Opinion: Astroworld’s tragedy could have been prevented

Writer analyzes event, effects of big concerts

A graphic made by Neena Sidhu shows the Astroworld art from the 2021 festival. In the attached article, Sidhu discusses what happened at Astroworld and what people can learn from it. Astroworld was held Friday, Nov. 5 at NRG Park in Houston.

Neena Sidhu

A graphic made by Neena Sidhu shows the Astroworld art from the 2021 festival. In the attached article, Sidhu discusses what happened at Astroworld and what people can learn from it. Astroworld was held Friday, Nov. 5 at NRG Park in Houston.

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Nine people dead. 17 hospitalized. Unacceptable. Avoidable.

Every social media platform lately has been flooded with headlines and stories about rapper and Houston native Travis Scott’s Astroworld Fest. Whether that be one of roughly 50,000 attendees’ experiences, other people’s opinions or news articles, every aspect of the festival seems to be all that is being talked about in the entertainment and music industry.

The third-annual festival, named after Scott’s 2018 album, “Astroworld,” had original dates of Friday, Nov. 5, and Saturday, Nov. 6, at NRG Park in Houston. However, it was only the first day of the concert when reports of at least nine people being killed and hundreds injured and/or hospitalized due to a crowd surge toward the front of the stage when Scott came out. Fans as young as nine to their 20s are reported to be fighting for their lives.

In all of the terror, some say that they were unaware of any deaths or others passing out due to how big the crowd was.

Members of the crowd said it was packed so tightly that there was no room to “move their heads” and that “it was hard to breathe.” The devastating deaths and injuries are reported to be from suffocation and from being trampled, but victims’ causes are still being investigated by local police and fire departments. Eric Daniels, who attended Astroworld with his son, told CNN that he witnessed “pure chaos,” and that he and his son saw limp bodies and people being given CPR. There are also several lawsuits against Scott and the other entertainment companies involved.

Confirmed reports from the Houston Police Department say that attendees may have been injected with drugs, possibly fentanyl or roofies, during a crowd surge. Houston Police Chief Troy Finner also spoke at a press conference Saturday, Nov. 6, where he said that the medical staff at the festival reported a security officer was administered Narcan after he collapsed after trying to restrain an attendee.

 Mayor Sylvester Turner told CNN that there are investigations led by the Houston police and fire departments that “will probably take weeks, if not longer.”

To hear people’s stories in a detailed account, CNN has posted various attendee’s viewpoints on the events.

Since Friday night, hundreds of attendees have given their accounts of the events to different media outlets, and have been sharing their experiences on TikTok, Twitter and Instagram. Even people who were not in attendance are giving their opinions on the cause of the chaos – including who is at fault – and Scott’s response to the events. 

People who attended overall have been expressing how they believe the crowd, security and crew is more to blame for how the concert escalated to the point that it did, rather than just Scott himself. There are videos of attendees climbing on the camera platform asking for help, and the cameraman telling them to get down. This in itself is inexcusable, because crew members were made aware of the severity of the situation.

Many people, including myself, believe that Scott should be held responsible for victims’ funerals and lawsuits against him. Scott not stopping the show is barely justifiable to a point, because people passing out at concerts, especially rap ones, is very common. Though the crowd shouting for help could have just sounded like screams to him, Scott did eventually stop the show at one point to say, “Who asked me to stop?” while there were people dying – and he just brushed it off.

Scott, Drake, Kylie Jenner, other performers, NRG Park and Live Nation have all released statements in some form about the events. Scott did finally say that he would pay for the victims’ funeral. Scott’s video statement has been circulating as insincere and forced. 

One of the biggest points that is being stressed is Scott’s history of dangerous behavior when it comes to his concerts.

A video from a 2015 Openair Festival concert in Switzerland of Scott spitting on a fan and encouraging others to fight him for stealing his shoe has also been resurfacing. Some people claim that this video was Scott talking to the 9-year-old fan that was reported to have died at Astroworld, even though this video was taken six years before. Although Scott does have a violent history, this is one example of the misinformation that has been spreading since Friday. Videos of this conflict can be found online.

On May 14, 2017, the Rogers Police Department in Arkansas posted on Facebook that Scott was arrested after his performance at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion for encouraging people to rush the stage and bypass the security protocols. According to the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, in 2018, Scott pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, and the other charges were dismissed.

There were also reports of Scott encouraging people to sneak into Astroworld this past month, which did end up happening. As a result, the crowd was bigger than it was intended to be. According to CNN and Complex, Houston’s police chief spoke with Scott about safety the week before the event, and someone who knows Scott personally warned him about the crowd’s “energy.”

Another recurring point being brought up is the theme of the festival itself. The festival’s art features hands with eyes on palms and in a dark sky looking down on a planet. The phrases on the website and seen on the main stage read, “See you on the other side” and, “Open your eyes to a whole new universe.” Overall, the theme had a much darker and dystopian feeling than the past two years, which had a more light-hearted, amusement park theme.

Attendees also reflected before Scott’s set began, which was playing eerie music that consisted of just frequencies. The frequencies were said to be ones that create uncomfortable and anxious feelings. Additionally, a burning dove could be seen on the set, which people claim to be linked to some satanic rituals. People believe that these symbols and parts have a deeper meaning than just a part of the theme. Twitter and TikTok are filled with people that believe the deaths were a part of a sacrifice.

Personally, I believe that the events at the Astroworld Festival were not a ritual or sacrifice, but rather a series of sad, unfortunate events due to the reorganization of the festival and the carelessness of the crowd.

No matter what people’s personal feelings are on this situation, the loss of life and the injuries were heartbreaking. In the end, a lesson can be learned from this. Over the past few weeks, various rap concerts have been canceled in North Texas for logistical or safety reasons. Post Malone’s annual Posty Fest was to be held from Oct. 30-31, and ended up being canceled for unclear but “logistical” reasons, the description sent in an email to ticket holders. Playboi Carti’s concert was canceled in Houston and postponed in Dallas due to security getting injured at a previous venue.

Astroworld Fest was held outside, and Posty Fest was set to, as well. Outside concerts and festivals overall have a better chance for people to sneak in – which can be very dangerous – just like we have seen at Astroworld. Indoor concerts can still be just as dangerous, but the things people bring in are also more regulated, so the chances of getting needle spiked or drugged are less.

Security also played a major part in the festival’s demise. Having better and private security on top of the venue’s security is something that could ensure people’s safety is better protected. Astroworld was said to set to be a rage – a high-energy concert – but attendees said that because of the poor security, it escalated and became an outright “unsafe environment” that caused people to “fight for their lives.”

Astroworld Festival was an experience that people, there or not, can learn from. We can learn how to prevent tragedies at concerts from happening. We can learn how to hold the artist accountable. And, finally, we can hope and pray for the victims – for their families – and for those who were injured.