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ASTROWORLD: Understanding the Tragedy That Occurred and Where We Go From Here

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at ODU chapter.

*The ODU Her Campus staff sends our warmest regards and prayers to the families and friends of those lost and injured during the events of the Astroworld Festival that occurred on November 5, 2021.*

This past weekend, rapper Travis Scott hosted his third annual “Astroworld Festival” in Houston, TX where he welcomed various artists among himself to perform over a two-day period. 50,000 excited fans travelled near and far to see their beloved musical artists. However, the event ended tragically with eight audience members killed and hundreds more injured, according to the New York Times. While it is still unclear what caused the events to occur, and it’s still being actively investigated (at the time of this publication), many fans of Scott now have a new perspective on their favorite artist. 

“Once the show started [that’s when] the mosh pits started to form,” Old Dominion University student and attendee of the festival, Juan Varela said.  “That’s when things got hectic- you had no room to move and barely any air to breathe.”

On Friday night, things started to go downhill around 9 P.M. as reports of audience members collapsing to the ground,  as well as a stampede of audience members rushing to the stage began to occur. Scott’s fan base is known to be excitable, but the situation that occurred is not solely to blame on a group of devoted fans- it also has to deal with prior safety regulations that should have been addressed before the festival even began. According to The Washington Post, Houston lawyer Kurt Arnold stated that “what’s unique in this situation is that there was prior notice. This wasn’t a split-second situation like a sudden stage collapse.” Houston Police Chief Troy Finner, said that he spoke to Scott and Scott’s Head of Security before the festival began and mentioned his “concerns regarding public safety” at the event.

It is important to note that Scott’s concerts have a reputation for being rowdy to the point of hazard. An article from the New York Post, mentions how “crowd clashes are all part of Scott’s shtick, according to hip-hop critics.” Scott has previously been indicted for inciting violence at his concerts. According to reports from New York Post writers Jack Morphet and Jorge Fitz-Gibbon in music festivals from 2015 and 2017 he was charged “for whipping up hysteria and encouraging moshing that left a security guard and concertgoers injured.” According to court records, Scott pleaded guilty to reckless conduct for the events that occurred in 2015 and in 2018, Scott did plead guilty to disorderly conduct for the events that occurred in 2017.

While there is significant news coverage on the event, social media (specifically TikTok) is playing a crucial role in hearing the concert-goers’ stories and gaining an understanding for what exactly went wrong. This is being considered “visual forensics.” Multiple videos have been released showing audience members struggling to get security’s attention, as well as videos of people chanting “stop the show” while Scott continues to perform. According to The New York Times, the tragedy that happened this past weekend “appeared to be one of the deadliest crowd-control disasters in the United States in many years.” There have also been numerous TikToks surfacing on the internet compiling videos from other musician’s concerts showing celebrities such as Logic, Lil Pump, Billie Eilish and many more stopping their shows immediately when audience members are in need of medical attention. While Scott did stop to get paramedics to one of the audience members, he appears to have failed to recognize what was going on among the entire crowd in the midst of the events.

Varela recounts what happened as the events occurred saying that, “people were trying to escape and leave but they couldn’t because they had to fight their way through the other thousands of people that were there to see Travis. As the show continued and people started to collapse, there were people there trying to help people get out or get up off the ground.”

Varlea, being a longtime fan of Scott, has been to his concerts in the past. Because of this, when the worst began to happen he was in shock that anything could ever occur. “There were also people there who didn’t care about the people that fell and just wanted to get closer to see Travis. But once I got word that this girl next to me was dead, I was numb to it at first. This was because I was in awe of the show. I couldn’t imagine anyone even dying there but when I was in the crowd I definitely knew that someone was either getting hurt or going to pass out.”

With the high drug and alcohol use that takes place during events such as these, many are trying to figure out what exactly occurred to put so many audience members in need of emergency assistance. This investigation is currently being considered a homicide case. Yes, you read that right. The reason being is because reports have found evidence that some audience members may have been injected with drugs. According to The New York Times, “one security officer appeared to have been pricked in the neck as he tried to restrain someone at the concert.” The article goes on to say that “the officer passed out but was revived using Narcan, which reverses the effects of an opioid overdose.” However, this is still actively being investigated and the security officer is the only person who has been reported of being injected with a drug.

In a one minute and 30 second video posted on Scott’s Instagram story, he acknowledged what happened during the concert. While this video is being dubbed as his apology, it is important to note that never once does he actually apologize during the video. According to NBC News, Scott is refunding Astroworld audience members and will not be performing at his upcoming Las Vegas show which was to take place this coming weekend. Along with that, Scott appears to be covering funeral fees of those who died and even collaborating with BetterHelp to provide one month of free counseling to those who were in attendance and affected by the events.

So, What should have been done?

While there are multiple things that could have gone differently to prevent the tragic accident, there were warning signs from the very start. In an L.A. Times article interviewing Concert Safety Expert, Paul Wertheimer, he describes the issues that were not properly dealt with throughout the turn of events. 

Wertheimer stated: “this was preventable. The crowd was allowed to get too dense and was not managed properly- the fans were the victims of an environment in which they could not control.” 

Wetheimer also makes it important to understand that “the people who organize and approve these events are not held criminally liable for gross negligence. And as long as promoters, artists, security, venue, operators and city officials who approved these plans are not held criminally liable — this is going to drone on.”

Where do we go from here?

As music festivals and concerts are coming back after a year-long hiatus due to COVID-19,  it is important that we encourage celebrities and event planners for these concerts to heighten security, safety regulations and to put their audience first before anything. 

As fellow lovers of music and concerts, the events that occurred this past weekend will forever stick with us, as situations like these shed light on our so-called idols and their responses to tragedy which can re-shape the way we see them. It is important that as fans, we hold celebrities accountable for their actions and make sure future planning is thorough to avoid further tragedies.

Hi there! I'm Maura Olson the Editor-in-Chief of Her Campus at ODU. I am majoring in Journalism and minoring in Communications. I love writing, photography and participating in my extracurriculars.