Travis Scott’s $5 million solo stage, clock 'hype' may have led to Astroworld tragedy
Sources have claimed that a stage built primarily for Travis Scott's performance at the Astroworld Festival on Friday, November 5, coupled with the artist's chosen set time may have contributed to the crowd surge that claimed the lives of eight concertgoers.
The hotly-anticipated event drew more than 50,000 people to Houston’s NRG Park, where the line-up included industry heavyweights SZA, Lil Baby, Roddy Ricch, and a surprise appearance by Drake among others. However, despite being billed as a two-stage event, Astroworld apparently ignored the standard festival protocol of hosting performances on opposite stages as Scott was the only headliner on the ominously named "Chills" stage.
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Speaking to Variety, insiders with knowledge of the incident said that the stage used by Scott, also dubbed "Utopia Mountain," was constructed at a cost of a staggering $5 million per the artist's visual specifications. The one-time-use structure purportedly took three days to build, complete with pyro, lasers, risers, and a virtual tunnel. The flamboyance of the platform was visible from virtually any area at the concert venue, but that didn't prevent fans from parking themselves in front of the stage more than eight hours before the headlining set was due to start at 8:45 pm. Attendees were pushed up against metal barriers as they likely felt the surge of thousands scrambling to the front en masse following SZA's set that ended at 8 pm local time.
According to sources, having Scott go on 45 minutes later as opposed to overlapping slightly with SZA's set could have led to the debacle. Live music professionals often host artists on different stages as part of what they call "spreading the field." The practice is deemed a key facet of crowd control at a large-scale event like the Astroworld Festival.
“That could be looked at as a fuck-up,” one source told Variety of Scott’s solo set, which started just after 9 pm and ended at 10:10 pm. They offered that the situation may have been exacerbated after Astroworld’s general admission (GA) set up in a non-traditional venue and a countdown clock to Scott’s performance. “You have a big open space and these metal barriers that, when people run, you can’t climb over them. This was a young crowd, high fandom, and a lot of intensity," the insider added.
Travis Scott's #AstroWorld Festival in Houston, Texas turns deadly. The music concert has been canceled for Saturday.— Ricky (@RickyG_TV) November 6, 2021
- 8 people dead
- 23 hospitalizations
- 300 people treated
- around 50K people compressed the stage, people began to panic,“fall out” and become unconscious. pic.twitter.com/xhheassfrJ
Eyewitnesses reported that the clock "hype" beginning at 8:30 pm and counting down to 9 pm possibly fueled the surge. “The crux of the problem likely happened as the clock got close to zero,” the source added. “Now people are going to be asking: Who knew what was going on? Were they aware that there was an ambulance call on the floor? And why didn’t they stop the set?”
You want to be at the #AstroWorld without ticket, just to watch Travis Scott and Drake on stage— Molatsportgist 🇳🇬 (@chubbyMO_) November 6, 2021
Now your action has killed and injured innocent lives 🤦♀️pic.twitter.com/9GcGVNPEHo
According to Variety, another way the disaster could have been mitigated was by having the festival take place in a venue with fixed seating, as observed in an arena, amphitheater, or stadium. "Even with a GA floor, assigned seating keeps the majority of ticket-holders in fixed positions," the report stated, noting how recent upgrades to arenas had eliminated “concourse level” areas that made it easier for attendees to sneak into sections for which they did not have the tickets.
While representatives for Scott declined to comment, Astroworld’s promoter Live Nation released a statement addressing the tragedy. “Heartbroken for those lost and impacted at Astroworld last night. We will continue working to provide as much information and assistance as possible to the local authorities as they investigate the situation," they said.