/Astroworld Updates: Crowd Surge at Travis Scott Concert Leaves 8 Dead – The New York Times

Astroworld Updates: Crowd Surge at Travis Scott Concert Leaves 8 Dead – The New York Times




At Least 8 People Killed at Astroworld Music Festival

Several people died and dozens of others were injured at the Travis Scott concert in Houston, after a large crowd began pushing toward the front of the stage. Video showed crowds amassing earlier in the day, as about 50,000 people attended the festival.

If everybody good, put a middle finger up to the sky. “Aye, aye, aye, aye!” “Mosh pit! Mosh pit! Mosh pit!” “Let’s go. Let’s go. Let’s go.” We had an attendance of approximately 50,000 to the Travis Scott Astroworld Festival event. What we do know is that at approximately 9 o’clock, 9:15, the crowd began to compress towards the front of the stage, okay, and that caused some panic, and it started causing some injuries. People began to fall out, become unconscious, and it created an additional panic. We won’t know the cause of death of the eight that are confirmed until the medical examiner has completed his investigation.

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Several people died and dozens of others were injured at the Travis Scott concert in Houston, after a large crowd began pushing toward the front of the stage. Video showed crowds amassing earlier in the day, as about 50,000 people attended the festival.CreditCredit…Amy Harris/Invision, via Associated Press

At least eight people were killed and dozens more were injured at a music festival in Houston on Friday night after a large crowd began pushing toward the front of the stage, the city’s fire chief said at a news conference.

The crowd surge, during a performance by the rapper Travis Scott, “caused some panic, and it started causing some injuries,” said the Houston fire chief, Samuel Peña. The concert was part of the Astroworld music festival, a two-day event that began on Friday. About 50,000 people were there on Friday night, according to the Fire Department.

“It was like hell,” said Nick Johnson, 17, who still had his concert bracelet on as he spoke Saturday morning. “Everybody was just in the back, trying to rush to the front.”

In a statement posted on Twitter, Mr. Scott said that the Houston Police Department had his “total support” as it investigated the deaths. “My prayers go out to the families and all those impacted by what happened at Astroworld Festival,” he wrote. “I am committed to working together with the Houston community to heal and support the families in need.”

On Instagram, the event organizers said that they were “supporting local officials however we can” and that the second day of the festival had been canceled.

Twenty-three people were taken to nearby hospitals by emergency responders, Chief Peña said, adding that of those patients, 11 were in cardiac arrest. Over 300 people were treated at a “field hospital” at the site, he said.

The exact causes of death will be determined by the medical examiner, who is investigating the incident, Chief Peña said.

Chief Troy Finner of the Houston Police Department said that many details about the disaster were still unclear, including what had caused the crowd to surge forward.

Credit…Onacasella, via Reuters

“I’m sending investigators to the hospitals because we just don’t know,” Chief Finner said. “We’re going to do an investigation and find out, because it’s not fair to producers, to anybody else involved, until we determine what happened, what caused the surge.”

“It happened all at once,” Larry Satterwhite, the executive assistant chief of the Houston police, said at the news conference. He said that at one point, several people in the crowd fell to the ground and began experiencing what he called a medical episode.

The company organizing the festival, Live Nation, agreed to stop the performance early in the interest of public safety, Chief Satterwhite said.

It appeared to be one of the deadliest crowd-control disasters at a concert in the United States in many years, recalling the 1979 crush outside the doors of a show by the Who in Cincinnati that left 11 people dead and stunned the nation.

Similar episodes have occurred at venues around the world, during performances of all genres of music. In 2010, 21 people died in a crush at an electronic dance music festival in Germany. Ten years earlier, nine people were killed at a Pearl Jam concert in Denmark. There also have been tragedies at concerts involving fires or shootings, including the 2003 nightclub fire at a heavy metal concert in Rhode Island in which 100 people died.

Like some of those performances, Friday’s event was “hectic from the beginning,” according to one concertgoer, Neema Djavadzadeh.

“I got there around 3 and saw people already struggling to stand straight,” she said on Saturday. “There was a lot of mob mentality going on, people willing to do whatever to be in line for merch, food, shows, you name it. A lot of fights broke out throughout the day.”

