I am still processing the events from last weekend. But while the memory is fresh, I want to type out my experience while working the Astroworld festival in Houston Texas on November 5th, 2021.
I flew into Houston at 7 pm on Thursday Nov, 4. I went straight to the hotel & learned upon checkin that we would need to report to the merchandise tent at 3:00 am to get ready for the opening. Shipments were late, and we still had so much work to do before we could realistically open for the show day. But this wasnât just the case for our department. At 11 am when thousands who breached the gates were already walking around the festival grounds, the audio and light engineers were still running their final checks. Security also was not prepared to handle the early influx at the gates - despite this being the 3rd festival at this exact location, and this same sort of situation occurring every year so far.
I was supposed to be stationed at the âmainâ merch tent on the perimeter of the festival. People go crazy for this merchandise, spending thousands on the limited edition items to resell online. Early in the morning, the satellite merch tent closer the stage inside the festival needed assistance getting their booth ready for the influx of customers - so I ended up moving away from the majorly of the craziness that was experienced for those selling merchandise.
However, my coworkers, my friends, some of the most badass people I know.. had to stand there while thousands of people sprinted over the bike racks and ran towards the merch tent. Later, they watched those same bike racks be removed, and the crowd surfed the bike racks over their heads to create a giant mob while screaming âSELL FASTER!â All this, before noon and at least 8 hours before the worst of the day had even begun.
The situation at our merch tent was much more calm, we did not experience any fighting or violence where I stood. I was running around busy for 21+ hours, I finally left site around 11:00 pm on Nov 5th. After learning about all the specific details of that day, there are several moments that I have run over and over in my head ever since.
Even during the day, I witnessed people wait in line for 6 hours to buy a sweatshirt and a hoodie.. I witnessed a large crowd posted before the sun had even set, waiting for the Travis Scott set to start, with NO MUSIC on that stage for at least 2 hours.
Whenever I work a festival, I find time to go see at least one set. Listen to at least some music. I hadnât found a real moment to step away and it was about 9:00 pm during Travis Scottâs set, and I stepped away & walked thru the crowd that ultimately killed at least 8 people and injured dozens more.
I stood in several different spots of the crowd, to be honest I couldnât find a single place that seemed âfunâ or comfortable to stand. I can get myself to the middle of any crowd, I have moved thru gigantic crowds this size, and larger. But I was always successful until this one. The people in the crowd were in a sort of trance, no one would acknowledge you when you walked by them. No one would move out of your way. I had maybe two positive interactions and even those I keep running over and overâ¦.
I met this one girl who I found hysterically crying, really far in the back of the crowd. In the videos here. She was all alone and upset about her boyfriend, and I did what I would do in any crowd of people I tried my best to calm her down. I hugged her, we danced. I had only a short time to explore, and I still did want to try and get closer so I told her to stay happy and I walked away. I hope that none of her friends were the ones injured.
From there I moved to the right side of the stage, closer to the stage itself, and in front of the sound towers that were bottlenecking the crowd. The crowd was so incredibly tight. I knew I wouldnât make it far, but I tried multiple entries to get in & realized quickly it was not going to be safe for a little person like me all alone. Just trying to walk on the outside, people were rude and unhelpful.
One guy offered for me to get on his shoulders if I wanted. I laughed, cause itâs been like 10 years since I hopped on a strangers shoulders.. But I now have a pit in my stomach mostly because if I did, I may have seen some terrible, terrible things.
While I stood there in that spot, near the audienceâs right, there was a barricade that led towards the artists compound and security headquarters.
I did see a person being carried out, on their friends shoulders. And at the time, I just thought that this person was too intoxicated or over dosing on drugsâ¦ I have seen this many times in a crowd at a music festival. And at the time, I didnât think anything of it. I donât know what the fate of that person was, but after hearing the news - I canât stop thinking that what I saw may have been one of those people from the middle of the crowd who had been carried outside the pit of the crowd.
I followed them out. I helped clear a path, they were close and I saw them running for medical. I donât carry a radio at this show, so I canât do much else.. I didnât process anything else at the time. I was already a little late for my break and I headed back to my merch tent at about 9:45.
When I got there, they had already shut down our lines, I was confused because when I left we had not discussed closing early at all - after more details have emerged, I know now it was because the Houston Police Department had declared a massive causality event at 9:38 pm.
Travis Scott was still playing as we were boxing up the merch, and closing down our tent. I even let some of my staff go back to that stage, and told them HOW TO get CLOSER to that stage like I always would a friend. Music didnât stop until after 10pm. While young people were literally dying in his crowd.
I work at large music events, baseball, sporting events - I am in a large crowd almost every weekend of my life. I have never processed the possibility of something like this. I was so close and could have been facing a different fate, I always think I would have the ability to save myself in that situation. But here. I couldnât have.
Luckily, everyone I know is safe physically but we are all mentally dealing with this tragedy in our own ways. I feel weird in many ways because I did not see the worst of it. I was not experiencing the absolute terror that some faced. But I was so close, there was so many oppurtunities for the opposite to be true.
There is still a lot to learn about the situation & this is just my own perspective and memory of the events that occurred.
This is a space for me to share my thoughts, experiences, and more. I hope you enjoy!