Some wonder if the staging of the Astroworld festival played a role in the tragedy
As Houston Police and FBI investigate Friday’s murderous Astroworld concert, some experts wonder what role, if any, that only one scene works during Travis Scott’s prime-time performance was able to play.
By the time Scott took to the main stage on Friday night, most of the thousands of fans in attendance at the event had gathered as close as possible, spectators said.
The chaos unfolded shortly after 9 p.m. when the crowd began to “compress” towards the front of the stage, officials said. Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said a few people began to “come down” at 9:30 p.m.
The crash, which killed eight people and injured hundreds more, coincided with the start of filming for Scott.
“It sounds pretty scary,” said Keith Still, a UK crowd science expert. “If you have a multi-stage setup, you would assume that people would be split between the stages.”
Scott’s set began after RZA completed the second leg, which then went off for the evening. The top-bill appearance of Houston-born son Scott was alerted by a countdown and lit by pyrotechnics, and it included a surprise appearance by star rapper Drake.
The main stage was the place to be – and it was essentially the only place in Astroworld once Scott was out.
The two-stage setup of the event was to be used as a crucial crowd control measure, Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña said at a press conference on Saturday.
“When we’re hosting big events, one of the things we consider is making sure the crowds are subdivided,” he said. “They had two separate stages in two separate areas. It was part of the plan.”
But to be effective, alternative stages at festivals must be used, say concert promoters.
“If you have supportive performers on different stages at the same time, then the crowd will be divided,” said Reza Gerami, a veteran Los Angeles festival promoter. “You must have secondary options for stages and other talents.”
But Scott had the only projector on Friday night.
“Once Travis Scott arrived I thought this was the moment I was getting ready for, I just need to breathe,” said witness Diana Amira, 19. “But… my rib cage was so crushed that I could ‘I’m not opening my lungs to catch my breath.”
Scott said in his account’s Instagram story on Saturday that he was “devastated” by the deaths and injuries.
“I could never imagine something like this happening,” he said. “My fans really represent the world to me, and I always really want to leave a positive experience for them. Anytime I can figure it out… whatever is going on, I would stop the show and… help them get the help they have. need.”
He added that he could “never imagine the gravity of the situation”.
Often, large music festivals use alternate stages and exhibits to at least keep some fans away from the main headliners. As well as being crowd control security measures, they help producers create the artistic mix that has become a hallmark of the festival experience.
Scott Atlas, a security consultant based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Noted that many festivals offer staggered times on multiple stages so that the crowds don’t all move at the same time. “You want to disperse the crowd a bit,” he said.
It is not clear if the festival setup and stage lineup are part of the investigation.
Police and firefighters did not respond to requests for comment, neither the festival organizer, Live Nation, nor the venue and security manager, ASM Global.
Nina S. Jackson, spokesperson for the venue, NRG Park, a Harris County-owned resort in Houston, declined to comment, citing ongoing litigation and ongoing investigations.
Peña, the fire chief, said on Saturday the event “was limited to 50,000” and the location could have accommodated thousands more.
“They could have had over 200,000 people there,” he said.
Rafael Lemaitre, spokesperson for Harris County Judge Lina Hildago, said the space’s maximum capacity is 240,000. (County general managers are called “judges” in Texas.)
Experts say such a number is based on a floor space formula that doesn’t necessarily take into account police, security, paramedics, scenes or concessions or how the crowd would move around. ‘one place to another.
“It doesn’t matter what space is,” said Still, the crowd science expert. “It’s the way this space is used.”
Peña said on Saturday that investigators were focusing on “incidents” that could have triggered the panic.
“What we’re looking at is what caused the crowd influx, what led to the crowd influx and these incidents to the point where the concert was looking at the stage,” he said.