Concertgoer says his perspective on 'rage culture' has changed following Astroworld Festival

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Days after multiple deaths and hundreds of injuries were being investigated after the tragedy at a Houston music event, one concertgoer said his perspective on 'rage culture' has changed following his experience.

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As early as last week, people lined up at rapper Travis Scott's Space Village store, just to get their hands on merchandise ahead of the Astroworld Festival. Days following the eventual tragedy, ABC13 spotted fans at the business, only to find it shuttered.

AJ Marquez said he's been to several of Travis Scott's concerts and has attended Astroworld Festival every year since its inception.

"I will say that's it's promoted heavily," Marquez said referencing the 'rage culture.' "Especially with his music, and so that encourages a bunch of mosh pits, and nothing like really violent to the point where people are fist fighting each other. It's more like mosh pitting, people jumping around and pushing people."

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Joey Guerra, a Houston Chronicle music critic who was also at the Astroworld festival on Friday, has covered the tragedy since the beginning.

Guerra said the so-called rage culture has been Scott's unique niche since the beginning of his performance career. He said the culture thrives on the chaotic energy that Marquez described.

"I think, for a lot of these fans, when we talk about 'rage culture,' it's a positive thing for them," Guerra said. "When you watch, in particular, this Netflix documentary that he did, it's using that as a selling point, and we see these fans talking about being in the crowd, and you know, we see a guy on crutches, people injured and talking about the experience of being in his show. But it's all seen as something positive. I think that's kind of the danger here. There's a very kind of a delicate balancing act that's happening, and if it teeters the wrong way, unfortunately, we see what happens."

Guerra said fans anticipating that type of chaos at Scott's shows may have been why some concertgoers didn't know anyone was seriously injured or in need of medical care.

On Monday, Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said he approached Scott and the head of the event's security team to address concerns about public safety and Scott's messaging on social media before Friday's performance.

The 2021 incident, while by far the most dangerous, wasn't an isolated one for Travis Scott fans.

In 2019, people rushed the barricades at Astroworld Festival, similar to what was seen Friday afternoon.

Marquez said this year, the energy felt different at the event, and he noticed a drastic shift in the crowd shortly after Scott started performing.

"I was with one of my friends and my little brother," Marquez said. "We had been in the crowd and feeling very compressed. It was difficult to breathe."

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Marquez told ABC13 that someone he was with said they needed to leave. Marquez said it was difficult not to panic as they struggled to get out of the crowd.

"When the concert had ended, there was a group of people rushing through, and I saw that they needed help carrying a body on a stretcher," Marquez explained. "One of my friends jumped in and helped carry that stretcher, along with the other medics. I think there were two people being carried out on stretchers, and I don't think there were enough medics to carry out both."

Marquez said they had to maneuver the stretcher over a gate before finally reaching the medical tent at the left side of the stage. At the time, Marquez did not know the person on that stretcher was 21-year-old Axel Acosta, who would later be identified as one of the eight people killed.

Marquez said he feels traumatized following Friday's tragedy.

"It does kind of change my viewpoint on the rage culture, like you mentioned earlier, that's brought on during these shows," Marquez said. "And you know, just to be more conscientious about that in future occurrences. Just be mindful that, what I've been through, I don't wish that upon anybody. It was a very frightening event."

Both Marquez and Guerra believe multiple factors may have played a role in Friday's tragedy and hope to see a number of changes for future events, including crowd control and increased security and safety protocols.

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