Concert culture: what happened at Astroworld?

Caroline Hendrix, Senior Writer

The Astroworld music festival two weekends ago has left the future of concerts up in the air. According to the New York Times, 10 people have died and over 300 were hospitalized from injuries related to a crowd surge. It still seems up in the air as to what really happened that night, specifically as to why the concert did not stop earlier to limit the amount of people injured. Is there anyone to blame? And what can be done to make sure that this never happens again?

It is easy to blame the crowd for what happened. Their lack of crowd etiquette and neglect for the safety and care of the concert goers around them is one of the most obvious sources of the deaths that arose from the Astroworld disaster. But this is not the first time that a concert has faced fatalities. Though the frequency of this cause of death is rare considering the large number of concerts that run smoothly and safely without injuries or casualties, it still happens, and so it is important to analyze the aspects of concert structure that create a possibility for such a disaster to occur beyond the individual wrongdoings of crowd members. Particularly, the lack of effective communication between producers, Travis Scott, the police and medical experts during the concert.

There are videos circulating on social media that show Travis Scott continuing the show after seeing an ambulance at the center of the crowd. There are also videos of concert goers climbing onto the stage to try to get the attention of cameramen to stop the show. Insider explained that Travis Scott continued his performance for over 30 minutes after it was declared a mass-casualty event by Houston police. Multiple different entities were made aware of the injuries and deaths in the crowd, yet there was seemingly no communication between them that would lead to stopping the show when the injuries first began. And it was not the lack of officials and medical experts at the show – Houston Police Chief Troy Finner through Insider said that the “police presence [of 530 officials] at the event had more than tripled since the first year Astroworld was held, in 2018.” Effective and constant lines of communication between all entities who are involved in the operation and functioning aspects of the show is integral in order to prevent any future disaster from growing to the extent that it did in Scott’s case. 

Seamed into the structure of the concert is the culture surrounding what it means to be a concertgoer. Nabil Ayers’s essay featured in the New York Times encapsulates the magic within the concert culture, providing insight into the concert setting from a sociological perspective. “We feel a rush when we push things to the edge, especially when we do so in communion with others. And even if the crowd is rowdy or scary, there’s unity in surviving it, a fellowship in trauma,” Ayers said. I have gotten the opportunity to attend concerts and can attest to this feeling. There is something so special about looking around to all the people around you who are all connected in a common interest of an artist or genre of music. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, the desire for this unified experience is strengthened. Over the course of 2020 and into the first half of 2021, people were awaiting the day that they would be able to experience their favorite artists and festivals live again alongside their friends and family and the strangers that Ayers explains they feel a “fellowship” to. But with buying a ticket comes a responsibility to respect the safety and health of the people around you as well as a trust in the people running the festival or concert to have your best interest, along with that of the other concert goers, at heart. These two factors as well as effective communication between organizers are imperative in order to have safe events in the future. 

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