Gabriel Cabello Torres and Jonathan Brier | Contributing Writers
Mosh pits, therapeutic and fun, have been around for decades. So what happened at Astroworld?
There is an upsetting amount of news and personal stories covering this tragedy. The testimonies are disturbing and the footage even moreso. More and more details come out every day that just pour into the frustration and anger towards the managers of the event and more particularly the headlining artist, Travis Scott. Over 100 lawsuits have already been filed and the FBI is joining the investigation as well. Not only that but the total number of deaths rose from nine to 10, one death already being too many for a music festival.
As someone who regularly goes to concerts, it was absolutely devastating seeing people die at what should be a safe environment to celebrate music. Instead of coming back home forever cherishing the experience, injured fans are fighting for their life. It was shocking to see how the concert continued in the first place, after a stampede previously took place at the security entrance, hours before the festival started. Fans trampled each other with the sole purpose of getting through, regardless of who was being crushed under their own weight. The footage is disturbing to say the least and hard to watch without feeling uncomfortable.
Mosh pits are a form of dance that started with the punk movement of the 1980s, carrying over to the metal scene and then slowly making it way into other genres like EDM and rap. It’s no surprise that this aggressive form of dance has become so popular over the years. It’s a means of venting out anger and frustration while enjoying the concert. A lot of hardcore and metal concertgoers generally feel safe entering a mosh even when there are people in the pit twice their size. How do these aggressive concerts compare to the Astroworld Fest?
As a metalhead, it’s clear that the environment in festivals and concerts can get dangerous with the unpredictable energy that mosh pits have. Despite all that, parents still bring their kids to see these bands. In general, the metal and hardcore community feel safe attending those concerts. Rock and metal culture has always been based on the standard that every concert attendee is family. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, what you believe in, or who your favorite band is, you’re all on the same team. People gather at those shows to have fun and to make a memorable experience they’ll remember forever. This sense of community has been around for years and is why mosh pits are generally so safe. If someone falls down, at least three people will try to pick that person back up on their feet. If someone loses something in the pit, everyone stops what they’re doing and starts looking for said item. It’s also common consensus that nobody likes a bully, someone who tries to maliciously dominate in the pit, or a crowd killer, someone who targets people who are not moshing. In my personal experiences, these people are usually referred to security and are promptly kicked out.
I have been a part of numerous crowds and even moshpits, mainly in the rock and metal genres, but I have been to one rap show, however I will limit this to Warped Tour as much as possible since it is a festival like Astroworld. A bulk of these happened from 2015-2018 when the Van’s Warped Tour was going on every summer. They had signs on every stage saying you cannot mosh or crowd surf due to lawsuits they had in the past from people falling and getting hurt, but that did not stop anyone. The earliest memory I have of dealing with someone falling during a show was probably in 2015 during Attila’s set at the end of the day. A crowd surfer fell while they were being passed forward, and they were immediately lifted back up. I have seen this specific occurrence a number of times, but it would usually only happen once or twice at the show and then people would know to check if there were crowd surfers heading their way. A lot of concertgoers I have seen will attempt to keep this from happening by shouting something like, “Crowd surfer!” or, what I like to use personally, “Heads!” This works a majority of the time, and people will turn their heads and try to catch the surfer.
To the topic of mosh pits specifically, I have been a part of and witnessed an immeasurable amount of pits and crowds. I have seen countless people fall and get helped up, even helping people up myself, and it has happened so many times while I was at Warped Tour that it is difficult to distinguish. At Warped Tour and shows in general, I like to stand on the edge of the pit a lot, which is referred to as being the wall. That is where I end up seeing most people fall down, as they are approaching the sides of the pit, and a lot of times they will either fall into someone on the wall or the person on the wall has to catch them as they are falling so they do not get hurt.
"[Violence] has nothing to do with the genre of music, an unfair accusation made by some regarding mosh etiquette."
What happened at Astroworld was easily preventable and really presents a lot of issues regarding how musicians influence their own fanbase. Bands like Linkin Park have stressed safety and the mantra that when someone falls down, you pick them up and they even stopped a show to ensure a fan was okay. In 2019, Slipknot frontman Corey Taylor stopped a show to let EMTs get through. He noticed that fans were being crushed and that people were getting too rowdy. He urged his audience to back up, exclaiming, “Nobody is getting hurt on my watch! Back up!”
There are countless examples showing how bands stop shows to make sure that their fans are safe. Some examples include band members confronting security for being unnecessarily violent towards other fans. It’s not just in the rock and metal music genre either, prominent rap and hip hop artists today like Kendrick Lamar, A$AP Rocky, Lil Pump, and Logic have paused shows to make sure fans were safe. Quite frankly, it has nothing to do with the genre of music, an unfair accusation made by some regarding mosh etiquette. It largely has to do with knowing your fanbase, caring about your fanbase, and leading your fanbase. Sometimes these accidents can happen without prior warning but it’s up to the artists and their crew to stop the show whenever people are starting to get hurt.
The frightening crowd surge I experienced in 2018 was in a 1,500 capacity room. As Neck Deep began performing on stage, I felt the crowd move like dominoes towards the stage. It looked like that from where I was as well. I was struggling to keep my feet planted as the crowd moved. I’m a stocky six foot guy and was worried I would fall into the people in front of me. The crowd did move back, but the claustrophobic swaying movement repeated during a lot of the songs. Every time it repeated, it became more and more alarming. Thankfully, nothing tragic came of it; I hadn’t thought about it much until the tragedy occurred at Astroworld, but it was definitely traumatizing for me even though I don’t have issues with crowds to this day. You’re being pushed from behind, forced to move without any actual control of where you’re going. Stuck in a crowd where everyone is in the same exact situation. I can only imagine how terrifying it must have been if that same feeling was being amplified by the force of thousands of people.
"Sometimes these accidents can happen without prior warning but it’s up to the artists and their crew to stop the show whenever people are starting to get hurt."
We have never seen this level of concert safety failures, artist neglect, and terrible crowd etiquette in the concerts we have been to. We wholeheartedly believe real “mosh pits” aren’t the ones where people get injured, it’s the ones where people have fun while taking care of each other. Our hearts go out to all the victims and the injured. Please remember that when you’re in a concert, take care of yourself and the people around you. When we gather for music together, we’re on the same team.
Update at 2 p.m. on 11/16/21 to correct the number of casualties from "eight to nine" to "nine to 10".