We wrote about Travis Scott’s Astroworld festival in Houston last week in a positive sense, with Apple Music planning to stream the event live on Friday night. As you’ll surely have seen by now, that night ended in tragedy, with a number of deaths and hundreds of injuries.
“The crowd began to compress toward the front of the stage and that caused some panic and started causing some injuries. People began to fall out and become unconscious and that created additional panic,” said Houston Fire Department Chief Samuel Peña at a press conference.
For his part, Scott issued a statement saying “I’m absolutely devastated by what took place last night. My prayers go out to the families and all those impacted by what happened at Astroworld Festival. Houston PD has my total support as they continue to look into the tragic loss of life.”
Distressing footage shared on social media showed stricken attendees being given CPR as the concert continued. Understandably, this sparked criticism of the show going on for as long as it did before being called off, and the responses to Scott’s tweeted statement show that right now, he is the focus for a lot of that anger.
‘Why didn’t he stop the show? Didn’t he notice the people passing out in the crowd, or the ambulances?” is the gist of that criticism. But… the important questions here are more ‘Why wasn’t he told to stop the show? What was the chain of communication that failed when people were passing out and medical staff were struggling to reach them?’
In other words, the task of the investigations will be to establish who knew what, and when, about how serious the situation was rapidly and chaotically becoming. There is a lot of knowledge (both within the live music industry and outside) about how and why crowd crushes can develop, and how that should be managed.
That knowledge – Associated Press has a helpful article summarising some of it – will be crucial in understanding what happened at Astroworld, and where any failings were in the organisation.
People on social media rushed to judgement, and media articles are already picking over details of Friday, but the important thing will be for the investigations to do their work, with the full cooperation of everyone involved in the event: the organisers, Scott and his team, Apple Music (whose footage will be very important) and the people on the scene.