Tragedy in Texas
A concert turns into a nightmare we’ll be processing for years
WHEN TRAVIS SCOTT was a kid in Houston, his favorite place on Earth was the local Six Flags amusement park, known as Astroworld. It shut down when he was 13, but he named his 2018 album after it, and created the Astroworld Festival at Houston’s NRG Park, its former site, aiming to re-create some version of his childhood dream.
At the third edition of the festival, on Nov. 5, 2021, during Scott’s headlining set, in front of a giant sculpture of the artist’s own face, Astroworld turned into a waking nightmare. At press time, nine people were dead after a crowd crush; at least 25 more concertgoers were seriously injured, including a gravely hurt nine-year-old boy, Ezra Blount, who had been watching the show from on top of his father’s shoulders. “I had no elbow room and no space,” Demarkus Bullock, a 28-year-old attendee who survived the concert, told ROLLING STONE. “Everyone was pulling. If that’s what hell is like, I never want to go to hell.”
Now, Astroworld will stand alongside Altamont and Woodstock ’99 as a shorthand for concert disasters, though it was far more deadly; a better comparison would be the 11 people trampled before a 1979 concert by the Who at Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati, or the nine attendees killed in another crowd crush while Pearl Jam played at 2000’s Roskilde Festival, outside of Copenhagen.
At press time, just days after the tragedy, more than 40 lawsuits had already been filed against Scott, show promoter Live Nation, and other targets; lawyers who had sued in prior concert tragedies predicted settlements in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Houston police were conducting a criminal investigation.
However blame is assessed — and there may be plenty to go around — Astroworld is a live-music catastrophe of historic proportions, one that hit an industry still reeling from the Covid-19 shutdown, with consequences still to be seen. As one concertinsurance expert told ROLLING STONE, “This is going to be something people are talking about 10 years from now.”