Visitors cast shadows

Visitors cast shadows at a memorial to the victims of the Astroworld concert in Houston on Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021. 

Around 50,000 fans, supporters, and concertgoers alike joined Travis Scott’s third annual Astroworld Music Festival Nov. 5 in Houston for what they thought would be a night of fun and good music. Instead, they were met with devastation and fight-or-flight responses when a massive stampede erupted, killing 10 people, including a nine-year-old boy and injuring hundreds.

According to a security and emergency medical response plan, it's reported Astroworld staffers were instructed to call potential dead attendees “smurfs” while witnesses said the victims turned “black and blue.”

Several consequences have occurred following the aftermath of the tragic events, including a $750 million lawsuit filed in a Houston civil court on behalf of more than 125 fans. Refunds are being issued to all Astroworld ticket buyers, video game developer Fortnite severed ties with Scott, and he said he would cover the funeral costs of the deceased victims. He has also partnered with BetterHelp to offer a free month of therapy to all the show attendees.

Many questions arise on the structural makeup of the festival and how it was handled internally from all involved including Scott and others. Multiple media outlets report Houston officials questioned the safety due to its capacity.

Also, Jackson Bush, a security guard who worked the event, told new stations he did not see the 56-page event operations plan approved for Astroworld. He said he didn’t feel prepared to work the event and was not given a background check, nor had he done any other security jobs outside of working at a bank.

Astroworld’s impact has not only affected Houston, but it's also left a lasting impression for those involved with St. Louis’ local music scene, including artists, artist management & consulting, publicists, and promoters.

Asia Mobley, a publicist, who describes herself as a professional concert-goer, attended this year’s Astroworld and said security definitely dropped the ball.

“I was standing, I turned around, and this emergency cart was behind me. ‘I’m like, ‘where are they going?’ There wasn’t really anywhere for them to push through the crowd while they were trying to drive through the crowd,” she said. “I will say that's where they messed up. That goes back to logistics, security, and the festival director because it didn’t make sense how they did it.”

She continued and said how the festival had two different stages. The smaller stage featured artists such as SZA, Roddy, Ricch, and Lil Baby, while the main stage featured Scott by himself. She admitted the medical team was at the smaller stage across from the bigger stage, making it difficult to receive medical attention.

Sierra “SieNote” Brown, a curator and project manager, said she believes in not only holding Scott and his team accountable for the festival, but said she thinks Scott should be held accountable in general for a past comment he made about Mike Brown, stating he “probably deserved consequences.”

“A lot of these celebrities who have these cult fanbases, stan fanbases, and large number fanbases don’t really tap into the real world and the reality of what’s going on with other people,” she said. “He needs to be held accountable for his ignorance. You’re uneducated, and you’re choosing not to be informed. You[‘re] grown as hell, got a kid, and you’re a Black man. You need to be on your ‘P’s and Q’s’ at all times.”

In addition to the festival’s operation and Scott’s past offensive comment, she also said he should be held accountable for his behavior in encouraging “raging” and ignoring the event’s capacity requirements.

“He incited a riot and needs to be held accountable,” she said. “He needs to be more in tune with his crowd and pay attention to people.”

Kourtney “Kourt With A Kay” Harris, an artist part of the rap-punk rock band Midwest Avengers and artist manager, said if an event like Astroworld had taken place in St. Louis, certain protocols would need to be in place to prevent the outcome.

“You can definitely begin to have a five-level protocol for anything that happens as an artist when you bring people to STL, or when you have people at your show, I think everybody should have that so that their fans can feel more connected and respected,” she said.

Mobley said she wouldn’t have suggested Scott post the video he shared expressing his sentiments about the festival from a public relations standpoint.

“I would have not suggested that he put out that video because whether he was being genuine or not, it leaves people to perceive it as how they want to perceive it,” she said. “Now people are making jokes about it, and it's a meme now when people have actually died. People are still in the hospital. It's so much that’s still going on. I would just lay low and do the work behind the scenes because what has been said so far hasn’t really impacted or changed anything about the situation.”

Alonzo Townsend, co-CEO of Knox Entertainment and founder of TownsendX3 Agency LLC, extended his sympathy to everyone affected by the festival. He said he hopes this is a wake-up call for everyone who works behind the scenes with artists.

“My heart goes out to everyone affected, and it's a lot from young to old that’s affected,” he said. “I really hope this puts in perspective how many levels and how many pieces of the recipe goes to being an artist, providing events and experiences for your fans, and how many details you have to pay attention to.”

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