A journalist who attended the Astroworld Festival in Houston, Texas, Friday night said this was the first time the "energy was off" during a performance by rapper Travis Scott, who organized the event with Live Nation. There was a mass stampede towards the end of the show at NRG Park, resulting in the deaths of at least eight people. Over 300 people were injured. Houston Fire Department Chief Samuel Pena described it as a "mass casualty" incident during a late-night press conference.
Mark Eilbert, who wrote a recap of the concert for HipHopDX, told Billboard security and law enforcement had "things under control" early on. When more people began showing up, it became more difficult for authorities though, he noted. By the time the concert was underway, there "was just a massive amount of people," he said. Pena estimated there were about 50,000 people at the concert, and the trouble began at about 9 p.m. when people began pushing closer to the stage. "People began to fall out and become unconscious and that created additional panic," Pena explained.
Some people without VIP bands were trying to get into a VIP area, Eilbert told Billboard. "Thought they must have lost it or taken it off, then thought they might've broken the gate to get in. Energy was weird; a lot of people there that looked uncomfortable," Eilbert said. "Weird feeling in the air." Once he got into the VIP area himself, he saw several people running, breaking through the fence blocking off the VIP area.
Scott's show started off well, but about four or five songs in, Eilbert noticed a girl "who walked out in front of me crying, she said she couldn't breathe, that she felt like her ribs were breaking, and a bunch of people were trying to help, calming her down," he told Billboard. During the show, Scott tried to calm the crowd, but he believes the rapper wasn't completely aware of what was going on. Drake then made his surprise appearance and "everyone went crazy," Eilbert said.
"After I got home I started looking at the videos and connecting the dots with what I'd seen. I've seen Travis perform a lot of times," Eilbert told Billboard. "He always had crazy shows. But this was the first time that energy was off."
Eilbert also tweeted about his experiences Saturday, pushing for a change on how festivals are organized. "There's needs to be a massive overhaul on how festivals are set up and how much security and law enforcement needs to be out there. A lot of people there did not have passes to get in," he tweeted, adding that most of the 50,000 people who attended should not have been there. "As much as I admire Travis Scott and the wonderful music he's given us over the years, he can't go back to this rage era. It's time to leave that alone," Eilbert wrote in another tweet.
During a press conference overnight, Pena said 17 people were taken to hospitals, including 11 who were in cardiac arrest. Most of the other people who were injured were treated at NRG Park, where a field hospital was set up, reports the Houston Chronicle. It is not clear if all eight of the people who died were among those taken to hospitals. Astroworld was a two-day event this year, but Saturday's performances were canceled. Houston Police Chief Troy Finner warned against jumping to conclusions for the cause of the stampede, noting that the department will investigate and "find out because it's not fair to the producers, to anybody else involved, until we determine what happened, what caused the surge."
"I'm absolutely devastated by what took place last night," Scott said in a statement. "My prayers go out to the families and all those impacted by what happened at Astroworld Festival. Houston PD has my total support as they continue to look into the tragic loss of life. I am committed to working together with the Houston community to heal and support the families in need. Thank you to Houston PD, Fire Department and NRG Park for their immediate response and support."
Houston officials opened a hotline for people to call to reunite with their loved ones at 311 or 713-837-0311. A reunification center was also opened at 8686 Kirby Dr, Houston, Texas 77054.