“Travis Scott, he took pauses to point at the crowd to say, like, ‘Go help them — they’re passed out,’” Angel Rodriguez, a concertgoer, said on Saturday morning. “He did it like three times. He pointed to the area where it was and said for everybody in the area to go help them and bring them to the front.”

Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement on Saturday, “What happened at Astroworld Festival last night was tragic, and our hearts are with those who lost their lives and those who were injured in the terrifying crowd surge.”

Dan Bilefsky contributed reporting.

Credit…Callaghan O’Hare/Reuters

Mayor Sylvester Turner, a native Houstonian, has known the family of Travis Scott for years: Mr. Scott’s mother, his sister, his grandmother.

Though he is not close with Mr. Scott, he has sought to support Houston artists like the rapper. Now, after the deadly crowd surge at Friday’s event, he is pledging a “thorough review and investigation.”

In a telephone interview on Saturday, Mr. Turner said that there had been roughly 11 people in cardiac arrest at the show, though he cautioned that the causes of the deaths at the concert were still under review.

“We had more security over there than we had at the World Series games,” he said, noting that the event took place on county property, with security organized by the city of Houston. The Houston Police Department provided hundreds of officers, he said, “in addition to what I’m told were 240 or 250 non-police security that were there.”

He said it was too early to say whether the security operation was adequate or what led to the eight deaths. “I’m going to hold any sort of conclusion pending a thorough review and investigation,” he said.

“We do know that there were several cases of cardiac arrest. What was the cause of that?” he said. It was too early to determine whether any of the deaths were connected to drug overdoses, he said.

“I don’t even want to go to drug overdoses,” he said. “We are looking at all potential causes of this incident or what caused the cardiac arrest. We’re not taking anything off the table.”

The mayor said that preliminary reports suggested that most of the injuries occurred “in one particular area. This was not all throughout the front part of the staging area.”

Investigators were reviewing video, interviewing witnesses and talking to those who were transported to hospitals, he said, adding that the injured included a child as young as 10 who had been treated for injuries. Overall, the mayor’s office said, the ages of the dead ranged from 16 to 23.

“This is a young crowd,” Mr. Turner said.

The mayor said he has longstanding connections to Mr. Scott’s family. “I’ve worked with the family, I’ve worked with Travis, I’ve worked with his mom,” he said. “This is a tragic case and that’s why I want a very, very thorough investigation of this.”

Mr. Turner said that he believed that Mr. Scott was devastated by the event, but that he had not yet spoken to the musician or his family. “This is the last thing any of them wanted to see happen,” the mayor said. “I’ve sent him a text. I haven’t spoken to him personally.”

Credit…Ken Murray/EPA, via Shutterstock

As the sun rose in Houston on Saturday, the scene outside the stadium was quiet. A few flashing lights and signs by the roadside declared that the festival has been canceled. “Astroworld canceled,” the signs read.

At a hotel across the street from the stadium, officials had set up a “reunification center” for victims’ families. The police said that a “trickle” of families had come through so far, and that they expected more to arrive as people begin waking up and seeing the news of what happened.

A deputy sheriff, Tristan Birl, came by the hotel to check on his 18-year-old cousin who had traveled down from Dallas to go to the concert, her first big trip on her own. He was relieved to find out that she made it out safe and was with her friends. She didn’t see any of the injuries that happened, he said, relaying a conversation they had had.

Accounts on social media, which could not immediately be verified, described people gasping for breath in the crush of the crowd during the event and calls for help going unheeded. Videos showed one person climbing up onto a riser, where a cameraman was working, and calling for the performance to stop, shouting that people were dying; other people can be heard insulting him and telling him to “calm down.”

Investigators said that they had not yet reviewed video from the concert but that Live Nation had promised them access to it.

Officials said there had been an earlier crowd surge at the entrance to the festival, but that it seemed to be unrelated to the chaotic events that unfolded later.

“Our hearts are broken,” Judge Lina Hidalgo of Harris County, which includes Houston, said at the news conference. “People go to these events looking for a good time,” she said, adding, “It’s not the kind of event where you expect to find out about fatalities.”

