call to action needed to get a better grasp on crowd control. 

As the investigation into Houston’s Astroworld continues, there is nothing that can be said to heal the fatal and traumatic wounds of those that attended the event. After this tragedy, hopefully, concert security and crowd control will be taken to a higher level in which things like this do not happen. Concerts and music festivals are meant to be a safe and beautiful experience, not like anything described from this past Astrofest.