TW: Graphic Content: This article does not aim to authorise any claims. It is merely personal opinion.
the power is in the hands of the performer…
A few days after November 5th, my social media became progressively filled with news reports, videos, and pictures of Travis Scott’s Astroworld tragedy. It was not until I delved into the horrors of people’s experiences and testimonies did I begin to feel shaken from it all, despite not even having been there. I started to feel incredibly enraged with what this tells us about the people we choose to idolise. About how abnormal it is for multiple people to die at a concert—somewhere typically associated with elation and liberation. But everyone who went had described it as hell. There have been apologetic statements by those involved, but nobody has taken real accountability. Needless to say, this event has impacted many people both physically and mentally.
Videos of Astroworld showed hundreds of people rushing into the venue, jumping over barriers, leaping over people’s heads to get in. The sold-out show had just been piled on with a vast number of extra people, something which should have been the first warning sign that the show would eventually spiral out of control. Travis Scott is consistently notorious for inciting dangerous behaviour at his concerts, including the encouraging of a boy to jump from a concert balcony: “Don’t be scared, they’ll catch you”, resulting in said boy breaking both his legs. Scott has been arrested twice for inciting his audience. This has led me to realise the sad truth that there was a sense of inevitability at a 50,000 filled festival (or likely more). The security team and concert arrangers should have been more prepared and this fills me with anger.
Everyone who I have seen on social media talking about their own encounters at the festival, fortunately, seem as if they had not been physically scarred, though many concerned people comment for them to seek therapy due to the gravity of their experiences. Every single account had described it as incredibly dystopian and uncomfortable, not how the atmosphere of a concert should be. Some say there were people passing out even before Travis came on stage, which should have been one of many other signs to call it off.
Whilst the crowd surge kept intensifying as Scott performed, more people would fall to the ground and get trampled, stepped on, and found themselves unable to breathe. People were blue, lifeless, and one person claimed bodies were unconscious for fifteen minutes. The first story I read on social media came from a girl who both witnessed people dying and nearly died herself. She became a leading figure in the situation as her concerns caused her to climb on a 15 Ft pedestal to alert the cameraman of what was happening. Shortly after, more paramedics were brought in. However, whilst people were suffering, the performer kept performing. People have reason to believe Scott was aware of the situation, as the event had classed it a mass casualty when an ambulance was acknowledged in the crowd. Haunting clips of the crowd screaming for it to stop, unconscious people being dragged out of the concert, having seizures, being resuscitated, and put on a stretcher still circulate a few weeks later. After all of this occurred, Drake was brought on stage after Travis specifically called out the ambulance. I could not imagine the fear of the people that were there. The youngest attendee was only nine years old and later died in hospital – another red flag that the festival was classed as all-age.
The power is indeed in the hands of the performer. There have been so many artists who have stopped performing merely because of one person passing out, needing water, or needing some space. Ironically, Travis has stopped his concert before when someone from the audience stole his shoe and then goaded on other audience members to beat him up. The question, then, lies in whether Scott should have stopped altogether, had he been fully aware of the casualties? Could the concert arrangement had been more preventative in its layout and security? Could they have had more medical staff for backup? It is these logistics that could have saved so many lives. There have been multiple lawsuits filed against Travis Scott for Astroworld and there are ongoing debates on whether he can be held liable after pleading guilty to inciting crowd behaviour and failing to stop the performance.
One should be sceptical of the celebrities they praise and idolise. We must question whether it is even ethical to continue to support Scott for the wrongdoings that took place at his concert. Whether people should idolise someone who is content with carrying on performing despite there being ambulances wading through the crowds. Tragic events like these will show us the reality of mistakes made in the industry, including purposefully cutting costs of medical staff due to capitalist tendencies. It may make us question how much artists care about the well-being of their fans. In another trajectory, one could question the privileges of the famous leading to narcissism that can lead one to gain an excessive sense of self-importance and a need for admiration. I believe that we unnecessarily put celebrities on a moral pedestal without being aware of their personal ethics. Sometimes, we give too much power to authority figures and it eventually causes immense danger such as this.
Those who died had bought a ticket to have harmless fun, and those who came out of the concert will be mentally scarred and traumatised for a very long time. Masses of people screamed for their survival and yet, they were muted by the concert still going. The media claims eight people had died but those at the concert swore there were hundreds, perhaps aiming to prevent a moral panic. Sadly, their lives were stolen.