“Stop the show! Stop the show! Stop the show!” screamed fans at Travis Scott’s Astroworld Festival in Houston, Texas on November 5. Panic consumed the crowd of 50,000 as people crammed against the front barricade while Scott continued energizing the crowd.
Concertgoers were trapped, trampled and traumatized as ten people were killed. Unconscious bodies were lifted through the crowd to find ambulances and more than 300 people were treated at a field hospital for injuries.
“People were literally grabbing and pinching at my body trying to get up from the ground,” said Chris Leigh, 23, in an interview with the New York Times. “I was fighting for my life; there was no way out.”
The event was doomed from the start. Darius Williams, a security guard hired for the concert said that the organizers took important shortcuts in hiring and training. In an interview with TMZ, he said, “It was pretty vague exactly what the roles would be.”
When discussing the exam that all the candidates had to pass in order to be hired, Williams said, “the teach
er, he was actually giving us the answers as we were going through the books ourselves and trying to hurry up and fill out the answers.”
He felt as if the conditions were too unsafe and decided to leave the event saying, “from what I saw, I would say there was probably one security guard for every 500 to 1,000 people,” also adding that the organizers required virtually no security experience for the applicants.
The Astroworld Festival took place at the NRG Stadium and was organized by Travis Scott and Live Nation. This is not the first time a crowd has become out of control during one of Scott’s concerts. At the Astroworld Festival in 2019, fans without tickets broke the barrier wall around the concert causing a mass stampede into the crowd. This stampede caused three attendees to be hospitalized because of their injuries. Also in 2015, Scott was charged and jailed for reckless conduct when he called out to his fans at Lollapalooza to climb over the barricades and join him on stage.
Scott’s fans, known as “ragers,” are not condemned by the rapper for their actions, but instead, encouraged to perform these reckless and dangerous actions.
While Scott was encouraging his fans to join him on stage in 2015, he was quoted in the L.A. Times saying “everyone in a green shirt [referring to the security guards] get the f–k back,” and “middle finger up to security right now… We want rage.”
Due to his past history with inciting violent behavior and reckless conduct at his concerts, it is safe to say that the dangerous pattern of Scott’s concerts is a defining feature of his performances.
At the festival, Scott continued playing his music set as the chaos ensued. Live Nation stopped the concert about 30 minutes early but that was not soon enough. The “mass casualty event,” as city officials classified it, began at 9:30 p.m. The concert ended 40 minutes later, at approximately 10:10 p.m.
Had Scott decided to stop the show when the crowd began getting out of control, injuries and possibly deaths could have been prevented.
Clayton High School Seniors Lauren Hill and Sophia Martin went to the Travis Scott concert in February of 2019 but have since stopped supporting Scott’s music.
Martin said, “I was extremely disappointed in Travis Scott and really all of the other people on stage who saw what was happening but did not stop the show or try to help the people.”
On November 18, a $2 billion dollar lawsuit was filed against Scott, Drake, Apple Music, Live Nation, and NRG Stadium representing 282 victims. Thomas J. Henry, the attorney that filed the suit said that Scott, “chose to cut corners, cut costs, and put attendees at risk.” This lawsuit is the largest of hundreds, which also includes a different $750 million suit.
Part of what makes the event so important and complex is there is a lot of debate over who is to blame for the events that took place, for the lives that were lost. Do we blame the security, Live Nation, the crowd? Do we place fault on Scott?
A large debate now is happening between Scott and the Houston Police Department which have blamed each other for the unresponsiveness towards the emergency. The HPD says Scott had the full power to end the show but chose not to. Scott denies those claims and his lawyers point out the actions of the HPD at the Astroworld Festival in 2019 in which they “shut down the power and sound…when the performance ran over five minutes.”
“Although the crowd full of heartless people should take some blame for the situation, I think Travis Scott should definitely be held accountable because by just stopping the music and his singing, he could have allowed people to stop and look around for those who needed help,” said Hill.
Another argument is that Live Nation and Apple Music, the organizers of this event, did not establish proper crowd control procedures and that they were more focused on the profit from the festival.
“I feel like it’s impossible to blame one person for the situation,” said Martin. “There were various mistakes made by various people, so to blame Travis Scott alone would be illogical. I think the event planners, event promoters, crowd control, backstage personnel, Travis Scott, etc… are all at fault.”
