As Houston police investigate Friday’s tragic Astroworld concert , experts are asking what role having one stage open during Travis Scott’s prime-time performance might have played.
By Friday night, Scott was on the main stage. Concertgoers claim that most fans had gathered close to him. Officials have stated that the chaos began shortly after 9:59 p.m., when the crowd started to “compress” towards the front of stage. Houston Police Chief Troy Finner has said a few people started “going down” at 9: 30 p.m. Officials told producers what was happening, and the show ended at about 10: 10 p.m., he said.
The crush that killed eight people and left hundreds more injured coincided with Scott’s set ..
” That sounds scary,” Keith Still, a crowd scientist in the United Kingdom. “If there are multiple stages, it is natural to assume that people will be spread across the various stages. “
Scott started his set after RZA left the second stage. The went dark for the evening .. Scott, Houston’s native boy, made his first appearance on the top-of-the bill. It was alerted with a countdown , lit up by pyrotechnics and included a surprise performance by Drake.
The mainstage was the place to go. It was Astroworld’s only location once Scott left.
The event’s two-stage layout was meant to be used as a crowd control measure, Houston Fire Chief Samuel Pena stated Saturday at a press conference.
“When we have large events, one thing that we think about is to make sure that the crowds are divided,” he stated. They had two stages, each in separate areas. This was part of the plan. “
But alternative stages must be used at festivals to make them more effective, concert promoters insist.
“If there are multiple artists performing on the same stage, the crowd will split,” Reza Gerami, an experienced festival promoter in Los Angeles, said. “You need to have secondary stages and other talent. “
But Scott had the only spotlight Friday night.
“Once Travis Scott came on, I told myself this is the moment I’ve been preparing for, I just need to breathe,” said witness Diana Amira, 19. “But… my rib cage became so tight that it was impossible for me to breathe. “
Scott said in the Instagram story on his account Saturday that he was “devastated” by the deaths and the injuries.
” “I couldn’t imagine something like this happening,” he stated. My fans are very special to me and I want them to have a great experience. If I could see… what’s happening, I would stop the show and help them. He said that he couldn’t imagine the gravity of the situation. “
Large music festivals often use alternative stages and exhibits in order to attract at least some people away from the main headliners. They are crowd control safety measures and help producers create the unique festival experience. Scott Atlas, a Florida safety consultant, pointed out that many festivals have staggered stages on multiple stages to ensure that crowds don’t move simultaneously. He said, “You want the crowd to disperse a bit.”
It is not clear if the festival set-up and stage scheduling were part of the investigation.
Neither the festival organizer, Live Nation, nor the venue and security manager ASM Global responded to inquiries for comment.
Nina S. Jackson, a spokesperson for the venue, NRG Park, a Harris County-owned complex in Houston, declined to comment, citing pending litigation and ongoing investigations.
Pena, the fire chief, said Saturday that the event “was limited to 50,000” and that the location could have handled thousands more people.
“They could have had over 200,000 people in this venue,” he said.
Rafael Lemaitre, a spokesperson for Harris County Judge Lina Hildago, said the maximum capacity for the space is 240,000 people. In Texas, “judges” are the chief executives of counties. Experts claim such a figure is based on ground-space calculations that don’t take into account security, police, or concessions, or how crowds would move from one place to another.
“It doesn’t matter how big the space is.” Still, the crowd science expert said. It’s about how the space is used. “
Pena stated Saturday that investigators were looking into what “incidents” could have caused panic.
“What we’re looking into is what caused the crowd surge, what led to the crowd surge and those incidents at the point of where the concert was looking at the stage,” he said.