Is Astroworld The End of Travis Scott's Career?
On Friday night, the Astroworld Festival, which once served as one of the most hyped-up events of the post-pandemic world, ended in tragedy after artist Travis Scott (a.k.a Jacques B. Webster) took the stage before a crowd of 50,000 fans, seemingly catalyzing a deadly crowd-crush, one several survivors described as both “traumatizing” and “terrifying.”
“We stood there for two hours, as did every other person,” recalled an Astroworld attendee named Seanna in a now-viral Instagram post. “Every gap was filled, where your feet were placed was where they stayed. Energy rose as the time neared beginning the show. Within the first 30 seconds of the first song, people began to drown - in other people,” she continued.
Although they attempted to escape, Seanna says that she and her friend were trapped in the giant crowd. “There was no where to go,” she explained. "The shoving got harder and harder. If someone's arms had been up, it was no longer a possibility to put it down. So, people began to choke one another as the mass swayed. It became more and more violent," she said, noting that throughout the ordeal, she “saw terror in every eye that I met.”
By the end of Scott's set – which ran until 10:15 p.m., 37 minutes after the concert was declared a “mass casualty” event by local authorities despite LiveNation agreeing to halt the show at 9:38 p.m.– eight attendees were dead, with hundreds injured.
Among the victims was 27-year-old Danish Baig, who died while attempting to protect his fiancee from the deadly crowd surge. “He died trying to save his love of his life,” Basil Baig, Danish's brother, told Today. "My brother was trying to save her and he did. He saved her and it cost him his life.”
16-year-old Brianna Rodriguez, a member of her school's drill team who was passionate about dance, also lost her life at the event, according to the New York Times.
“Brianna was someone who performed with the band and was someone who could always make anyone smile,” her high school's band program wrote of their late member on Twitter. “Although she’s gone and she cannot perform with us anymore, we know she’d want to still enjoy our time in heights,” they continued, linking to a GoFundMe helping her family raise funds for her funeral (Scott later pledged to cover funeral expenses for those who died at the event, per CNN).
Astroworld's youngest victim was John Hilgert, a 14-year-old high school student remembered by his community for his kindness, smarts, and athleticism. “Everything about that night was a tragedy,” Tracy Faulkner, a parent of one of John's classmates who also attended the festival told the Houston Chronicle. “John was a good student and athlete and so polite," she continued. “He was the sweetest and smartest young man.”
As the heartbreaking accounts of what happened that fateful night have captivated and horrified the world, with Scott, LiveNation, and even musician Drake, who appeared as a surprise guest performer during the concert, staring down several lawsuits, one question remains – what happens now?
Although Astroworld is a unique catastrophe in several senses, it is far from the first music event to end in tragedy. In 1969, The Rolling Stones held a free concert at the Altamont Speedway in Northern California. Although touted to be the West Coast version of Woodstock which occurred roughly four months earlier in upstate New York, the concert wasn't nearly as well-planned or funded as its predecessor. Tapping members of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club to act as concert security, the event ultimately turned violent, leaving several people dead and even more injured.
Roughly 23 years later in December 1991, nine attendees were killed in another crowd crush outside of an oversold City College gym hosting a hip-hop celebrity basketball game. A judge later ruled that the incident, which also injured roughly two dozen others, was the fault of two separate entities -- the City University of New York, who ran the venue, and the game's promoters, rapper Dwight “Heavy D” Myers and a young Sean Combs, who would later garner international fame as rapper Puff Daddy – a.k.a. P. Diddy, according to History.com.
While both The Rolling Stones and P. Diddy were ultimately able to have careers following these tragedies, the same has yet to be seen for Scott. Prior to the heartbreaking events of Astroworld, Scott has garnered a reputation for creating and participating in “raging" environments at his concerts as well as seemingly inciting dangerous behavior at his shows, many of which “teetered on the edge of mayhem," according to the New York Times
After performing at Chicago's Lollapalooza music festival in 2015, Scott was arrested by Chicago Police officers and charged with disorderly conduct for encouraging fans to hop security barricades and storm the stage, Rolling Stone reported at the time. the artist's show was shut down after just five minutes due to the incident. Two years later in 2017, an attendee at one of his concerts in New York City's Terminal 5 was partially paralyzed after the musician allegedly encouraged him to jump from a third-story balcony, per the New York Times.
Considering this pattern of behavior, alongside the heartbreaking stories of the victims families, as well as the Astroworld survivors' terrifying, suffocating accounts of the evening, several fans seemingly felt compelled to share their anger, frustration, and heartbreak surrounding the tragic event.
While some called for a boycott of Scott's music, with one viral post instructing fans on how to essentially block the artist from streaming platform Spotify …
… others shared examples of other artists, including A$AP Rocky, Adele, Dave Grohl, and late Linkin Park frontman, Chester Bennington who stopped concerts after noticing dangerous or concerning behavior in the crowd.
