After Astroworld, music festivals face new scrutiny over crowd safety
James Atoa/UPI/Shutterstock

After Astroworld, music festivals face new scrutiny over crowd safety

Seven days after the Astroworld tragedy, another major music festival is kicking off tonight in Las Vegas.

While Travis Scott is no longer scheduled to perform at Day N Vegas — he pulled out and has been replaced by Post Malone — the concert industry and law enforcement will be watching the crowds at the three-day event and other music festivals this weekend.

About 50,000 people are expected to attend Day N Vegas — roughly the same number of people as Scott’s event in Houston. It’s one of at least eight music festivals across the US this weekend, including Freakout in Seattle, Electric Daisy Carnival in Orlando and Welcome to Rockville in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Organizers for Day N Vegas, Electric Daisy Carnival and Welcome to Rockville did not respond to CNN’s requests for comment about whether they are revamping safety procedures in the wake of what happened at the Astroworld Festival in Houston.

But the Astroworld crowd surge, which killed nine people during a performance by Scott, is spurring law enforcement in some cities to take another look at their concert safety measures.

Public officials, law enforcement and first responders in Las Vegas have met several times this week to discuss crowd safety at this weekend’s festival, said Officer Larry Hadfield, a spokesman for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.

“We’ve had meetings about this. It’s part of our planning,” said Hadfield, who added that Day N Vegas is relatively small compared to other music festivals in the city. “We take into account what has occurred, look at contingency plans, take into consideration all those things and prepare for scenarios, such as what happens if something becomes dangerous.”

Authorities across the US say they’re committed to preventing another tragedy

A record 225,000 electronic dance music fans showed up for Orlando’s last Electric Daisy Carnival in 2019. The city is expecting mobs of revelers for this weekend’s three-day event as well.

Orlando officials told CNN that the city evaluates similar live events happening elsewhere and adjusts their staffing accordingly. It said it has enough security and medical staff to cover the festival, but declined to provide specifics on plans.

“The Orlando Police and Fire Departments monitors trends on a continual basis and adjustments are made as needed. There will be security and medical support measures in place,” the city said in a statement. “The safety and security of our visitors and residents remains our number one priority.”

Las Vegas’ Hadfield also declined to say whether the Astroworld tragedy forced the LVPD to rethink any safety specifics. But he assured festival attendees that the city will have plenty of resources at this weekend’s festival, plus contigency plans with other jurisdictions in case they need more. He urged attendees to go easy on the alcohol and flag down officials if something doesn’t seem right.

In Daytona Beach, the Volusia Sheriff’s Office said it’s working with local, state and federal partners to provide security for Welcome to Rockville, a four-day rock festival headlined by Metallica. Event organizers have recruited local law enforcement officers to work at Daytona International Speedway, where the event is held.

“In addition to planning meetings that have already been happening, we have a detailed operations plan in place for this event,” said Andrew Gant, a spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office. “Without going into specific aspects of the security plan, our agencies are well prepared for managing large crowds.

“All involved are well aware of the tragic events in Houston and are committed to preventing anything like it from happening here.”

Experts say lessons can be learned from Astroworld

Security experts are urging organizers to use the Houston tragedy as a teachable moment.

Peter Eliadis, a former law enforcement official, said Astroworld will be used as a case study for years on what happens when an event goes bad.

“Lessons learned will be applied and incorporated into future planning across the country,” said Eliadis, the founder of Intelligence Consulting Partners, which assists in planning large-scale events in the US and overseas. “This includes stronger input from fire/EMS and law enforcement at the planning stage of an event.”

City officials and concert organizers must take into account entertainers’ past performances and decide whether those who attract unruly crowd behavior are welcome at their events, he said.

“Their decision should incorporate safety and not just initial financial gain that a concert will bring,” he said, adding that lawsuits over the Astroworld tragedy may drain promoters’ profits.

Officials must be able to quickly pause or shut down a concert if it is compromising safety, Eliadis said.

Paul Wertheimer, founder of the Crowd Management Strategies consulting firm, takes a more cynical view.

“This incident is a recurrence of past incidents,” he said, citing other events where concertgoers died. “Every time event planners and promoters get a wake up call, they hit the snooze button. They’re not gonna learn anything. It sounds negative and cynical, but it’s true. They say all the right things but they never do the right thing.”

To avoid more deaths, many changes need to happen, Wertheimer said, including stricter event licensing, mandatory crowd-safety courses for promoters and national standards for the way concerts are managed.

“Right now, you have no idea what venue is safe and what’s not,” he said.

One small festival organizer accuses large events of cutting corners

An organizer of the Freakout Festival, a four-day event underway this weekend in Seattle, said his concerts attract about 2,000 people a day, a small number compared to most music festivals.

The intimate scale gives event officials a better handle on security, said Guy Keltner, the festival’s co-founder. He said he knows his security team by name.

“We always take care of the folks in our midst and sort of never feel threatened by these sorts of things,” he said. “I have a crew that I trust. We hire folks that we trust. We tend to have a very alert staff and are constantly in communication. And stage safety is always a priority.”

Live Nation Entertainment, the concert promoter that organized the Astroworld Festival, has been cited about a dozen times for numerous safety issues, records show. The company has said it’s “heartbroken” over Astroworld and is cooperating with authorities as they investigate why the event turned deadly.

Keltner accused larger events of mismanagement and cutting corners, and said he hopes the Astroworld tragedy will put pressure on organizers to rethink how they operate.

“We’ve seen this happen for years,” Keltner said. “We’ll see if new regulation comes out of this or if the company responds in a way that feels genuine and not just, ‘how do we manage the bad PR.'”

Some changes are already underway

Some cities have already started implementing changes. Butch Spyridon, president of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp., said the city is revamping security for its upcoming New Year’s Eve events.

“We never have had that law enforcement person on stage (at live music events). And as I read and watch the commentary over this event, and whose responsibility — should Travis Scott cancel or stop the show? — it was a quick reminder — that’s when you do need the visible presence of law enforcement,” Spyridon said.

“So it’s going to be the first conversation we have with our police department. We want somebody on stage … who’s also in touch with central command for the event.”

City officials also plan to modify their contracts with event promoters, adding a clause that gives them the right to postpone, delay or cancel an event based on input from first responders and emergency personnel.

“So there’s not even a question of who has the authority,” Spyridon said.

™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.