The two-day event, called the Astroworld festival, was started in 2018 by Mr. Scott, who is from Houston and who named it after a best-selling album he released that year. The lineup for this year’s festival included Roddy Ricch, Tame Impala, Earth Wind & Fire and Yves Tumor, among others.

Tanya Djavadzadeh, 30, a political communicator who attended the event, on Saturday described it as “a mess.”

“We saw a fight break out because one guy was pushed into another person,” she said. “Many people were very obviously heavily on drugs to the point of no control.”

“I’ve been to so many concerts and festivals and have never experienced anything like this,” she said.

Credit…Jamaal Ellis/Houston Chronicle, via Associated Press

The chaos began when Travis Scott came out, one concertgoer said on Saturday morning.

“Everyone was just in the back, trying to rush to the front,” said Nick Johnson, 17, still wearing his red concert bracelet outside a Wyndham hotel across the street from the NRG stadium where the concert had taken place. “I don’t think it was anyone’s fault. I just think after Covid, after quarantine, everyone just wanted to like, you know what I mean …”

As people in the crowd jostled to get closer and closer to the stage, “you could just feel it more and more and more,” he said, “squishing, everyone screaming, not being able to breathe.”

Even as people started passing out around them, others tried to help, he said, but there was no room to move.

His friend Angel Rodriguez added: “I turned around and saw someone with their eyes closed, passed out.”

The pair, high school seniors who had come to Houston from the nearby town of Friendswood to attend the concert with several friends, said that many in the crowd had been wearing hoodies because it was so cold outside, but that inside the venue it became sweltering.

“It was hard for me to get good air,” Nick said. “It was probably over 100 degrees with everyone around you.”

Through all of this, Travis Scott kept the concert going. “I just don’t think he realized what was happening,” Nick said.

The teenagers said they had gotten separated from many of their friends, but that they had since found out that all of them were OK.

“Once people pushed forward, people pushed back, and I could see groups of people falling over,” said Angel, whose white canvas shoes were now brown and torn from all of the people who had walked on top of his feet. He said he had seen people unconscious on the ground, with others trying to help them up.

“Everyone wants to have fun — this shouldn’t happen,” said Nick said, with Angel adding softly, “Nobody expected to die.”

Molly McNamara, 22, said that she had attended other Travis Scott performances, but that the atmosphere at this one had a different energy.

“He was way different onstage this time,” she said of the rapper. “He usually wants people to riot, but he was more intuitive to the crowd — but it didn’t seem to work.”

“I honestly blame the crowd for not taking care of each other,” she added. “I’ve seen Travis multiple times live, and it gets crazy in the crowd, but never have I seen people disregarding unconscious bodies to fend for themselves.”

Vanessa Johnson, 20, a college student visiting from San Antonio for the concert, said she had also seen a 2019 performance by Mr. Scott during which similar — if much less intense — scenes had played out. “I’ve been to a lot of festivals, and people always pass out.”

But at points, it became clear that something had gone wrong.

“They were doing CPR in the crowd,” Ms. Johnson said, and concertgoers were shouting out, “Who knows how to do CPR?”

Credit…Jamaal Ellis/Houston Chronicle, via Associated Press

The crush of the crowd was so intense that it left no room to move, those who attended the Astroworld music festival said in its aftermath.

“You can literally jump in the air and you’re there in the air — it’s like if your hands are up, your hands are staying up, there’s no bringing your hands up, bringing them down,” Vanessa Johnson, 20, said on Saturday.

Then they got pushed up to the front, said her friend Julian Ponce, 21, who was a few feet from the barriers during Travis Scott’s performance. “We just kept hearing, ‘Stop the show, stop the show!’”

Still, they said, it didn’t seem as serious at the time.

“People usually pass out at concerts like that,” Ms. Johnson said. “I just thought they were passing out; I didn’t think people were actually, like, dead.”

The two are college students from San Antonio and had come to Houston for the concert. Mr. Ponce described seeing a man carrying a woman who had passed out.

“There was one big dude carrying his girlfriend, and she was passed out, and he was pushing through everybody to get her out,” he said.

Ms. Johnson recalled many people shouting, “Move! Move!”

