Travis Scott concerts are known for being raucous and rowdy. But the 2021 Astroworld Festival, where he was set to close out the first night of performances, went beyond expected levels of rowdiness when it took a deadly turn.
Footage from the day of his performance showed a throng of fans shoving their way through a VIP entrance, destroying it in the process. The massive crowd that formed before his show grew to around 50,000 people.
“I wanna see some ragers, man,” Scott said at one point during his Astroworld set, according to Reuters. “Who wanna rage?”
Scott is hardly alone in the entertainment world in the way that he energizes crowds, but his style and history have taken on new focus after the mass casualty event at his music festival in Texas.
At least eight people were killed and 300 were injured during Scott’s Houston set last week as the crowd of about 50,000 surged toward the stage. Concertgoers were crowded and trampled in the chaos, and witnesses described gasping for air or giving CPR to victims who’d fallen unconscious.
Scott, whose real name is Jacques Webster, said in a video statement he was “honestly just devastated” and that he stopped the show briefly when he noticed an audience member needed help and again when he saw an ambulance. He resumed the show after those pauses and continued to perform 30 more minutes after officials declared a mass casualty event at the festival.
But the crowding at Astroworld is in line with Scott’s brand of rowdy concerts where fans can go wild, said Noah Shachtman, Rolling Stone editor-in-chief.
“The warning signs on this one go way, way back, unfortunately,” Shachtman said in an interview with CNN’s John Berman.
Scott’s past concerts resulted in some injuries to fans and officials there for security and two arrests for the rapper. One concertgoer filed a lawsuit after he said he was paralyzed at a Scott concert after falling from a balcony. Scott and the other defendants have denied the allegations in the lawsuit, according to court filings.
He’s been charged with inciting riots at previous concerts
Scott has been arrested at least twice for incidents at his concerts. The first was during a 2015 Lollapalooza performance, when police said Scott told attendees to climb over security barricades, according to CNN affiliate WLS.
“The performer played one song and then began telling fans to come over the barricades,” Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management said in a statement to WLS at the time. “Due to the security’s quick response, the situation was remedied immediately and no fans were injured. The performer fled the scene and was taken into custody a short while later.”
Scott later pleaded guilty to misdemeanor reckless conduct and was sentenced to one year of court supervision, the Chicago Tribune reported.
His second concert-related arrest occurred in 2017 after a show in Rogers, Arkansas, where he was charged with inciting a riot, disorderly conduct and endangering the welfare of a minor. Police said Scott “encouraged people to rush the stage and bypass the security protocols,” which resulted in injuries. Two of the charges were dismissed in 2018, but Scott pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and paid over $6,800 to two people who said they were injured at his show, the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported.
One fan filed a lawsuit against Scott and several other parties after he said he was partially paralyzed at a Scott concert also in 2017. Kyle Green was “caused, to fall over a balcony” at a Scott concert in New York and was moved by security guards “without a cervical collar, backboard and other safety precautions,” according to a lawsuit Green’s lawyers filed against Scott, promoter The Bowery Presents LLC, company XX Global Inc., David Stromberg of Scott’s Cactus Jack company and security agency Strike Force Protective Services.
In a statement, Green’s lawyer Howard Hershenhorn said Green was “devastated and heartbroken” for Astroworld victims’ families.
“He’s even more incensed by the fact that it could have been avoided had Travis learned his lesson in the past and changed his attitude about inciting people to behave in such a reckless manner,” Hershenhorn said.
“Travis has to learn from what just occurred,” Hersehnhorn told CNN’s Don Lemon Monday. “And the truth is, and what’s so hard for Kyle about this circumstance and quite frankly for me as his attorney…is that he should have already learned.”
Scott’s high-octane concerts have become his signature
Violent mosh pits and chaotic crowds were first features of the ’80s punk scene, when fans, usually male, would thrash and collide to heavy metal and hardcore grunge, a result of fans experiencing “a shared euphoria and sense of emotional closeness,” UK psychologist Matt Jarvis told UK style magazine The Face. That same atmosphere has since been cultivated by rap stars like Scott and his contemporaries, including Tyler, the Creator and Playboi Carti.
Scott’s reputation as a rager has become his signature, and it’s part of his appeal to fans and concertgoers looking to let loose.
In a GQ interview posted in 2015 on “how to rage,” Scott said he wanted his concerts to feel like high-energy wrestling matches. He often encourages the crowd to match his energy level on stage, which often translates to jumping, dancing or forming mosh pits in front of the stage.
“You find anything you’re gonna use to consume to get you, like, lit … whether it’s your drugs, whether it’s your water, whether it’s your orange juice or your alcohol, do whatever you wanna do, man,” he said in the 2015 interview.
He’s also shared footage of fans toppling barricades and storming the entrance of the 2019 Astroworld Festival. The video he’s shared also included clips of fans violently moshing and what appears to be a security official carrying a body on their shoulders. That year, three people waiting to enter the festival were transported to the hospital after being trampled before the festival even started, CNN affiliate KTRK reported at the time.
Scott said that he wants his fans to “do them” and doesn’t try to control them.
“Sometimes the kids are just so into it that it just comes out of them,” he said in a 2017 GQ interview. “I always am just surprised by the things that happen at the shows.”
Astroworld deaths are still under investigation
The Houston Police Department’s investigation into what went wrong at Astroworld could take weeks, if not longer, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said. A civil lawsuit has already been filed against Scott, entertainment company Live Nation and promoter Scoremore.
Those killed range in age from 14 to 27, while three people remain hospitalized – with two in critical condition – as of Tuesday morning.
Scott said in his video statement that he was working closely with Houston authorities and other officials investigating to determine what went wrong. He has also pledged to pay for the funerals of all eight victims and offer refunds to all Astroworld ticketholders.