Astroworld Festival Tragedy Raises Concerns About Concert Safety

Live events, particularly concerts and music festivals, are supposed to serve as a place of  entertainment – a place where everyone can enjoy themselves without worrying for their safety. Unfortunately, concerts can become dangerous if they are not executed correctly and lack the proper resources to maintain civility, which seemed to be what happened at Travis Scott’s latest concert. On Friday, November 5, 2021, Scott’s Astroworld Festival in Houston, Texas quickly went from a night of live music to a night of chaos when a crowd surge resulted in severe injuries and fatalities among concert goers. 

While standing at the front of a crowd at a packed show can provide an incredible experience, it can also become very overwhelming once the crowd begins to push forward. The crowd at the Astroworld Festival took typical concert behavior to an extremely alarming – and dangerous –  level. During Scott’s performance, eight fans ranging from the ages of 14 to 27 were trampled to death as the crowd became out of control. Hundreds of attendees suffered injuries from the show, with many requiring hospitalization.  One of the most pressing questions since this show is: how could this have even happened? Surprisingly, it seems there may have been a series of events that led up to this incident. 

Astroworld Festival
Travis Scotts’ Astroworld Festival at NRG Park on November 5, 2021 quickly went from a party to a tragedy. Photo credit: Hollywood Reporter

Although the investigation into this incident is only a few days old, there have already been multiple concerns brought to light. When the crowd pushed forward during the show, many attendees claimed that they struggled to breathe due to the pressure, with some attendees collapsing and passing out all together. Those who collapsed were immediately vulnerable to being trampled by the crowd. And with the chaotic atmosphere, it was just as easy to become lost and separated from friends. 

Concert goers were not the only ones at risk during the event – a security guard suffered a neck injury when he was hit in the neck while trying to restrain an attendee. Upon further medical examination of the security guard, it appeared that he had been pricked with some type of injection by his attacker. Not only is it an issue that a security guard was attacked during an event, but it’s also a concern that this attendee had been able to bring a needle into the event at all. Concert security has been significantly ramped up over recent years, with some entrances being comparable to airport style security. How was the Astroworld Festival managed in such a fashion as to allow this to occur? 

Some of the main concerns at issue include how the crowd surge had been able to occur and what prevented anyone from finding ways to escape once the surge began. One of the biggest and most immediate issues was that there had been no way for the fire officials to communicate with the festival medic group working the event. When the crowd surge began, the lack of contact between the fire officials and the medics prevented immediate assistance to the injured and resulted in an overwhelming amount of people being brought for medical attention at the same time. Had there been a more efficient method of communication, there’s a chance that many of these injuries could have been treated quickly enough to help make a difference. Since this investigation is still so young, many factors are still being worked out, with the venue capacity, utilization of the space, and ultimate reason behind the crowdsurge still being assessed. 

The chaos among the crowd was clearly visible to Scott during his performance on stage. Scott stopped his show four separate times to ask the crowd if they were okay – each time he just continued on with his show. While it may be argued that it’s hard for Scott to have known the severity of what was going on in the crowd, it should have become clear to him that something was really wrong when an ambulance drove through the audience. Scott had complete authority to stop the show and listen to the pleas for help coming from the crowd, but instead he continued to perform and fed the chaos. Scott’s conduct, however, was only one of the many factors that contributed to these fatalities. 

Travis Scott performs on day one of the Astroworld Music Festival at NRG Park on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021, in Houston. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP)
Scott stopped performing multiple times to address the chaos taking place in the crowd, but failed to help his fans. PhotoCredit: SkyNews

It’s not surprising that lawsuits have already been filed in the wake of this event. So far, there are multiple cases being brought by the injured attendees or the families of those who had been killed at the event, all of which name Scott as at least one of the defendants. One of the lawsuits brought by plaintiff Manuel Souza, names Travis Scott, Live Nation, and ScoreMore as the defendants. In his claim, Souza argues that the defendants “consciously ignored the extreme risks of harm to concertgoers, and, in some cases actively encouraged and fomented dangerous behaviors.” Those who are bringing lawsuits on behalf of family members who died at the event are alleging that the tragedy was preventable, and was a result of the poor management of Astroworld. 

Unfortunately, the Astroworld Festival is not the first show to see such fatalities. In 1979, a crowd surge at a Who concert at Cincinnati’s Riverfront Coliseum resulted in 11 deaths caused by a crowd surge. One of the main issues at this show was the seating. A majority of the approximately 18,000 tickets sold for this event had been for general admission as opposed to assigned seating, which would have been more likely to maintain structure at the show. Since general admission tickets require attendees to arrive early in order to get a spot close to the stage, several thousand fans could be found outside the arena waiting for the doors to open so they can rush inside to obtain a good spot. Interestingly enough, this particular crowd surge occurred at this concert before the show even began. When the fans waiting outside heard the Who perform their sound check, fans panicked and forced their way inside, believing that the show had begun. However, the band had not been informed of the severity of the issue and they continued on with their performance, not knowing what had occurred until they had completed the show. Though different from the Astroworld incident, the incident at the Who show is another example that security and organization of a live show is absolutely imperative to ensure the safety of attendees. 

Sure, mosh pits and tight crowds are part of the “concert experience.” But is that really actually enjoyable? At what point will this aggressive nature change? It should be interesting to see the outcome of these lawsuits and whether Scott will be held accountable for such a reckless show. At the very least, maybe this will cause other performers to pay more attention to the safety of their fans during live shows.

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