So much has been going horribly wrong lately. No sooner did I write an editor’s letter decrying the fact that the tragedy that unfolded on the set of “Rust,” killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, was 100% preventable had strict gun safety protocols been followed, than another deadly incident took the lives of 10 people at Travis Scott’s Astroworld festival in Houston.
Both catastrophes were the result of human error. Our music writers Jem Aswad and Chris Willman
posted a story on Nov. 10, titled “A Ticking Time Bomb,” saying how the victims’ lawyers and many in the general public were laying much of the blame squarely on Scott for not stopping the concert when chaos ensued and for “riling up an already unruly crowd, well after the festival had been declared a ‘mass casualty’ event.” Multiple online videos backed up those assertions. The first reports of people being trampled in the stampede came at 9:30 p.m., and Scott’s set went on for another 40 minutes before being shut down, even though he paused a couple of times when made aware of what was happening.
“It’s fair to say that Travis misread the crowd,” Aswad tells me.
The popular rapper has a history of provoking rowdy and dangerous behavior at his concerts and had been arrested twice for incitement to riot and disorderly conduct.
“He’s a rowdy performer, and his audiences know that,” says Aswad.
Our story pointed out that despite the sellout crowd that night, Scott had tweeted, “We still sneaking the wild ones in,” as cited in one of the lawsuits. Again, alarming video footage captured throngs of ticketless fans breaking through the entrance gates at NRG Park and destroying the security equipment as they raced into the stadium. Even the supposed heightened security and stronger fencing that were put in place after fans breached the barricades of a past Astroworld concert in 2019 didn’t keep the mob out.
Scott and promoter Live Nation are likely to be among those held accountable for the hundreds of injured concertgoers and the multiple deaths that included a 9-year-old, a 14-year-old and a 16-year-old. We’ll obviously learn more as the investigations attempt to piece together what happened and who’s responsible, but so many questions remain unanswered at this point.
I asked Aswad if he thought anything more could have been done to prevent this tragedy. He says, “It’s not clear how many inexperienced people were working there, and there could have been more barriers. There could never be enough security to control a crowd of 50,000 people if they’re getting unruly.”
As for what more can be done at future concerts, Aswad suggests: “More barriers, better-trained security and the threat of strong legal action when performers continue to rile up a crowd after being told not to.”