The online music community have been talking about one thing for days and that is the Astroworld disaster. If you’re reading my blog, you probably know what Astroworld is and what happened, but in case you’re not up to speed, I’ll explain and from there I’ll share my opinions.
If you Google Astroworld, you’ll find a few different things. Let’s go through them. Astroworld was the name of the Six Flags amusement park in Houston, which closed in 2005. It is also the name of a music festival and an album by Travis Scott. Who’s Travis Scott? He’s a rapper who is very popular and has had a lot of success. He had his own McDonalds meal. The 30 year old rapper has been releasing music since 2012. His last two albums, Astroworld and Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight, topped the albums charts. Singles wise, he’s been pretty successful with multiple top 40 hits. Travis Scott is also Kylie Jenner’s boyfriend and the father of Stormi.
The Astroworld in concern here is the music festival, held in founder Travis Scott’s hometown of Houston. The first festival was held in 2018 and his goals was to bring back his childhood, with the album being named after the old Six Flags park. The festival focuses mainly on hip hop, but this year, the lineup was more diverse with even some older acts like Earth Wind & Fire and rock acts like Tame Impala in the lineup.
For those of us who aren’t hip hop fans (I’m a total boomer when it comes to music), the first we heard of this festival was the stampede that happened this year, and that’s not a good look for any festival.
Tens of thousands of people woke up on 5 November excited to go to the first day of Astroworld and see their favourite musicians and to tell some cool stories about it when they get together with friends or post on social media, like all of us do when we go to concerts and festivals. Sadly though, as of the time I’ve written this article, nine people have lost their lives – most of them in their 20s and a couple teenagers, 300 people ended up injured, and 24 ended up in hospital because of their injuries. The second day of the festival was cancelled and Travis Scott is under fire because of the poor organisation that led to loss of lives, injuries, and psychological trauma. What caused all of this?
Music festivals are a big deal and there are tens of thousands of people gathered in one space and packed pretty closely together, uncomfortable in normal times, and even worse during a pandemic. As you can imagine, there was police presence, but that didn’t prevent the problem. Travis Scott has a history of safety issues at his shows, with him encouraging the crowd to ignore security and storm the stage at his 2015 Lollapalooza performance and there are a couple other occasions of similar things happening at his shows.
During the afternoon, hundreds of fans stormed the perimeter of the festival, knocking over metal detectors and running straight past security, already a disaster and a sign of poor organisation and crowd control. They could have nipped it in the bud and they didn’t. Things got worse as the day went on and in the countdown to Travis Scott’s long-awaited performance the crowd crush happened. People were running to the stage trying to get as close as they could to him. People fell over, people were trampled, and people were suffocated. Security staff pooh-poohed concert goers’ concerns and dismissed the surge as just a mosh pit. Travis Scott kept performing even when fans were crying for help and telling him to stop and put safety first. He ignored police’s warnings of the crowd surge and kept performing for half an hour amid people’s pleas for help and cries in distress.
Afterwards, Travis Scott and the Kardashian-Jenners posted canned notes app apologies that clearly looked like something written by a PR person. And now there are people filing lawsuits against Travis Scott and Live Nation, and even some people suing Drake as well. Travis Scott just now announced that he’s paying the funeral costs for all those who died at Astroworld and giving one month free of BetterHelp online counselling to anyone who attended the festival and of course it’s a paid partnership with BetterHelp. Not a good look, especially the latter. All I can say is read the fine print, be careful accepting refunds because if you take them, it may forfeit your right to sue. People are gonna need a lot more than one month of online therapy to manage PTSD. With a situation like this, you know the result is Lawsuit City.
There were calls online to ‘cancel’ Travis Scott because of his negligence. Is that correct?
Cancel Travis Scott?
While yes, investigations are ongoing, I have a bad feeling about Travis Scott from what I’ve read about him and the situation. Concerts and festivals are supposed to be safe. It’s a more than reasonable expectation that if you go to a concert, you should be able to return home, and not leave the concert in a body bag. Given Travis Scott’s history of promoting unsafe behaviour at concerts and lack of concern for safety, I’m not surprised this happened, but let’s not get it twisted, this is not a problem unique to hip hop and fans of other genres, such as say – rock and roll, should not be on their high horse acting like similar things would never happen at a rock concert and saying some casually or even overtly racist things about the crowd. Stampedes, crowd crushes, and poor organisation are not a racial thing. They have nothing to do with race. Crowd crushes happen at rock concerts too. Remember the stampede at The Who’s 1979 concert in Cincinnati that left 11 people dead? What about the 1991 AC/DC concert in Salt Lake City where three people died? The 2000 Pearl Jam concert in Denmark, where 9 people died?
What should Travis Scott and the festival organisers have done? Taken safety a lot more seriously. Done some things to prevent Perhaps take the pandemic more seriously and have some form of social distancing like spaced out assigned seating or something. And a big one: stop the concert! People’s safety is more important than music. You can always reschedule a concert, but you can’t bring people back from the dead.
Like it or not, Travis Scott is at fault here. With a big role of starting a music festival and reaping the rewards of that, there come many responsibilities and if something goes wrong, you as the boss are going to have all the fingers pointed at you. People aren’t going to blame the little workers, they’re going to blame the person in charge. I support those who are injured and the families of the victims in suing Travis Scott and the organisers of Astroworld. As well, shame on Kylie Jenner too for taking pictures and videos while ambulances were in the crowd and posting them on her Instagram stories and acting like nothing was going on instead of trying to help people.
Also to anyone defending Travis Scott, sure separate the art from the artist. I’m not gonna tell you what you can and cannot listen to and I know that music can bring people joy. I know this, I’m a huge fan of The Who, but I’m not going to defend everything they do and I understand if people don’t like The Who because of the concert disaster or something the band members did in their personal lives. It’s silly to waste time defending a celebrity who doesn’t know who you are and certainly isn’t paying your bills.
I never liked Travis Scott and I never will support him. And I will never buy any products the Jenners or Kardashians make. Sure, there’s no ethical consumption under capitalism, but there’s better choices than them and they don’t make anything so essential that I have to buy from them. Travis Scott needs to pay up, but even then, I’m sure all those families would rather have their loved ones back than some money. The families aren’t money hungry. They’re distraught, they’re devastated. I don’t care what you think of hip hop, anyone with a heart is heartbroken seeing the headlines.
Concerts are supposed to be a safe place of happiness, positivity, and togetherness, not places of death, destruction, and greed.