When Albion alum Mary Noble ’19 arrived at the Astroworld music festival in Houston with a friend on Nov. 5, she had already heard of a rush by the crowd at a gate during an earlier performance. What she didn’t expect was a crowd surge during performances by rapper and headliner, Travis Scott, that would leave nine dead.
“Metro Boomin didn’t play at his scheduled time because there had been a rush on the gate earlier in the day,” said Noble. “So there had already been some issues before we had arrived and we had heard about it just from some other people in the crowd. But when we arrived, it seemed like everything was normal. It sounded like all the excitement from before passed, so we didn’t think there was gonna be any further issues.”
Noble had been invited to attend the festival by friend Gaby Sanchez only two weeks prior. Noble and Sanchez entered the venue two hours before Scott’s performance was set to begin.
“We were in close, but no one had been pushing or anything like that for the time we were there,” said Noble.
In anticipation of Scott’s performance, a countdown timer was displayed on the screen of the stage. It wasn’t until the countdown ended and Scott took the stage that things took a turn, according to Noble.
“It got down to zero seconds and then all of a second there was this big push,” said Noble. “People were shoving us forward and there was no room to move. It felt like you were getting crushed by the crowd.”
Noble was a part of the sold-out crowd estimated to be around 50,000 people in a venue that can reportedly hold up to 200,000. Despite only occupying a fourth of the venue’s capacity, the density of the crowd combined with Scott’s performance acting as a catalyst for the crowd to rush the stage was enough to create fatal conditions.
Within minutes of Scott’s entrance, the motion of the crowd surge separated many groups of concert-goers that attended the festival together. Noble and Sanchez were among those separated.
“At first, I was still standing there and my friend, she wasn’t too far away. Within a minute or two, she was just gone, I couldn’t see her anymore,” said Noble.
The crowd was so tightly packed that many reported they could not breathe or move their arms. Others in the crowd collapsed, either from being unable to maintain balance with the pressure from the surge or from falling unconscious.
Within the crowd, Noble followed her instincts and focused on staying on her feet. She also witnessed others do the same.
“The way people were shoving, I was worried if I ended up falling down, I wouldn’t be able to stand back up,” said Noble. “I saw when people first started pushing, there was a girl who started falling down. People had pulled her up to her feet pretty quickly so she didn’t end up falling to the ground all the way.”
Once Noble realized she could not breathe and there was no sight of Sanchez, she decided to escape the main crush of the crowd into a less populated area. She worked with other concert-goers to do so. Doing so took several minutes, according to Noble.
“There were multiple packs of people, I think maybe four or five of us,” said Noble. “We would try to stick together, but then we would just get separated again. We never were able to stick together for long. There were certain points where someone would decide, as we were passing by, they wanted to get out too, so we kept adding to the people trying to get out.”
Even as others attempted to move to a less crowded area of the venue, some would stop to reenter the crowd. Noble recalls many stopped to take pictures of celebrity attendees of the festival.
“We passed in front of the tent where Kylie Jenner and Kendall Jenner and Stormi [Kylie Jenner and Travis Scott’s daughter] were,” said Noble. “It was a huge crush then of people wanting to take photos of the Jenners. I was ready to keep going while most people were stopping to take photos.”
Noble freed herself from the main crush of the crowd and was unaware of the events still transpiring within the packed crowd.
“Once I got free of the main crush, people were just standing around listening to the music, but everything seemed normal,” said Noble. “In that moment, I honestly thought I had overreacted. I thought maybe I just panicked for no reason because there was no sign that there was anything wrong.”
It wasn’t until the performances had concluded that Noble had any indication that issues continued within the crowd. She gained additional information from fellow concert-goers as she waited to reunite with Sanchez.
“There was a group of girls and one of them had said someone had passed out while standing near them,” said Noble. “The girl I was talking to said she was trying to do chest compressions on the guy and he wasn’t waking up and the ambulance ended up taking him. That was my first indication that things had gotten really bad.”
Many similar reports were made by witnesses at the festival of collapsed attendees being provided CPR by others in the crowd. It was reported three days after the concert that 11 people were hospitalized for cardiac arrest.
This incident was notable to Noble as one of the moments where security for the festival fell short. The attendee who delivered chest compressions to the fallen concert-goer received little assistance from security, according to Noble.
“She [the attendee] said, ‘I was with a guy from security and he didn’t know what he was doing, so that’s why I was stepping in,'” said Noble. “It was just kind of scary hearing that people who are supposed to protect you didn’t have the training or the knowledge to be able to do that.”
Live Nation, the concert promoter that organized the festival, has come under scrutiny for its handling of the festival. The 56-page event operations plan for Astroworld contained procedures for potential active shootings, bomb threats, severe weather and riots, but did not contain a procedure for a crowd surge. Some have even reported that their pleas to security to stop the concert were ignored.
Scott has also come under fire for his continued performance as members in the audience collapsed before him. According to the New York Times, Houston police chief Troy Finner shared his concerns about the potential energy of the crowd to Scott, who is known for his performances that encourage an aggressive crowd.
Scott, along with Live Nation, has been listed as a defendant in the lawsuits filed by attorneys Ben Crump and Alex Hillard on behalf of over 200 Astroworld attendees. Scott released an apology video on his Instagram story in which he defended his decision to continue performing, claiming he was unaware of the severity of what was happening.
Noble says she wanted to give Scott the benefit of the doubt, but believes he could have done more for the situation.
“You never know what the artist’s perspective is, being up on the stage with all of the lights and everything,” said Noble. “But then just seeing everything later on, and seeing all of the extra information about people trying to alert security, trying to alert others about what was going on, I think he did have more information to know the gravity of the situation during the concert itself.”
Noble is ultimately glad that she not only trusted her intuition and escaped the crowd safely, but also that Sanchez left the festival unharmed as well.
“I was glad I went with my instincts and got out of the crowd,” said Noble. “I’m really glad that my friend was okay. She ended up staying in the crowd for the whole concert. She said that she was able to stick with a couple of people and they were able to keep each other on their feet and make sure they didn’t get hurt. I was definitely concerned for her.”