Views Columnist Alisha explores the chaos of concerts, and how this madness can be better contained.
Concertgoers tragically succumbed to injuries sustained at the Astroworld music festival in Houston, Texas, with 10 people dying in total. Recently, the BBC reported that a nine-year-old boy had passed away from injuries that resulted from the massive crowd surge at the festival. His death makes him the youngest victim of this tragedy so far.
Justifiably, the widely reported tragedy has brought a series of onslaughts on those responsible for the mishandling of the concert. In particular, rapper Travis Scott and his team are being held accountable for continuing the performance despite the serious medical emergency in the crowd. A quick scroll through Twitter reveals sinister, frighteningly dystopian videos of the festival. Perhaps the most Black Mirror-esque clip of the concert comes from Kylie Jenner’s Instagram story of the extravagant Astroworld setup, featuring the red-and-blue lights of an ambulance attempting to reach injured audience members. While Jenner and Scott both addressed the tragedy in individual statements, it is easy to view their “devastation” as a lukewarm attempt of the Kardashian PR machine to avoid yet another would-be disaster (Kendall Jenner’s Pepsi commercial, anyone?).
“While Jenner and Scott both addressed the tragedy in individual statements, it is easy to view their “devastation” as a lukewarm attempt of the Kardashian PR machine…”
In Astroworld’s aftermath, Travis Scott and others involved are hopefully set to face legal action for their role in the tragedy. However, while the people responsible may face consequences in due course, the event at Astroworld also makes me consider: what makes concerts such a breeding ground for chaos?
I once went to a concert where a platform suddenly collapsed, causing several audience members to fall over, while the crowd behind them surged forward in panic. Although it was nothing to the scale of Astroworld’s chaos, I remember how sharply polarised the audience was, with the majority still enjoying the concert while those in that particular section trying to avoid being trampled by the concertgoers behind them.
Concerts can be highly dangerous for the exact reason that they’re enjoyable. Rock concerts, for example, are notorious for being particularly intense. This is not a new-age phenomenon, and as far back as the 1960s, concerts occasionally turned violent, and even deadly for some. In 1969, violence erupted in the crowd at the Rolling Stones’ Altamont festival, for example. Rap concerts like Astroworld are also well-known for their intense, often overwhelming atmosphere, and Travis Scott has quite the track record when it comes to inciting dangerous crowd behaviour.
The question is, where do we draw the line between harmless concert fun and potentially life-threatening behaviour? To answer this, I think it’s important to remember that although mosh pit injuries aren’t uncommon, nobody goes to a concert expecting their lives to be permanently altered for the worse. The distinction between a harmless concert and a dangerous one depends on how the event is handled by the organisers. In the case of Astroworld, between the overcrowding and lack of attempts to stop the show, it is clear that the organisers and performers severely mishandled their audience. By contrast, a video of a Linkin Park concert has been circulating on social media since Astroworld, with many users using the clip as an example for how performers should treat their audience. The video shows lead vocalist Chester Bennington temporarily halting the performance to ensure the safety of audience members in the mosh pit.
“It’s important to remember that although mosh pit injuries aren’t uncommon, nobody goes to a concert expecting their lives to be permanently altered for the worse.”
Speaking about the Astroworld incident, an article in Grazia described how some social media users blamed rap fans for the chaos at the festival, citing their inexperience with mosh pit culture as an explanation for what happened to them. However, we’ve all been to concerts with large crowds scrambling to get to the front, but disasters like this one are rare for a reason. The crowd was not the main problem, the lack of action from the organisers was. In light of a tragic event like this one, it’s important to remember that the victims of Astroworld should not be blamed for what happened to them. The focus should be on ensuring that events in the future are not mismanaged to the extent that a tragedy of this magnitude can repeat itself.