Last Updated on August 13, 2023 by asifa
Late last year, there was a tragedy at Astroworld, the Houston-area event that starred rap superstar Travis Scott. Many in the industry knew that Scott’s performances could be chaotic. His security knew that, concert promoters knew it, and his fans knew it too. His high-energy performances were part of what lured fanatics to go to his live shows.
Astroworld is now a name that has a dark cloud over it, and it seems unlikely there will ever be another one after what happened. Let’s examine the events that cost several young concertgoers their lives, and we’ll also talk about what happened in the larger music industry context.
Table of Contents
What Exactly Happened at Astroworld?
Many individuals love in-person musical events and attending live theatrical performances. If you are one of those who seek out the live experience, maybe you’re into Branson inspirational shows, or perhaps you travel to New York periodically to catch whatever’s hot on Broadway. If you attend musical extravaganzas, maybe you’re into rap, rock, country, or one of the many other genres that exist.
Those who attended Astroworld in Houston felt excitement for the live experience, but even considerably before the horror show that occurred during the Travis Scott performance, many posted messages on social media about problems earlier in the day. Crowds knocked down fences and barricades, and many of them did not have to show their tickets to the event staff.
Some posted about vendors serving them alcohol even though they did not have the appropriate wristbands indicating their age. Others talked about violent incidents, like eventgoers throwing water bottles at each other. Though at least 50,000 individuals attended, there did not seem to be nearly enough security to keep them all in line and acting appropriately.
Then, during the Travis Scott show, things got a lot worse. Night had fallen by that time, and several crowd surges caused those in the back to trample those in the front. Some were able to fight free, but others had to deal with what medical teams later called “compression asphyxia.”
What is Compression Asphyxia?
Compression asphyxia happens when someone cannot breathe. External pressure on the body causes it. It’s not uncommon when you have too many people in an enclosed space. That is precisely what happened at Astroworld: too many people tried to get too close to the stage, and the pressure of those behind essentially crushed those in front.
If someone wedges their body in the gap between two hard surfaces, they cannot breathe, and if they can’t get away or move, it can kill them. That is what doctors say happened to the unfortunate Astroworld attendees.
Ten people died during the crush. According to video taken at the scene, Travis Scott did nothing to help the situation. Instead, he jeered at ambulances and ignored cries for help, even when it was obvious that the event had gone horribly wrong.
Travis Scott’s History of Egging on Crowds
We spoke earlier about Travis Scott’s tendency to rile up his crowds. Many fans knew him for that, and they loved him for it. Some talked about a wild, unchecked aggression that felt cathartic. In the moment, it’s nice to let go of some negative emotions, some said.
That’s something similar to what happens at many live music shows where the band tries to tap into the crowd’s raw energy. You could look at similar situations with some death metal bands.
The difference, as many on social media pointed out afterward, is that Travis Scott seemed to enjoy when his fans put each other in danger. In fact, he would sometimes go so far as to hurl expletives at his own security team or local police officers at his shows for trying to help individuals who fell or were in danger of falling and getting trampled by other concertgoers.
If you look at videos of previous Travis Scott shows, this behavior pattern becomes very obvious. Astroworld was the perfect storm for Scott’s recklessness, though. There, the overcrowding and the push coming from those in the back trapped many who were unable to escape from the areas closest to the stage.
The Legal Ramifications
As you might expect, lawsuits are in the process of working their way through the courts following Astroworld. Many families that lost loved ones are forming a class-action suit that could cost both Scott and Astroworld promoters millions of dollars. Others pursue individual lawsuits. Many fans and detractors seem to agree that what happened does justify a large payout.
Scott has mostly kept a low profile since the concert. He expressed remorse after the incident, but it is a little hard to take his apology seriously. The main point that many families continue to convey is that Scott could see what was happening that night, but he did nothing to stop it. He continued performing, even when many screamed to stop the show, including his own security guards.
The charges should be civil rather than criminal, but it’s not inconceivable that criminal charges could come as well. That depends on whether a prosecuting attorney decides that what Scott did amounts to reckless endangerment or a similar charge.
Will Scott Serve Any Jailtime?
It doesn’t seem likely that Travis Scott will end up in jail for the part he played at Astroworld. What he did was probably not what anyone would describe as malicious, though it was careless and possibly negligent. What seems more likely is that his music career will end because of this and that he will pay some massive amount to settle with the families.
What This Means in the Music Industry’s Context
If we’re to talk about what Astroworld means in a broader context, we would be remiss if we did not compare it to other events where attendees died because of similar situations. Perhaps The Who performing in Cincinnati in 1979 is the example people know the best. On December 3rd of that year, The Who performed at Riverbend, a large venue. Eleven people died in a stampede, and major changes in crowd control measures resulted.
If you attend live events, there is no reason to think that something like the Cincinnati Who show or Astroworld will come to pass. You’re probably just going out for a night of fun, or possibly the first of several if you attend a multiple-day music festival. That doesn’t change the fact that these things occasionally happen, though.
Is there anything you can do to make sure nothing of the kind ever happens to you? The unfortunate reality is that to truly make sure you’ll stay safe from a crowd surge like what happened in these two instances, you’ll need to stay home and away from crowds entirely. If you love live music, though, or other live theatrical performances, you are probably not going to like that idea very much.
What Can You Do to Protect Yourself?
Every time you decide to go to a concert or live event, there is some risk involved. If you’re doing something like sitting in an orderly theater watching some standup comedy, a stampede is hardly likely. If you go to a play, the symphony, or an opera, you’re probably pretty safe.
When you go to a concert where there are no assigned seats, you’re getting into more dangerous territory. That’s also true when you’re going to an event like Astroworld, where tens of thousands of people surround you.
If you do decide to go ahead and take that risk, one thing you can do to stay safer than you’d otherwise be is to avoid the front of the crowd by the stage. There, thousands of people are behind you, and you have to consider their weight and mass. If something startles them and they stampede, or if they suddenly push toward the stage in a fervor to get closer to the musician or band, this sort of thing can happen.
Many people think Travis Scott deserves to pay some kind of retribution for his seeming carelessness or recklessness. No one can say how this situation will turn out, as there are dozens of individuals and families lining up to sue him.
There’s one thing that every music lover should take from this experience, though, and it is the knowledge that if you attend a huge live show like this, this kind of tragedy might occur. It’s nearly unthinkable, and yet, it’s a reality. Ten people lost their lives at Astroworld, the youngest only 14 years old.
It’s sobering to think that someone so young could lose their life due to something so senseless. It should give parents pause, though, if any of them consider letting their underage kids go to see their favorite artist or band perform live.
As for older individuals, it’s up to them whether they want to attend such a show. Let’s hope anyone who does will at least think of what happened in Houston and take whatever reasonable precautions they can.