“I think the best thing Travis Scott can do now is deliver a real effort to ensure that nothing like this happens again,” said Martin. “[The John Hilgert lawsuit] is centered on guaranteeing this does not happen again and I think that should be the same approach that Travis Scott has from here on out.”
Now, a month after the event, it is our responsibility to reflect on what happened and what we can do going forward to hold people accountable and prevent situations like this from happening again.
Scott released an apology video, talking about the destruction and fatality of the concert, to which people on many platforms of social media have called “fake” or a “PR apology,” as the authenticity of the video is criticized. Scott claims that he would have never thought anything bad like that would ever have happened, though many of his past concerts could have shown him otherwise.
To make up for his negligence, Scott has offered to pay for the funeral of a ten-year-old victim’s funeral, though the family has refused.
Scott has also volunteered to pay for a month of mental health services through ‘Better Help’ in order to compensate for the trauma many of the concert’s attendees have experienced.
The victims of the Astroworld concert did not expect to trade their life or health for a ticket. The disastrous events that led to the death of ten innocent fans should never have taken place, or escalated to the extremes they did; the series of fatal decisions and actions that led to the death of these victims could have been avoided.
Between the disturbing history of violence at Travis Scott’s concerts and the charges the rapper has faced for endangering the lives and the safety of other people, this disaster could have been avoided. It could have been stopped. And ten more innocent people who fell victim to horrible planning and event execution could have been alive today.
“I found out about the tragedy from storytimes on TikTok where people who went to the concert were telling their stories,” said Martin, later expanding and describing the disturbing videos of people in the crowd being pushed together and how some continued singing and “they had no way to know people were dying in the very same crowd.”
The day after the Astroworld tragedy, our TikTok “for you” pages became flooded with videos that, at the least, could be described as disturbing. In particular, a video of someone on the ground trying to stand up, while screaming is heard in the background, has stuck with me. We were utterly confused by the first video but after spending 20 minutes scrolling, we had exposure to all different viewpoints of the story. But our experience is not unique, many other social media indulgers found out about the events the same way.
“Social media completely exposed me to the event,” said Hill. “Specifically, I saw a video of one of the paramedics at the scene sharing about the horrors of the incident.”
Watching the first-hand videos from the concert are bound to create an emotional response. Part of what makes the situation so impactful and unique is that the majority of Scott’s fan base is younger people, the same demographic who flock to TikTok. So much of the chaos was documented that the severity of the events are able to be interpreted by us not present and we are given the unique opportunity to decide how to place blame.
After a few days, our “for you” pages changed from videos from the Astroworld festival to videos from other concerts where the performer stopped their concert.
In 1993, Kurt Cobain stopped a Nirvana concert, jumping out of his seat, to stop a man who was reportedly trying to sexually assault a woman.
Adele stopped in the middle of her hit track “Rolling in the Deep,” at London’s Hammersmith Apollo theater packed with 95,000 people in 2011 when she saw a fan pass out, refusing to continue the show until she ensured someone was there to help.
During a concert in Argentina in 2018, Niall Horan stopped mid-song to say, “We don’t want anyone getting hurt or squashed. This swaying is very dangerous,” referring to the crowd growing very rowdy. Before starting again Horan said, “Let’s organize this before we go any further, OK? ….Your safety is my responsibility.”
A$AP Rocky stopped his concert in 2019 when he saw fans piling on top of each other, crushing against the barrier. “Everyone back up,” he yelled. “Pick them girls up,” he added while pointing to a group of women who were almost crushed. He confirmed fans’ safety before continuing.
Even in 2021 artists are stopping their shows. Harry Styles stopped his concert in Los Angeles, asking for the lights to be turned on in the house, questioning, “You okay? Would you like us to wait for a second?” before continuing singing to the crowd of almost 18,000 fans.
So, Scott, it’s really not that hard to stop performing and check up on everyone.
Claims can be made that he did not see the events taking place but how could one miss the flashing lights of ambulances in the crowd? Or the fans chanting “Stop the show! Stop the show! Stop the show!”
So, Scott and other artists, we plead that next time you see your fans struggling, you will do exactly that; stop the show!