Crowd Surges Like Astroworld? They Happen All The Time. I’ve Experienced It.
The tragedy at Travis Scott's 'Astroworld' festival has been all over the news, I know and it should be.
There is however something that isn't being talked about when it comes to the festival and its crowd surge.
That would be the fact that this kind of thing happens at just about EVERY festival and quite a few concerts in general.
Any time you have a 'pit GA' kind of area, you have to account for people trying to get as close to the stage as possible. We're all guilty of it, and we've all been in a crowd that has gotten a bit too close to you before.
There's one experience though that I went through that really sticks out in my mind. There was a short lived festival in Commerce City, Colorado dubbed the 'Mile High Music Festival'. It was 2 days of performances that went on at multiple stages setup throughout the venue.
It was the first time I can personally recall such a festival being held in the Denver area. Now to preface this, promoters have been bringing big time shows and acts to the Mile High City for decades, so they weren't new to the caliber of artists that came in.
However, they WERE new to a festival this size where hundreds of thousands of people would be attending it. As with any festival, you can move around wherever you want because they're typically held in an area that is nothing but open ground. No seating or anything like that, just the ground beneath your feet.
I attended two of the three festivals held, 2008 and 2010, but one stood out more than the other.
My wife and friends decided that on day one, we would bounce from stage to stage to see a lot of different acts. We saw performances from artists such as The Roots, Lupe Fiasco, OneRepublic, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers and Jason Mraz. A solidly diverse lineup over the two days that appealed to my many tastes in music.
Day two was the big one for me, Dave Matthews Band. My friends and I had made the decision that we wanted to be front row for this show. None of us had ever seen DMB from the front, and with this being an open festival we knew there was a chance.
We parked ourselves in line nice and early to bee sure we could make the run from the gates to the front of the main stage where they'd be performing. What we saw wasn't a WHOLE lot different from how people entered 'Astroworld'. People sprinting to the stage they wanted to be at so they could get the best vantage point possible.
I will say that the chaos we saw at 'Astroworld' from people knocking over metal detectors and whatnot wasn't present at the 'Mile High Music Festival', but people bumping into each other and jockeying for position was definitely there.
We managed to get ourselves front row and center for the show. There was a walkway between so very heavy and stable fencing. We parked ourselves front row and right in the corner of that fencing. It was as dead center as you could get for the stage.
Now, Dave Matthews Band wasn't slated to perform until 8:30pm that night, and we were there around 9am. We knew we were going to sit through a lot of performances. We saw some great acts this day including John Mayer and this incredibly talented acoustic guitar duo of Rodrigo Y Gabriela.
The crowd was VERY chill throughout the day. Everyone had the space to sit down during a set if they needed to get off their feet, and it didn't feel like you were being hovered over or anything like that.
But as the clock hit 8:30 and those lights changed, the narrative changed. Suddenly we could feel pressure at our backs, people bumping into us constantly. Mind you, we were already as close to the fence as we could get. That didn't stop people from continue their charge forward.
There had to have been 50,000+ people at this particular stage, and I swear you could feel the weight of all of them trying to get closer and closer. By the time the first song of the set even began, we found ourselves literally pinned up against the fencing (which had NO give by the way). We couldn't move, not an inch. We felt people pressed up against our backs for at least the first three songs of the set.
Imagine your stomach being pressed against a fence so hard you could barely get enough room to exhale and let your stomach relax as you did it. It was excruciating, and the excitement we had anticipating all day was quickly replaced by a sense of frustration and near panic as we were just looking for a way to gain a touch of space to breathe.
Thankfully for us, the crowd would eventually relax and back off. Everyone would settle in to a spot where they had a SMALL amount of space and we could enjoy the rest of the concert. I can't say what happened behind us because we weren't even able to turn around and see, but my gut tells me there were some people who got knocked over as the push began. We didn't have any deaths at this festival, but the feeling I had must've had SOME similarities to what happened as 'Astroworld'.
These kinds of things are 100% preventable, but the excitement and anticipation of your favorite artist hitting the stage takes over, whether you intend it to or not. More security and crowd control is one of the ways we can prevent another tragedy like this from happening again. Another thing that could help is more fenced off areas and having essentially a capacity crowd that can be within those fenced areas.
All I know is what happened at 'Astroworld' was beyond tragic, and preventable. The last thing we ever want to see is this happen again. Stay as vigilant as you can when if you're headed to a setting like this, and don't be a person that adds to the chaos by trying to get closer. The show is just as enjoyable from 500 feet away as it is up close and personal.
My experience made me rethink how I attend these festivals. No longer do I rush to the front if I feel it could turn into that kind of situation. I'd rather enjoy the show and singalong than have to fight for my life.