She said she had also seen a 2019 performance by Mr. Scott during which similar — if much less intense — scenes had played out, adding, “I’ve been to a lot of festivals, and people always pass out.”

At points, it was clear something had gone wrong.

“They were doing CPR in the crowd,” Ms. Johnson said, and concertgoers were shouting out, “Who knows how to do CPR?”

They said they had come to a hotel across the street from the stadium where officials had set up a “reunification center” on Saturday because they had not yet found one of their friends.

He was not at a hospital, so far as they or the friend’s family could tell. He also was not in police custody, they were told.

“A lot of people lose their phones,” Ms. Johnson said. “We’re just hoping that he lost his phone.”

Credit…Suzanne Cordeiro/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Videos posted on social media from concertgoers show a chaotic scene near the stage at Travis Scott’s Astroworld festival performance in Houston on Friday night, with some people in the crowd pleading for help and others unaware of any serious problems.

One video appears to show the rapper taking notice of the presence of an ambulance, pausing and then resuming the performance.

The concert was attended by 50,000 people, officials said, and investigators said they would examine video from the event to determine what happened.

In one 25-second video posted on Reddit, a young man in a white T-shirt climbs onto a riser from which a cameraman is recording the concert. A person in the crowd yells for the young man to get down. The young man responds: “People are dying,” and adds, “I want to save somebody’s life.”

As the young man seeks help, Mr. Scott can be heard on the stage. The clip ends with the voice of another man saying, “People in the pit will take care of them.”

In another video, this one posted on YouTube, Mr. Scott is onstage and tells the crowd: “I want to see some rages. Who want to rage?” Moments later he says, “There’s an ambulance in the crowd, whoa, whoa, whoa,” apparently trying to calm the commotion.

For several seconds, there is no music at the concert. Mr. Scott looks toward the crowd and around the stage before looking at the crowd again and appearing to ask what is happening. The red and blue lights of an ambulance can be seen amid the sea of people.

Then, Mr. Scott says, “If everybody good, put a middle finger up in the sky.” The video shows the ambulance in the crowd, surrounded by people holding their phones, many with a middle finger extended as instructed.

Then two men who appear to be part of Mr. Scott’s entourage approach him on the stage. He shoos them away and turns to the crowd, asking those present to put “two hands to the sky.”

Another person tells the crowd, “Two hands up, two hands up.” The video shows the performer raising his hands in the air, with the ambulance visible amid the crowd of fans.

“Y’all know what you came to do,” Mr. Scott says to the crowd. Then as the music resumes, he urges the crowd to make the “ground shake.”

The concert, which continued for about another 30 minutes, ended with Mr. Scott waving to the crowd and jogging offstage as he said, “I love y’all. Make it home safe. Good niiiiiiight!”

Credit…Amy Harris/Invision/Associated Press

Since emerging from Houston in the early 2010s, Travis Scott has become one of rap’s most ambitious figures, pushing the boundaries of entrepreneurship and of the artist’s role as a purveyor of branded products and fan events.

The Astroworld music festival, now in its third iteration, is named after his 2018 album “Astroworld,” which drew debate in the music industry over Mr. Scott’s extensive use of retail bundles, using various merchandise items — sweaters, T-shirts, ashtrays and more — to help drive sales of the album and boost its position on the Billboard chart. Despite those sales tactics, Mr. Scott remains a major draw on streaming services. The album and festival refer to a defunct Houston amusement park, AstroWorld, that the rapper “visited countless times as a child,” according to a festival announcement.

Last year, Mr. Scott teamed up with McDonald’s for a limited-edition burger meal and became a prime player on the frontier of music and virtual reality when he gave a special performance on the video game Fortnite, drawing 28 million viewers. He even had a special edition of Reese’s Puffs breakfast cereal.

As an artist, Mr. Scott, like the superstar rapper-singer Drake, is a descendant of Kanye West, with eclectic musical and cultural influences — his “fun-house-mirror maximalism,” as the New York Times music critic Jon Caramanica once put it — central to his approach. Booming trap drums, the energy of punk rock and old-school hip-hop samples all turn up in his work.

