As the crowd descended into chaos during his opening-night set at the Astroworld Festival, rapper Travis Scott stood on the stage and watched—even noting an emergency vehicle in the crowd then launching into another song.
It’s not clear if Scott knew how dire the situation was becoming during his Friday night performance in Houston. However, disturbing videos depict the show continuing as eight people died and lifeless bodies were pulled from the crowd.
In a statement on Saturday afternoon, the rapper said: “I’m absolutely devastated by what took place last night... Houston PD has my total support as they continue to look into this tragic loss of life.”
Scott’s set, which began at 9:04 p.m. according to attendees and videos, appeared to start normally enough as he launched into hits “ESCAPE PLAN” and “Highest in the Room.” In the crowd, however, fans began to crush each other as they surged towards the stage.
Videos from later in Scott’s set show audience members desperately trying to get his attention, pleading with both him and event staff to attend to the crisis in the crowd.
At 9:38 p.m., a “mass-casualty incident” was declared and about 55 Houston Fire Department units responded and started performing CPR, Houston Police Executive Assistant Chief Larry Satterwhite told reporters early Saturday.
About an hour into his performance, Scott noticed an emergency vehicle with sirens making its way through the crowd. “What the fuck is that?” he said, according to a livestream of the event, though he seemed not to give it another thought.
“If everybody good, put a middle finger up to the sky!” he shouted to the crowd. He then asked them to put both hands up, wanting the ground to shake. “You know what you came here to do,” he said before starting his song “UPPER ECHELON” and sending two members of his entourage diving off the stage to crowd surf.
The ambulance continued to make its way through the crowd, though not without difficulty—it was surrounded by festival attendees, with some standing on the car’s hood as Scott continued through his set.
Just before 10 p.m, a woman and another man climbed up onto a platform with a cameraman and urged him to point the camera at the chaos. “There is somebody dead in there! There is someone dead!” she shouted to seemingly deaf ears. The man joined in with her: “Stop the show!” Nothing seemed to faze the man as Scott performed “Lost Forever.”
Scott briefly stopped the show for a second time, just after 10 p.m., urging security to help a man who seemingly fainted during his song “90210.”
The brief pause wasn’t good enough for some other attendees, who chanted for the rapper to pause his set during the song to give emergency officials time to attend to those buried in the crowd. Scott seemed not to hear them, launching into “Love Galore.”
Just before the end of his performance, Scott introduced Drake onto the stage as he soldiered on with his 25-song set, bouncing on the stage and rapping alongside him for five songs as emergency services tried to tend to those trampled by the crowd.
Nobody appeared to tell Scott about the mass casualty situation unfolding or order him to cut his performance short. He finished off his set about 90 minutes after it began with “Goosebumps” and thanked the crowd for coming out. “Make it home safe!” he said as he left the stage.
The Daily Beast used the livestream of the event and timestamps from attendees videos to map the timeline of events. Songs heard in non-timestamped witness videos were matched to Scott’s setlist and livestream. All up, these videos put the end time of Scott’s performance at around 10:34 p.m. however officials later said that the performance ended around 10:10 p.m.—40 minutes after the “mass casualty event” declaration. The reason for the apparent discrepancy is unclear.
At least eight people did not make it home that night. A further 17 were hospitalized, including a 10-year-old boy. At least 11 of those hospitalized suffered cardiac arrest.
Friday night’s tragedy was not the first time one of Scott’s concerts turned disastrous. The rapper was arrested in both 2015 and 2017 for disorderly conduct, the former for encouraging fans to jump the barricades at Lollapalooza and the latter for inciting a riot at an Arkansas show.