Content warning: This article discusses violence, death and the disturbing details of the 2021 Astroworld Festival.
On Nov. 5, the Astroworld Festival, an annual music festival held by rapper Travis Scott in his hometown of Houston, Texas, quickly turned into an incident of mass fatality. Ten individuals were killed and hundreds were injured as a large crowd pushed toward the stage. While the design of the festival, the lack of staff training and extreme overcrowding were all factors that contributed to this tragedy, the main instigator was Travis Scott himself, who did not stop the show and instead actively encouraged people to continue “raging.”
Videos circulating on social media show different angles of the music festival throughout the day. Even though Travis Scott is known for his hectic concerts, many described this one as being more intense than others. Even hours before Scott came on stage, issues of overcrowding, along with the uncomfortable ambiance, resulted in fans trying to escape.
As the show went on, mayhem continued to unfold. One fan climbed on stage, begging security to stop the show as the force of the crowd trampled attendees and caused others to collapse and faint. Another fan described the traumatic experience as “drowning in a pool of people.” Despite pleas for help and his acknowledgement of an ambulance making its way through the crowd, Travis Scott continued to perform.
In the aftermath of the tragedy, several videos came to light that depicted how other artists have taken responsibility and stopped their shows to make sure audience members were safe, unlike Travis Scott. ASAP Rocky, Lil Pump and Billie Eilish checked in with their fans when it looked like people were in danger, asking if passed-out fans were okay. Travis Scott should have done the same to ensure safety among the crowd. Some of Scott’s fans have tried to justify his actions, arguing that he didn’t notice the chaos. Ultimately, it’s difficult to believe that Scott had no idea what was occurring, especially given that he could see an ambulance in the midst of the crowd yet still told the crowd to “make the ground shake.”
Madeline Eskins, an ICU nurse who went to all three of the Astroworld festivals, described her experience as madness. After recovering from fainting, Eskins tried to help others receiving medical support. Eskins noted how security seemed confused about how to approach the situation, and that there were not enough medical staff and resources available.
Darius Williams, an Astroworld security guard who quit the morning of the concert, reported to his superiors that he saw people planning online to storm the gate and was concerned that he did not receive sufficient training. Many sources also cited how Houston officials were concerned about crowd control even months before the festival started and shared their concerns with Travis Scott in his trailer. These issues should have been addressed before the concert. If they had, Houston officials and festival staff members could have stopped the event or reduced the number of people allowed in.
Destruction and chaos on this scale was undoubtedly instigated by the environment Scott fostered at his shows. Prior to Astroworld 2021, there have been multiple instances of Scott insinuating violence by encouraging his fans to engage in risky behavior. In 2015, Scott was arrested for encouraging fans to push past security barriers to get closer to the stage. In 2017, an audience member was paralyzed after being pushed off a third-story balcony. One month later, Scott was arrested on account of inciting a riot after encouraging fans to rush onto stage. Astroworld 2021 was not an isolated incident. Scott’s behavior shows a pattern of repeatedly putting his fans’ lives at risk.
Astroworld 2021, like all music festivals, was supposed to be a night for fans to enjoy live music. Instead, a tragedy ensued, and 10 people lost their lives due to negligence and incitement of violence. Travis Scott should not be allowed to perform again. He has illustrated that his priorities lie in promoting chaotic behavior, and not in protecting the well-being of his fans. Festival organizers must also be held accountable for their lack of preparedness in case of an emergency. Nobody should have to worry about getting severely injured, dying or experiencing immense traumatization after attending a music festival.