My experience at Astroworld 2021

Jude Papillion, Sports Editor

I attended Travis Scott’s Astroworld Festival in Houston on Nov. 5. While I expected to have a blast in Houston watching some of my favorite artists perform while taking time to relax from my busy life at school, what I experienced was far from relaxing.

50,000 people were at the sold-out festival, and everything from the food and beverage lines, to the merch lines, to the stages packed with those waiting to watch artists perform was hectic and packed with people. 

The festival only had four crowded water stations, two of which were located far from the action at the festival’s entrance. I went to numerous vendors at Astroworld to try to purchase water and was told that the only place one could get water was from a water station and you had to buy a cup with ice in it or come with a CamelBak or water bottle if you wanted to drink. This led to people beginning to pass out from dehydration long before Scott’s headlining set. 

While there were only two water stations near the action, there were seven bars that mainly served tall boy Cacti’s with numerous other vendors also selling alcohol but not water.

I waited for about four or five hours to see Scott perform instead of going to any of the other sets, and I was against the front barrier when Scott took the stage. As other sets began to finish, the number of people waiting to see Scott began to increase tremendously. There were people of all ages, mainly teenagers, but I was really struck by the number of kids that were certainly under 10 years old in the pit.

Eventually a 30-minute timer began counting down the time until Scott’s performance. Both sides of the pit at the festival were separated by a center stage and before the festival began, people on both sides of the stage began throwing water bottles, cans of Cacti or whatever else they could find to throw at one another. While security officers were originally giving bottles of water to people waiting for Scott’s set, this water bottle war eventually led to security refusing to give water bottles to attendees despite how hot it was inside the pit. 

As time further ticked down the clock the crowd began to push toward the stage. The crowd surge was not terrible at first, but once Scott opened his set with his new single “Escape Plan,” the crowd went berserk. I was not only being pushed towards the stage, but in all directions. There were so many people crammed together that I was levitating the entire time – I honestly do not remember my feet touching the ground.

Throughout the show, the crowd progressively became so tightly packed that I had a hard time breathing. It felt like I was drowning in a sea of humanity. There were several points during Scott’s set where I felt like I could pass out or have a heart attack at any moment from the force of the surge, but I had to force myself to fight through because leaving was not an option. Passing out meant falling and falling meant death or significant injuries at best from being trampled over. 

I was recording videos of the concert, and I remember holding onto my phone for dear life because I would have definitely been trampled if I dropped it and looked down to pick it up. Many people fell around me including one girl next to me who was nearly trampled, and I had to do whatever I could to get people out of her way so she could get up.

If you could get to them, the security guards were your only chance at being able to escape the mayhem, but many of the security guards were focused on watching Scott’s performance rather than helping anyone. I also saw several instances of security refusing to break up fights and mosh pits and help people get out. I even saw security officers spit in attendees’ faces. Aside from risking injury to crowd surf out, there was really no other way to escape or to call for help. There was no cell service, and the music was too loud for Scott to hear cries for help or those asking him to stop the show.

At one point during the show, an ambulance cart passed next to me very close to where Scott was performing. The ambulance – the same one that was later jumped on by kids in the crowd – could hardly move because people in its way had nowhere to go to get out of the way.

I was finally able to escape when the show ended; I looked like I had just emerged from the shower fully clothed. My entire body, mainly my chest and back, were sore for several days after. While leaving I saw a convoy of about 20 ambulances passing through the festival grounds and while I know that injuries are common at Scott’s shows, I had no idea that anyone had actually died. However, I was not surprised whenever the reports came out a few hours after the festival. While I don’t remember seeing actual police officers at any point during the show, armed officers began to force people to leave the premises after the festival.

Many should be held accountable for the events that took place at Astroworld. The organizers of the event, Live Nation, failed by being unorganized with a lack of medical supplies, adequate security and because they had the ability to stop the show. ScoreMore, the event’s promoter, had no plan for a surge scenario in their security plan. 

Scott also shares some responsibility. While it was likely hard for him to understand the true magnitude of what was going on in the crowd aside from whatever was being communicated to him by organizers, he did react to several things including the ambulance cart that passed through the crowd, and Scott paused his performance of “90210” when an attendee in the VIP section fell unconscious. But despite stopping his performance a few times, Scott continued to perform and still brought out Drake as a special guest which drove the crowd into even more of a frenzy. 

Many of Scott’s fans are also responsible for what took place that night. It felt like a lot of people there were far more concerned about trying to get as close to Scott as possible than they were about respecting the human lives next to them. I cannot believe that anyone would willingly trample another human being just to get closer to a performer. 

Astroworld was emotionally traumatizing for me because if things had gone differently, I could have definitely been among the injured or dead. My heart goes out to all of the people that were injured or died at Astroworld and changes need to be made to prevent scenarios like this from happening in the future because nobody should ever have to lose their life like this.

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