Opinion: After festival tragedy, Travis Scott must be held accountable

Travis Scott isn’t known for calm, cool, and collected concert performances.

His headlining appearances make headlines.

In 2015, the Houston rapper encouraged Chicago’s Lollapalooza audience to climb over security barriers and storm the stage

In 2017, after encouraging fans to bypass concert security, Scott was arrested in Rogers, Arkansas, and charged with inciting a riot, pleading guilty to a misdemeanor for disorderly conduct.

And earlier this month, ten people were killed and hundreds injured at Scott’s Astroworld Festival on Friday, Nov. 16. 

Two high school students, Brianna Rodriguez and John Hilgert, and nine-year-old Ezra Blount, were among those who lost their lives at NRG Park in Houston. Blount, according to his father’s GoFundMe post, died from ‘”brain damage” and “trauma to nearly all organs.”

It’s a simple concept – purchasing a $179 two-day Astroworld Festival ticket should provide fans with a chance to see some of their favorite performers on stage. Not be trampled, crushed, and compressed to death as the audience surged that stage.

Festivals with thousands and thousands of teens and college-aged fans in attendance — serving alcohol, outside in the heat — are not without their dangers. Dangers acknowledged in the fine print on the back of ticket stubs. 

But those dangers should not be encouraged — especially by the man behind the microphone.

The Astroworld Festival should serve as a wake-up call for artists to recognize the power of their voice To recognize the importance of discouraging danger rather than condoning reckless acts and behavior — which in Scott’s case led to unjustifiable and inexcusable harm.

In the wake of the Astroworld tragedy, a video resurfaced of Miami rapper Lil Pump, stopping his set and encouraging the audience and paramedics to assist a fan suffering from a seizure at the Wireless Festival in London in 2018.

Pump can be heard saying, “Paramedics, somebody’s having a seizure! Yo, call paramedics, come on.” 

Acknowledging the dangers of concert culture — where water can be expensive, lines long, and audience members intoxicated — Pump advised “[if] anyone takes any type of drugs or anything, please drink water,” before festival staffers distributed water to the audience.     

While Pump pumped the brakes on his performance, Scott didn’t follow suit. Scott failed to pause the show, even as fans pleaded for the set to be stopped, as members of the crowd experienced cardiac arrest, as several concert-goers lay unconscious on the ground… 

While Scott’s past performances can be characterized by a lack of concern for audience safety, by a lack of care for his fans, Scott’s Astroworld Festival set and its aftermath are nothing short of nightmarish.

And while appalling, this horror story shouldn’t come as a surprise. 

With Scott’s pattern of reckless performances, who would be naive enough to think that Travis Scott headlining a festival with 50,000 fans would be a harmless eventIn his hit 2018 single “STARGAZING,” Scott himself glorifies the chaos that seems to define the rapper’s performances: “it ain’t a mosh pit if ain’t no injuries / I got ’em stage divin’ out the nosebleeds.”

iPhone footage captured Scott laughing at a fan climbing a tree as ambulance lights light the crowd, Scott ushering away security guards alerting him of the audience’s panicked state, and Scott blatantly ignoring audience chants to “stop the show” as fans struggled to breathe due to the sudden surge towards the stage.

More appalling than Scott’s behavior at the event was his response that followed – an ingenuinely sappy Instagram story that seemed scripted by his attorneys, a laughable cover-up after hosting and headlining a festival that resulted in the deaths of ten and over 300 injuries.

How many more lives have to be lost, how many more concert-goers have to leave Scott’s shows severely injured until he faces more than a slap on the wrist? 

Only time will tell. But one thing’s for sure – it’s time for Scott to do better.