Jason Rivera, a Texas A&M University-San Antonio business management freshman, said he knew what he was in for when he purchased a ticket to attend the Astroworld Festival featuring rapper Travis Scott.
He attended the event with four friends. Rivera said this was his first concert ever and he was excited to go, despite knowing how aggressive Scott’s fans can get.
“That’s his fanbase, you know what I mean?” Rivera said. “I went to the concert thinking man, I could die here.”
As of Nov. 12, nine people have died. Officials say that many suffered from being stepped on and piled on. One suffered from compressive asphyxiation meaning they couldn’t breathe because of the pressure that was on them, after attending the Astroworld Festival Nov, 5. As a result, 25 people were hospitalized with the youngest being a 9-year-old.
Eight people were reported dead after the festival ended.
Bharti Shahani, a senior at Texas A&M’s main campus in College Station, was the ninth fatality. Shahani was in critical condition after the festival and was known as the girl dropped by paramedics from a viral video. She had multiple heart attacks and was one of many trampled in the crowd.
Astroworld Festival is an annual festival run by Scott, a well-known rapper. The festival was held in November in 2018 and 2019 in his hometown of Houston at NRG Park but canceled last year because of the pandemic.
“I went to the concert knowing his mindset of being a quote unquote rager,” Rivera said, referring to Scott’s past concerts where he encourages his fans to be wild.
Scott has had a history of encouraging his fans to push and surge into his events, claiming even if people weren’t able to get a ticket, then they should just jump over the security barriers.
Rivera and his friends got to the gates at 9 a.m. to check in before the 10 a.m. opening. Being early to the concert, they were able to get on the rails near the stage and waited near the stage for around six hours for Scott’s performance.
Once a timer started that indicated when Scott was going to perform, Rivera noticed people starting to rush the event. He said the crowd went crazy as the night went on and Scott jumped on stage.
“As soon as they saw the timer, the people in the back started pushing a lot,” he said. “There was a point where I had to put my forearms on the rails because it was getting too hard to breathe.”
Rivera compared being in the crowd to being in a sauna because of how it felt to be packed in with everyone. He said the only time he remembers the crowd being calm is when Scott stopped the show for a minute to let people get through to those who needed help in the VIP section.
At one point in the night, Rivera was pulled off of the railing he was on and pushed toward the back of the crowd away from his group. As he tried to get back to the front, many were trying to shove and punch him. Rivera said drunk and crazy people were the biggest factors to why the crowd was so hard to get through.
Rivera said if someone were to fall in the crowd, then it would have been over for that person. The people in the crowd would scream at each other to stop pushing but it continued. Rivera said he had lost his footing at one point but was thankfully caught by another festivalgoer.
“It was like, oh my God, this is my guardian angel,” Rivera said.
As the night progressed, Rivera said that security guards tried to help pull people from the crowd who were wanting to get out but only so many could push their way through to the barrier opening.
“The security guards were pretty good. I’m not going to lie, but in the middle they couldn’t stop anything,” Rivera said.
After being pushed around in the crowd, Rivera was pulled out by security and allowed in the VIP section. Even from there, he said he couldn’t hear any of the cries for help.The people who were seen screaming for help in multiple viral videos were toward the back, away from the stage. The cheering and the blast of the music drowned out the pleas for assistance and cries to stop the show making it hard to hear from near the stage
“The people who were chanting ‘help’ were at least 350 feet, maybe 500 feet away,” he said. “I guess the worst part about it was that they didn’t look like they were asking for help. It looked like they were jumping up and down.”
Rivera said he didn’t see any emergency lights that indicated there were paramedics on the scene. However, he said the concert ended abruptly. The two-hour show had ended at the one hour and 15 minute mark. He asked a security guard to pull him out of the crowd to make sure he would be able to safely get out.
Rivera said many were confused about why the show ended early, as it is normal for the rapper to keep going even after he is scheduled to end the show. The last song was partially performed before his brief exit.
“People were like, ‘What? Why is he leaving like that?’” Rivera said. “He’s just not the type to end it right away.”
It wasn’t until Rivera and his friends were back at their hotel that they learned from Twitter about the injuries and deaths that occured. They were shocked to find out what had happened.
Rivera said his view on Scott hasn’t changed since the event but believes there should be more precautions for guests who might have underlying conditions. He said the biggest thing to blame Scott for is he encourages the behavior the crowd showed.
“It could have ended a little earlier,” Rivera said. “It’s just that he knows his fans well enough that if he would have ended it right away, the people who were waiting there would have gone crazy. At the end of the day it’s really a tragedy.”
After the events of the first night, officials decided on Nov. 5 to cancel the rest of the Astroworld Festival. As Rivera and his friends left Houston, they could see many people still lining up at the gates the second day of the festival trying to get in, not believing that the show had been canceled.
Rivera said he would go to another Astroworld Festival if the annual event continues but with a bigger group of friends next time.
“It’s better to go with a group,” Rivera said. “You should never go to something like this by yourself, ever, because it’s like you versus the world.”