Long Islander Danny Gonzalez, 21, returned from the Astroworld Festival in Houston with flashbacks of the deadly concert, including personally witnessing the lifeless body of at least one fellow concertgoer.
“He was literally purple. It looked like he was dead for maybe a week,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez, a senior at Farmingdale State College, had been patiently waiting for Travis Scott to release his tour dates. He couldn’t make it to Scott’s last tour due to financial reasons but this time around, he was determined to attend — even if it meant flying out of state. Gonzalez and his cousin bought a two-day pass for nearly $400, but this trip entailed flight, Airbnb and food fees as well.
“All together, I probably spent about $1,100 in total,” he said.
The gates at NRG Stadium in Houston opened at 11:00 AM, but Gonzalez arrived an hour later. He regrets not getting there early enough because he wanted to buy concert merchandise.
“The first thing we did was run to the merch line and I guess that was already foreshadowing how the crowd was going to be,” he said. “It got hectic real quick…people just started lifting the barricades and were crowd surfing to the back of the line to the point where there wasn’t even a line anymore.”
Gonzalez stood in the crowd, shoulder to shoulder, for two hours, to get to the merchandise booth, but as he got closer to the front of the pool of people, the staff closed it down due to the out of control crowd.
“The barricades were so flimsy, they were able to lift it up,” Gonzalez said. Instead of a traditional, zig-zag barricaded merchandise line, Gonzalez felt like he was already standing at a packed concert venue.
After the merchandise booth closed, the crowd became less frantic and people started to wander around the venue. “They had rollercoasters, a carousel…it looked like a theme park.”
Around 2 PM, concertgoers started heading to one of Astroworld’s two stages, where rapper/producer Metro Boomin was supposed to open. But instead the crowd was left standing around for thirty minutes without the artist ever coming out. Various artists showed up after and played a thirty minute set to fill the time. Around 3:30 PM, when rapper Don Toliver came to play his set, the crowd saw its first aggressive wave.
“That was the first time I saw people passing out,” Gonzalez said. “That’s when the first mosh pit started opening up.”
Gonzalez didn’t see anyone getting hurt, but he did notice several people passing out and being lifted by the crowd to the front of the stage.
“The reason why they were being crowd surfed to the front was because that’s where all the medics and security were,” he said.
Singer/songwriter SZA played the last set before Scott was supposed to perform on a separate stage built just for him. Given that it was the last performance before the headliner, a lot of people left SZA’s set early to get a spot closer to the other stage.
Like others around him, Gonzalez started rushing to get a good spot for Scott’s set, but on his way to the front, he was shocked to see a child with his parents so close to the stage.
“I should probably warn them to move to the back,” Gonzalez said he thought, but before he could say anything, the push from tens of thousands of people moved him further up. The next day, Gonzalez found out the child he saw was 9-year-old, Ezra Blount, who was trampled during the concert. Blount passed away on November 14, after fighting life threatening injuries.
“Once he comes out, everything just snaps,” said Gonzalez. He has been to a previous Travis Scott concert so he knew what to expect when Scott came out onstage. But even Gonzalez was surprised to see the fans losing control before Scott came out. He felt the synchronized uncontrollable motion of the crowd when a giant countdown clock above the stage reached two minutes.
Then Travis Scott appeared on stage.
“You couldn’t even control your movement,” Gonzalez said. “You were basically going wherever the crowd pushed you. It felt like you were in hell because of all the body heat of the people pressing on you.”
Gonzalez remembers the intensity of the approximately 50,000 people around him was consistent throughout the show.
“If you were short and you were behind people that were really tall, you couldn’t even breathe,” Gonzalez, who stands at 5 foot, 8 inches, said. He was surrounded by people who were much taller than him, so his strategy to breathe properly was to put his chin up, mouth to the sky, and take deep breaths in-between songs.
Half-an-hour into the set, Gonzalez had already seen several people being crowd surfed to the front because they had passed out, but he was accustomed to that sight; people passing out at festivals is common due to dehydration in Gonzalez’s experience.
“The staff they had was very underprepared,” he said, drawing a contrast to other festivals he’s attended. “At Rolling Loud, they were handing out water bottles the entire time. They didn’t start handing out water bottles for Travis until maybe 45 minutes into his set.”
Gonzalez saw a man make his way to the front of the stage and plead with security that there were four dead people in the crowd.
“The security guard looked so clueless… he didn’t even have an earpiece to communicate with anybody,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez blames the lack of preparation, several deaths and hundreds of injuries on the organizer, Live Nation. “There was no crowd control whatsoever,” he said. Many have blamed not just the organizer, but Travis Scott as well. Scott has been previously accused of encouraging violent behavior at his concerts.
“I was actually really depressed,” Gonzalez said. He visited the memorial held outside NRG Park on November 7 for the audience members who were killed at the concert. “I got really sad over people I didn’t even really know.”
“What hit me hard the most was the 10-year-old,” he said. “I could’ve told this kid and his parents, ‘you guys can move to the back ‘cause it’s going to get crazy,’ and that could’ve probably saved him. I feel guilty, but at the same time, nobody knew what was going to happen.”