By: Faith Chapman
Since COVID-19 people have been hungry for live music to come back. Surging crowds of excited fans left ten dead and several injured at Travis' Scott's two-day (although the second day was cancelled) Astroworld Festival hosted at the NRG Park in Houston, Texas.
According to the New York Times article "What to Know About the Astroworld Tragedy," the Astroworld Festival is considered to be "one of the deadliest crowd-control disasters at a concert in the United States in many years." The outcome of this situation was something no one expected even for LiveNation, the promoter company that owned the promotion for Astroworld.
The Astroworld Festival received great backlash for how everything was handled. In theory, the Astroworld Festival was supposed to be a fun two-day event filled with excitement.
Travis Scott, a multi-platinum artist, created the Astroworld Festival in 2018 to continue to "bring back the beloved spirit and nostalgia of AstroWorld, making a childhood dream of Travis’ come true" according to a Fox26 Houston article, "Travis Scott Announces Astroworld Festival 2018 in Houston" with a fun interactive experience to allow audience members to have this live experience.
"I figured that it would be a larger-than-life type of festival,” said Zianni Orange, a third-year student, studying studio composition at Purchase College. “I was thinking that Travis Scott was known for his music, like his sound, everything is so big so I would view the festival as a huge event."
"I was very supportive of Astroworld at first. It’s not very often when people of color, especially Black people, get to headline and get creative direction to their own music festival," said Banner Reed, a sophomore studying studio composition at Purchase College. "Often events like Rolling Loud and Coachella are owned and have creative direction by white people. Even though LiveNation was in direct ownership of the festival, other than Camp Flog Gnaw (Tyler the Creator’s annual music festival) I don’t know any other music festivals that have creative direction from a black POC."
Being one of the first festivals since the COVID lockdowns, a large crowd was expected, what came as a surprise was the mass amount of injuries.
"I did anticipate a large crowd of people going to the festival, but I did not anticipate death to be a certainty," said Mills Schulte, a freshman studying environmental studies, "With how the deaths occurred, there was lots of correlation that had to do with the amount of people that were there. Considering there had been little-to-no music events in 2020, the anticipation for this festival was undoubtedly high."
Skye Saunders, a senior studying journalism and history, felt as though Travis Scott handled the situation to the best ability he could. "Travis Scott handled it the proper way, since it was a huge crowd of 50,000 people in the arena, I believe he honestly didn’t know the severity of what was happening until afterwards and even to when videos surfaced the internet."
Reed agrees with Saunders adding, "I think Travis is doing the best he can do legally currently. He’s paying for the victims' funerals and offering mental health counselling to the families affected." Reed continued on, "However, I do think LiveNation is NOT doing enough and throwing Travis under the bus to take the blame for it."
LiveNation has had a history of safety violations. LiveNation will also be facing charges as long as Scott.
Alex Belyaninov, a senior studying history, disagrees and feels as though Scott handled the situation awfully, adding "From what I recall, I saw he did not listen to the audience when problems were starting and continued performing while people were dying and struggling to get out." Belyaninov adds that the apology that Scott posted on his Instagram story seemed sloppy.
Astroworld Festival's management could've done many things to prevent the crowd-surging and overall crowd management.
"The Astroworld Festival can do better in managing exits from the festival, as with how crowded the festival can be, there needs to be easier ways in which fans can leave," said Schulte.
Reed adds, "I simply think the way the festival was configured by the organizers and the lack of EMT’s and Security people on site would have helped a million times over."
The reasons behind what happened are still unclear, but there are different speculations of how and why this happened. Orange shared that it might've been a combination of people not caring.
Schulte agrees saying, "I think this happened because fans were reckless and inconsiderate of their surroundings. At music festivals and concerts, it is anticipated that fans are going to go crazy to watch their favorite artist perform, so even if these deaths were not expected to happen, there should have been expectations for how fans are going to act."
Reed feels as though the reasoning of this chaos was due to apathy and people not caring about others and just caring about seeing Scott's performance but the backlash is racially driven.
"I think the whole backlash and controversy online is heavily racially motivated. This is not the first time an incident like this has happened (ex. The Pearl Jam stampede that killed several people). The hatred and racist commentary out of this where people are calling Travis and his African American fans 'monkeys,'” said Reed. "When something like this happened to the white bands it was always considered a 'freak accident' and 'tragedy' but when it happened to a black artist all of a sudden it was ONLY the artist's fault."
Scott is getting blamed for his actions because he was not only a headliner, he was a creative director of Astroworld and also had a role in organizing this event.
Belyaninov adds, "What Astroworld needs to do is evaluate the artist's psychological state to make sure they not only can handle performing for big audiences in a semi-post COVID age. They also need to make sure they are well enough to be able to stop the concert in the event a problem goes down."
This is an event that is still under investigation, numbers and information is subject to change.