Astroworld festival tragedy yet another security disaster

Jonathan Maya places flowers at a gate to NRG Park, after a deadly crush of fans during a performance the night before at the Astroworld Festival by rapper Travis Scott in Houston, Texas, U.S. November 6, 2021.  REUTERS/Daniel Kramer
Jonathan Maya places flowers at a gate to NRG Park, after a deadly crush of fans during a performance the night before at the Astroworld Festival by rapper Travis Scott in Houston, Texas, U.S. November 6, 2021. REUTERS/Daniel Kramer

There is a pattern emerging time and time again of high-profile events becoming dangerous, says Josh Rom

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What happened at the Astroworld festival is a tragedy, but if the reports are true, unfortunately it seems the events leading to the deaths of at least eight people could have been avoided.

After a pandemic where people have been at home for more than a year, partygoers want nothing more than to get out.

But there is a line that is being crossed time and time again, where events become dangerous. The Fyre Fest documentaries aired on both Netflix and Hulu which aired in 2019 revealed the dangers of influencer culture, in which grand ideas and big egos turn into logistical nightmares.

It’s difficult to control large crowds in confined spaces, but with a lack of planning and a dangerous gate-crashing culture, this becomes dangerous. This could be down to organisation, but this event has its own history.

The empty stage at the 2021 Astroworld Festival is seen days after a stampede killed at least eight concertgoers in Houston, Texas, U.S., November 7, 2021. Picture taken with a drone. REUTERS/Nathan Frandino
The empty stage at the 2021 Astroworld Festival is seen days after a stampede killed at least eight concertgoers in Houston, Texas, U.S., November 7, 2021. Picture taken with a drone. REUTERS/Nathan Frandino

The Netflix documentary Look Mom I Can Fly shows crowds getting out of control at 2018’s Astroworld. At the 2019 event, it’s been alleged 3 people were injured with reports coming from US reporters of insufficient staffing.

The main man behind Astroworld is Travis Scott, a rapper with a history of extreme incautiousness. He was arrested in 2015 and 2018 at the Lollapalooza and plead guilty to public disorder charges after inciting reckless behaviour in encouraging his fans in the crowd to jump over security barricades. However this new culture of encouraging fans to stampede that has been shown is unfortunately not isolated.

Travis Scott performs on stage at the 2018 MTV Video Music Awards held at Radio City Music Hall in New York, USA. Picture date: Monday August 20, 2018. See PA Story SHOWBIZ VMAs. Photo credit should read: PA/PA Wire
Travis Scott performs on stage at the 2018 MTV Video Music Awards held at Radio City Music Hall in New York, USA. Picture date: Monday August 20, 2018. See PA Story SHOWBIZ VMAs. Photo credit should read: PA/PA Wire

Just over the summer in the UK, police said a number of fans broke into Wembley Stadium during EURO 2020 and videos surfaced of fans pushing past the barriers and breaking through gates as Wembley Way also became rammed with a sea of football fans. Tragically it seems like Deja Vu with Astroworld.

On Twitter it’s easy to find video clips from local US reporters who were on the ground which show revellers rushing at the security gates, bypassing checkpoints, and even jumping over the fences to potentially gain unauthorised access to the event. It’s been reported even the VIP entrance was hijacked.

So much fake news circulates on the cesspit of social media, but if these videos are true, it seems that a selfish crowd culture is being developed where fans seem to think if they use enough force, they can trespass their way into events. There is a reason why tickets sell out so quickly for popular events. There has to be limitations on the number of tickets sold to avoid situations like these.

Yet this could be down to festival culture itself. It’s been reported that when the commotion properly started, revellers thought it was a ‘mosh pit’. This is a popular term for a dance at a music event where revellers push against each other in a huddle-like fashion to the beat of the music. This became dangerous when revellers struggled to get out and had problems breathing.

It has also been reported there is an ongoing investigation as revealed by Houston's police chief Troy Finner into potential spiking and other illegal activity after a security guard allegedly loss consciousness after feeling a prick in his neck.

What can be concluded here is that there is a multitude of factors led to the tragic deaths of teenage and adolescent revellers.

Crowd control at events has been an issue and there have been high profile examples of this, including in the UK. The trespassers combined with established norms of gig-culture are helping to create a cocktail of danger.