Meanwhile, other viral posts called for the artist to take accountability …
… reprimanding Scott for continuing his show despite the fact that several fans were seemingly clearly in distress.
"My brother was laying on the ground. They were chanting to stop the event. Nobody stopped the event," Basil Baig told Houston's local ABC News affiliate, WFAA. “We need to stay united and bring awareness to this because this is not how you handle things,” he continued, adding that "you don't go to a concert to die."
Since the event, Scott has issued two statements surrounding Astroworld. “I’m absolutely devastated by what took place last night,” the artist wrote in an Instagram post the following morning, adding that his “prayers go out to the families and all those impacted by what happened at Astroworld Festival."
“I am committed to working together with the Houston community to heal and support the families in need,” he continued, thanking first responders for “their immediate response and support.”
Later that day, Scott shared an Instagram story reiterating several of these points as well as claiming that he was unaware of the horrors that were occurring from his spot onstage. "Anytime I could make out, you know, anything that’s going on, you know, I stop the show and, you know, help them get the help they need,” he explained, noting that he's working with local authorities as they “try to get to the bottom of this.”
“I’m honestly just devastated, and I could never imagine anything like this happening," he continued, shaking his head.
However, it seems not everyone is swayed by these apologies. “I hope Travis Scott loses his lawsuit regarding astroworld ," wrote gaming YouTuber, Mutahar Ana, in a now-viral tweet. “Dude has some serious responsibility and no shitty Instagram apology makes up for the lives lost.”
“The thought of travis scott going to find the right filter before recording his apology for EIGHT people dying at his show is insane,” added Twitter user @pollen196 in a post that has garnered north of 10,000 likes.
Even with this widespread public outcry against Scott, the data seemingly implies there is more to the story. Despite fans speaking out against the artists and some social media conspiracy theorists speculating that Scott is a demon and the entire Astroworld tragedy was a pre-meditated sacrificial ritual – between this and the whole Lil Nas X “Montero" fiasco, who could've guessed 2021's hottest trend would be the Satanic Panic 2.0 – the rapper's social metrics have only increased since the heartbreaking event.
Between Friday, November 5 – a.k.a the day of the Astroworld incident -- and Monday, November 8, Scott garnered a total of 182,944 new Instagram followers, according to data from social media analytics site, SocialBlade. This number is slightly more than three times the 50,204 Instagram followers he gained during the same period the week before.
While some of this could be attributed to the initial hype surrounding his festival, which was supposed to run throughout Friday and Saturday, considering the majority of these followers hopped on the La Flame train on Sunday alone – roughly 93,000 people, to be specific – it seems highly unlikely that this gut-wrenching tragedy served as some sort of sick Instagram “clout booster” for the artist. Rather, it's much more plausible that this increase in followers is a byproduct of wanting to see how the artist will continue to address the situation. Just as the heartbreaking clips of the deadly festival racked up millions of views on social media, with @seannafaith's graphic account of the event garnering nearly 1.5 million likes in a handful of days, the entire world is waiting and watching to see how, exactly, Scott will navigate this highly unprecedented tragedy, questioning if or how he will emerge from the wreckage.
In the days following the event, I, like many of my festival frequenting peers found myself inexplicably returning to the artist's social media platforms time and time again. With legal armageddon and the state of his career looming overhead – as well as those of other parties, including LiveNation, Drake, as well as several members of the Kardashian-Jenner family – Scott's every move is under intense public scrutiny, a testament to the mountain of lawsuits headed his way – 19 and counting at the time of publication, per Rolling Stone – and the ever-important judgment from the court of public opinion.
On a base level, however, the existential meaning behind “Astroworld,” a key facet of Scott's brand, has drastically shifted. Historically associated with Scott's apparent love and pride for his hometown of Houston, Texas as well as his 2018 album of the same name, the word has taken on a new meaning in light of these events. The word “Astroworld” will now and forever be associated with excruciating deaths, mourning families, painful injuries, and the heartbreaking experiences of those who, to paraphrase Seanna, drowned in other people.
Furthermore, Scott is seemingly taking a break from the public eye and performing as a whole. Aside from canceling the second day of the festival and issuing attendees a refund, the artist also backed out of his only other scheduled performance, which was set to take place as a part of the Day N Vegas festival later this month, Variety reported, with sources telling the outlet that Scott is “too distraught to play," as he damn well f--king should be.
Yet at the end of the day, the question of how long Scott stays out of the spotlight or what impact this has on his future as a musician doesn't really matter. if there's anything to be gleaned from this, it's that artists, promoters, and those in charge of large-scale events must do better. Eight young people lost their lives that night. We must do better, to honor them and their memories.