November 11, 2021

By Dr. Valerie Wardlaw

Contributing Writer

 Fans of the multiplatinum rapper, Travis Scott (born Jacques Berman Webster II), will immediately tell you that you must experience his live show.  Scott who is also aptly called by many - the master conductor and crowned king of crowd surfers, stage divers, and chief encourager of the chaotic, is reportedly devasted by the deaths of eight people and injuries to hundreds of fans who attended the latest installment of his “Astroworld” music festival at NRG Park in Houston, TX.

On Friday, November 5, 45 minutes after performer, SZA, ended the final set on Astroworld’s second stage, a massive countdown clock heralding the arrival of Scott, a native Houstonian appeared, and as the clock moved closer to zero, according to several concert goers, - the hype, the rush, the excitement, and the chaos began.  “All of sudden, people compressed up against each other and were pushing forward and backward.  As the timer got closer to coming down to zero, it just – it got worse and worse,” according to ICU nurse and festival attendee, Madeline Eskins.  Another concert goer, Niaara Goods, told the Associated Press that “as soon as he jumped out on the stage, it was like an energy took over and everything went haywire.  All of a sudden, your ribs are being crushed.  You have someone’s arm in your neck. You’re trying to breathe, but you can’t.”  Local authorities stated that during the performance, attendees struggled to breathe, collapsed, and got trampled as the crowd surged toward the front of the stage.

Houston Fire Chief Sam Peña said officials started receiving reports of injured people falling unconscious shortly after the crowd surge and victims were being transported as early as 9:38 p.m. “It seemed like it happened over the course of just a few minutes,” said Peña. “Suddenly, we had several people down on the ground experiencing some type of cardiac arrest or medical episodes. And so, we immediately started doing CPR and moving people.”  Scott reportedly stopped the concert a few times, first to acknowledge an ambulance in the crowd asking, “what is this?” He later expressed concern as a few concert goers seemed unwell. 

"Last night was tragic on many different levels, and this is a very, very active investigation," Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said. "And we'll probably be at it for quite some time to determine what exactly happened." 

Turner said the concert was officially stopped just after 10PM.  According to city officials, eight people died, 300 people were treated at a field hospital onsite at Astroworld, 25 people were hospitalized, and as of Saturday afternoon, 13 concertgoers remained hospitalized.  The festival is now being called a “mass casualty event” with the victims ranging in ages from 14 to 27; John Hilgert (14yrs), Brianna Rodriguez (16yrs), Franco Patino (21yrs), Danish Baig (27yrs), Jacob Jurinek (20yrs), Axel Acosta (21yrs), Rodolfo Pena (23yrs), and Madison Dubiski (23yrs).

In a video statement on Instagram, Scott said he did not realize the extent of the emergency.  “I am 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.  The Houston PD has my total support as they continue to look into the tragic loss of life.  I could just never imagine the severity of the situation.”  Representatives for Scott said he would cover all funeral costs for those who died at Astroworld and all concert attendees who bought tickets would receive refunds. 

Scott has canceled his upcoming appearance on Saturday at the Day N Vegas festival. 

The rapper, Drake, who performed alongside headliner Scott also took to Instagram to express his emotions, “I’ve spent the last few days trying to wrap my mind around this devasting tragedy.  My heart is broken for the families and friends of those who lost their lives and for anyone who is suffering.  I will continue to pray for all of them and will be of service in any way I can.  May God be with you all.”

A bona fide showman, Scott is no stranger to mayhem at his concerts; in fact, he envisions his concerts as experiences where no standing around is allowed.  In the 2015 Netflix documentary, “Travis Scott:  Look Mom I Can Fly,” the rapper said, “I have been working on this since I was about six years old.   I feel like at some points in life, you have to be extreme … all matters to the extreme.”

In a 2015 GQ interview, Scott discussed his childhood fantasy of becoming a professional wrestler and his desire to make his concerts “feel like it was the WWF.”  “Raging and, you know, having fun and expressing good feelings is something that I plan on doing and spreading across the globe,” Scott said. “We don’t like people that just stand — whether you’re Black, White, Brown, green, purple, yellow, blue, we don’t want you standing around.”

In 2017, one concertgoer was partially paralyzed after Scott encouraged people to jump from a third-floor balcony and then had him hoisted onstage.  It was commonplace to find footage of fans in wheelchairs, on stretchers, and crutches across social media platforms after attending an Astroworld event.  Fans reveled in Scott’s bold stunts - the more dangerous, the better, with one fan declaring “coming to Astroworld saved my life, we are family.” 

At a Chicago Lollapalooza festival, the rapper’s set was cut short after he told fans to rush the barricades, flip off security and chant, “We want rage,” resulting in the injury of a 15-year-old girl.  Scott pleaded guilty to reckless conduct and was put under court supervision for a year.  In Arkansas, at another 2017 concert, Scott was again arrested where he was charged with inciting a riot for encouraging fans to rush the stage.  He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for disorderly conduct. 

In the summer of 2018, Scott released his third album, “Astroworld,” that featured his first Billboard No. 1 single, “Sicko Mode,” with the artist Drake.  He would go on to receive eight Grammy nominations.  Scott described the album as “One of the best albums of all times.”  He launched his Astroworld festival named for a defunct theme park near Houston that featured a roller coaster that shot out over the audience.  Astroworld ran successfully for two years but did not take place in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  Ever the masterful marketer, Scott, performed instead inside the video game Fortnite with 28 million viewers watching.

Houston officials are continuing to determine the cause of death for the victims and multiple narratives, including the crowd surge, people being trampled, and the injection of others with drugs are being investigated.  Houston Police Chief Troy Finner has asked that “officers are allowed to investigate before a rush to judgment.”  As of this writing, the FBI has joined what is now being called a criminal investigation. 

Category: News