(November 7, 2021). Yeah, that title may initially come across as an opportune meme to some, especially given the tragedy that unfolded in Houston on the same day the song with that title (“Escape Plan”) was released by Travis Scott, but it reflects the reality of one of hip-hop’s biggest concert draws—an A-list rapper who headlined what is now being called one of the deadliest concerts in American history…only surpassed in recent years by the 60 people who were killed when a gunman opened fire at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas in 2017.
Superstar rapper Travis Scott released a two-song project with a “dystopian” theme on Friday, November 5. One of those songs, ironically titled “Escape Plan,” was the most streamed tune that day (according to Spotify) and—after a full week’s activity—could conceivably debut at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 when it is eligible eight days from now.
But the metaphorical “Escape Plan” Scott raps about, which amounts to a “twelve-figure estate plan” and all the lavishes a superstar rap lifestyle entails—presumably his escape from an earlier mundane life, wasn’t anything close to the kind of plan that should’ve been executed when there was evidence that a dangerous crowd surge was unfolding right before Scott’s eyes on Friday at Houston’s NRG Park where his Astroworld Festival was taking place. That surge culminated in a mass casualty event where eight people died and “scores” more were injured and treated at hospitals, some in critical condition.
In a day and age when so much can go wrong at a mass gathering such as the Astroworld Festival, where more than 50,000 people were reportedly in attendance, promoters and concert managers, which in this case includes the world’s largest concert promotion company Live Nation, should have had multiple means of communication and the ability to immediately pull the plug at the first signs of danger.
According to two veteran promoters who spoke to the Houston Chronicle after Friday’s tragedy, a performer like Scott would often have a direct line to a producer or a stage manager via an earpiece. They would be in constant communication and be able to tell the performer what’s happening and that a show needs to be halted. Cancellation can come from various sources along the process, ranging from the artist himself to the promoters to the police.
Stage crews can, in a matter of seconds, turn off all power to the stage and broadcast safety and security messages on video boards and over the audio system.
Remember when that very thing happened just four months ago at NYC’s Central Park while legendary crooner Barry Manilow performed?
We joked and created memes when—in July with a thunderstorm looming—the plug was pulled on Barry Manilow’s performance at the first sign of lightning. The joke then was that Manilow—whose likelihood of inciting a riot is about as much as a kindergartner’s—clearly didn’t make it through the rain and a song set that was expected to include his last top-10 hit, ironically titled, “I Made It Through The Rain.” We even contrasted that day’s outcome with one from nearly 40 years earlier when fellow superstar Diana Ross infamously remained onstage during a downpour at the same park (apparently no lightning though) to finish her performance for hundreds of thousands of people in attendance.
It’s that “show-must-go-on” mentality and culture that likely led to Travis reportedly finishing his 25-song set for nearly 40 minutes after the first sign of medical personnel and first responders tending to injured people at NRG Park. Scott reportedly said to the crowd, “you know what we came to do,” before continuing the set after a brief pause to acknowledge the unfolding chaos.
This juxtaposes against mounting evidence of a panicked crowd, many of them the same young people who organizers feared might be triggered to riot at the first signs of any cancellation, and who at one point were actually recorded chanting, “stop the show! Stop the show!”
Unfortunately for Scott, he didn’t. And now, despite his genuine showing of remorse the following day and his offering of support to those affected and their families, his earlier legal history—including two counts of disorderly conduct for inciting the crowd at earlier concerts—will mean that he and his concert promoters and organizers will be scrutinized heavily about whether parts of this weekend’s tragedy could’ve been prevented.
This is also despite evidence that suggests some of the people who suffered cardiac arrest may have been jabbed with syringes during the melee, a narrative that has added “homicide and narcotics” to the various aspects of investigations underway.
Many have already pointed to the album that made Scott a superstar—2018’s ASTROWORLD—and its opening track, “Stargazing,” in which the Houston-born rapper boasts, “it aint a mosh pit if it ain’t no injuries, I got ‘em stage divin’ out the nosebleeds.” Critics have called this evidence of Scott’s callousness when it comes to public safety at his concerts, and more indication that the rapper actively curates the “rage” atmosphere that exists.
One such incident resulted in a concertgoer being paralyzed after he was pushed from a third-floor balcony during a 2017 Scott concert. The injured man’s lawsuit against the rapper and his people is still pending.
Another incident resulted in Scott paying $6825.31 in restitution to two people who claimed they were injured at his concert at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion in May 2017.
Although misdemeanor charges were dropped in that case, the association with Scott will no doubt fuel speculation that his reputation—at the very least—spurred the events that led to Friday’s tragedy, whether he actively encouraged the mosh pit or not.
One thing’s for certain, this isn’t the type of “Dystopia” Travis envisioned in so naming his latest project.
Another outcome is also likely: without a proper “Escape Plan” being executed by the event’s producers as the crowd surge unfolded, that $6825.31 will be a mere fraction of the restitution people will be seeking in this case.
DJRob (he/him) is a freelance music blogger from somewhere on the East Coast who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop and rock genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff! You can follow him on Twitter at @djrobblog.
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