On Friday night, the Astroworld Festival in Houston, Texas turned into a tragedy as a crowd surge caused a “mass casualty event” with at least eight dead. The Houston Chronicle has been doing an amazing job all weekend with the updates as more details have emerged from concert goers and first responders. It sounds like a complete nightmare and is obviously a horrible tragedy. I’ve been in the crowd at a music festival when just one person died, and that was terrible to witness, I cannot fathom being caught up in something like a massive crowd surge. I eventually had to quit music festivals because the one and only panic attack I’ve ever experienced came in a moderate crowd crush. Be kind to yourself if you’re clicking through links, some of the photos and videos from social media are graphic and claustrophobic.
This does fall at a curious intersection of music, culture, true crime—where crowd crush stories pop up regularly—and the ultimate in 21st century celebrity: the Jenner-Kardashian conglomerate. Travis Scott is the founder of Astroworld, and is Kylie Jenner’s partner. Jenner was on hand Friday night, posting to social media during Scott’s concert. She later took to Instagram to express her condolences, saying, “Travis and I are broken and devastated. My thoughts and prayers are with all those who lost their lives, were injured or affected in any way by these events.” She goes on to say that they “weren’t aware” of the scope of the event.
The first-hand accounts on social media sort of call that into question. A timeline is developing, and it seems like Scott kept performing after Live Nation, who produces the event, tried to end the concert early. But then, Live Nation, along with Scott, is potentially on the hook for lawsuits, which are already being filed. So everybody is going to point fingers at everyone else. And with events like this, it’s never just one thing that leads to disaster. It’s a confluence of events, a series of smaller mistakes and mishaps that coalesce in tragedy. There will be plenty of blame to go around, but Scott has on his side one of the biggest and most effective mass culture messaging machines ever built.
The Kardashian microphone is big, and it is loud, but this isn’t family squabbling or Ye’s latest flight of fancy that needs massaging with the public. This is an actual, human disaster. People died. You can’t massage that. The Kardashian machine has been tested before, when Caitlyn Jenner skated on formal charges in the car accident that left one person dead, though she did eventually settle with another family involved. In that case, the machine won, people rarely, if ever, mention Jenner’s fatal accident. But Astroworld is a much larger incident, in every possible way. Higher profile, and, sadly, higher death toll. This is the greatest test of the Kar-Jenner power over public opinion ever.
Live long and gossip,