Astroworld tragedy highlights the safety challenges of music festivals

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The Astroworld Festival in Houston turned deadly Friday night when eight people died from a crowd-surging event as Travis Scott was performing. The youngest victim was just 14, the oldest, 27.

Music City is no stranger to big events, and the larger the crowd, the more likely there is to be trouble.

Eric Holt, a professor of music business at Belmont and a concert promoter, says there were a lot of factors at play Friday in Houston, including a high-energy crowd of 50,000.

“Whenever you have a concert or a music festival with a large amount of human beings, you have the potential for tragedy,” Professor Holt said. “You’re going to have a hard time controlling the energy of that many people.”

One likely factor was a communication breakdown between concert staff, production and Travis Scott.

“I was not at the event, but I can assume that there was probably a communication breakdown, from the production entity to the security entity to Travis Scott himself,” Professor Holt said. “Because ultimately, you know, while he was performing, he’s not necessarily at that great of a vantage point to see what’s going on and interpret if there’s actually an emergency happening on the ground.

Making sure that emergency personnel can get to distressed concertgoers quickly is something that is necessary for large festivals like Astroworld.

“If you don’t have an egress and ingress for first responders, fire, and medical personnel to get to the people, you have a recipe for disaster,” Professor Holt said.

Large festivals like Bonnaroo often make use of multiple stages that have overlapping performances to keep crowds from surging into one location.

“With Bonnaroo and festivals that are constructed similarly, when you have the various stages, you can have more than 50,000 people,” said Professor Holt. “But because you have the different stages, that number isn’t concentrated on one vantage point when one focus of energy.”

The amount of security resources necessary for a large festival also eclipses that of a stadium show.

“Typically, the main difference that you would see in security at a festival versus a stadium shows that you’re going to see a larger police presence, a police force, and more crowd control techniques that the police typically implement, like horses, and things of that nature to control the crowd,” Professor Holt added.

For those who feel uncomfortable during a concert, Holt has a few tips, “Try to find your way to an exit or entry point, and or put yourself your back on a wall. So you don’t have people coming from behind and pushing you into harm’s way. That’s probably the best advice if you ever are in find yourself in that type of situation.”

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