By: McKinley Franklin
Popular rapper and Houston-native Travis Scott hosted the Astroworld Festival this past weekend. The festival resulted in eight fatalities and dozens injured. How did the once cherished Astroworld Festival turn so dark so fast, and how can society learn from this atrocity?
This year’s Astroworld Festival marked the third of an annual series since 2018. The festival is held in Houston, Texas, where Scott grew up. Scott’s third studio album attributes directly back to Houston, being named after a theme park from Scott’s childhood, Astroworld. Before the festival was held in 2019, Scott was given a key to the city of Houston from the city’s mayor. The rapper received the key during his Astroworld Tour while performing in Houston. While presenting Scott with the key, mayor Sylvester Turner praised him for the recognition and reputation that Scott linked with the city of Houston. During the presentation Turner also announced that Scott had inspired the city to bring back another amusement park, like the original Astroworld, to the city.
Later in 2019, the second annual Astroworld Festival was held where a prelude to the events in this past year’s festival would be showcased. Much like the most recent festival, fans stormed the venue and three people were reported to be trampled. Such patterns of seemingly aggressive behaviors have been associated with Scott in the past that date back to 2015. Two arrests of Scott have been reported for similar behaviors of prompting fans to engage in disorderly conduct(s). Both instances involved Scott encouraging fans to breach security at music festivals.
After another successful year of the festival in 2019, the annual scheduling came to a halt amidst the ongoing pandemic in 2020. With much anticipation due to the cancellation of the festival in the past year, Scott announced the third annual festival in May 2021. This year the festival would be extended to two days “due to overwhelming demand as well as rave reviews around the festival’s incredibly curated lineup.” The official lineup was not released until October 26 of 2021, a little over a week before the festival was scheduled. Popular artists in the lineup included SZA, Young Thug, 21 Savage and Lil Baby, accompanied by Travis Scott as the leading headliner of the festival. Scott promoted the festival on his socials and referred to members of the lineup as “avengers.” In the same post Scott also communicated that the festival was sold out, but he had managed to acquire more tickets so that more fans could be in attendance.
November 5, 2021, marked the beginning of what was supposed to be the two-day Astroworld Festival. Festival gates opened at 1pm this past Friday, and mayhem began shortly after. A lot of the set protocols and rules surrounding security at the festival were disregarded early before the festival commenced. Security was failing to enforce ID and coronavirus vaccination checks, as well as other rules surrounding prohibited items and general security checks. The performance areas were noticeably packed around 7pm, and the crowds only grew as Scott’s performance was approaching. A countdown started thirty minutes prior to when Scott was set to perform, and as the countdown crawled down, so did the available space for those at the venue.
When Scott finally did take the stage, the intense compressing of the crowd really took off. The squeezing of the crowds became unoccupiable as the first song in Scott’s performance began. Fans in the crowd had nowhere to move, and if there was movement it was inevitably devastating. People were falling onto the floor, piling on top of each other in some areas. Individuals began to become so crushed that they were passing out in the crowds. Fans that were close enough to the front of the stage begged security to pull them out of the crowds to safety, As the night continued, paramedics were seen amidst the masses of fans performing CPR, treating unconscious people and even carrying off lifeless bodies.
During the chaos, Scott continued his performance taking few short pauses to notify security of fans being unconscious in the crowds. Kylie Jenner, Scott’s baby mother of two, posted to social media a video of the crowds at the festival with a noticeable ambulance in the mass of people. Multiple videos and images have been posted from fans at the festival across social media platforms. Specific videos recount the fearful experiences that individuals went through, and some even recount people trying to notify security of the chaos that was occurring throughout the swarms of fans in the crowd. The festival continued, forcing over three hundred people to be treated on-site by medical personnel, dozens being hospitalized and eight individuals dead.
How did the festival turn out so gruesome? On the Astroworld Festival webpage there are clear rules, regulations and precautions written out that were to be followed. One of the main problems that resulted with this festival was the insufficient quality of security and amount of medical personnel/ supplies onsite. Fans were spotted running past security throughout the day leading to Scott’s performance. Security checks were not followed as intensely as they were publicized to be. An insufficient number of medical supplies and personnel showed cracks in the groundwork of the festival throughout the day and when Scott’s performance started.
How can festivals be prevented from tragedies like this from reoccurring? A few simple tactics can be implemented that all lead back to ensuring efficient safety of all people in attendance of a festival. To ensure a safe venue, festivals must be held at safe venues with secure layouts. Creating a reliable layout with a well-organized security team can allow for a safer and more comfortable experience for everyone. Making sure the facility and its grounds have been well-inspected, kept and prepared for the festival are key elements to a safe experience. A well-managed and prepared security team and plan for the facility of an event can also ensure a safer experience for a festival.