The song “Sicko Mode,” a No. 1 hit from “Astroworld,” had a remarkable 30 songwriting credits, thanks not only to its elaborate production but samples from the Notorious B.I.G., Gang Starr and Luke from 2 Live Crew (which brought with it an additional sample from the vintage disco group KC and the Sunshine Band).

Even the artwork draws from disparate sources. “Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho,” Mr. Scott’s collaboration with the rapper Quavo, has a cover by Ralph Steadman, who illustrated Hunter S. Thompson articles in Rolling Stone in the 1970s.

Along the way, Mr. Scott has earned a reputation for concerts that feature high-concept stage production as well as wild, chaotic energy from his audience, as seen in the Netflix documentary “Look Mom I Can Fly.”

Mr. Scott’s Astroworld festival is one of the latest of a slew of major artist-curated events, like Jay-Z’s Made in America and Tyler, the Creator’s Camp Flog Gnaw festivals. But Mr. Scott’s reputation as an innovator has given it prominence. This year’s event had a diverse lineup, with hip-hop and R&B stars like Lil Baby, Roddy Ricch, Young Thug, SZA and 21 Savage, along with the Latin pop sensation Bad Bunny, the rock band Tame Impala and the 1970s funk heroes Earth, Wind & Fire.

This year’s festival included a week of events tied to Mr. Scott’s label, Cactus Jack, and his nonprofit, the Cactus Jack Foundation, whose mission, according to a statement, is “to empower and enrich the lives of youth by providing access to education and creative resources to ensure long-term success.” According to an announcement, a portion of the proceeds for the festival were to be donated to the foundation.

Among the events were a golf tournament, a softball game, the unveiling of a design center for Houston youth and the Texas premiere of “Red Rocket,” a film by Sean Baker.

When Astroworld 2021 was announced, Mr. Scott said its theme was “Open Your Eyes to a Whole New Universe.”

Credit…Jamaal Ellis/Houston Chronicle, via Associated Press

The deadly crowd surge at a Houston music festival on Friday night was the latest volatile incident at concerts by the rapper Travis Scott. His concerts are known for chaotic mosh pits, crowd surfing and stage-diving, and the artist, who has been dubbed “one of contemporary hip-hop’s most energetic and disruptive live performers,” often encourages the behavior.

In 2017, a concertgoer, Kyle Green, said that he had been paralyzed and had to use a wheelchair after being pushed from a third-story balcony and then dragged onstage while the rapper performed at the Manhattan venue Terminal 5.

Mr. Green sued Mr. Scott and his manager, the concert promoter that runs Terminal 5 and put on the show and the security company Strike Force Protective Services over what his lawyer called “negligence, carelessness and recklessness.”

Video from that performance, a sold-out concert, shows Mr. Scott encouraging fans on the second-floor balcony to jump into the crowd below. “Don’t be scared,” he can be heard saying as a spotlight illuminates one dangling concertgoer. “They’re going to catch you.”

Howard Hershenhorn, a lawyer for Mr. Green, said his client did not jump, but was pushed from the third floor as the crowd surged toward the ledge. Video from that night shows Mr. Green lying still on the floor of the venue.

Mr. Green suffered fractured vertebrae, a broken left wrist and a fractured right ankle, “resulting in extreme pain and suffering, loss of earnings, emotional distress and medical expenses,” the lawsuit said. His lawyer said that Mr. Green would not have been paralyzed if he had been given prompt medical care.

The case was stayed after one of the parties in the case went bankrupt, and was then delayed further by the pandemic, Mr. Hershenhorn said on Saturday. Live testimony is scheduled to begin in the case on Dec. 7, and Mr. Green and Mr. Scott are expected to testify.

The lawsuit also argued that Mr. Scott had “incited mayhem and chaos at prior events,” including an arrest in May 2017 for inciting a riot at a concert in Arkansas. The rapper pleaded not guilty, and the charges were dropped in a plea deal in which Mr. Scott pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and paid $7,465.31, according to the Springfield News-Leader.

In 2015, the rapper pleaded guilty to charges of reckless conduct after encouraging fans at Lollapalooza in Chicago to climb over security barricades and onto the stage.

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