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Astroworld Fest was a movie with a few growing pains

It was the same Astroworld Festival as last year, but bigger.

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Astroworld might be a movie where more than 50,000 people buy tickets for without knowing the cast.

After a successful inaugural festival in 2018, the second annual Astroworld Fest returned and put on display how Travis’ vision for it has evolved. The spirit of Houston permeated the festival with Bun B, Trae The Truth, Slim Thug and Paul Wall, among other Houston All-Stars like Megan Thee Stallion and Maxo Kream joining them. The merchandise lines were infinite, the rides were intact, and DJ Screw’s indomitable legacy was back on display in the Screw Shop pop-up.

It was the same Astroworld Festival as last year, but bigger.

This year adhered to more of the performative spirit of a movie than simply song-driven. The inaugural Astroworld Fest’s lineup included mostly rappers whose live show appeal is in the hits and not the stage production. This year, Scott enlisted artists with a trusted history of putting on full-scale performances.

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The festival had Spanish singer Rosalia standing atop a glowing staircase, dressed in a skin-tight mosaic of colors too intricate to look away from with a set of dancers doing choreography too dazzling to forget. Then, there was Marilyn Manson burning bibles and performing behind a podium drenched in devilish red lights. DaBaby performed while flanked by gigantic inflatable babies bouncing around onstage. No one had a bigger dance party than Pharrell, who performed a medley of hits before receding to the background allowing his consortium of dancers.

Houston’s hottest rapper out right now, Megan Thee Stallion, showed off her adamantium knees with booty-shaking choreography paired with unparalleled breath control in a leopard-print before bringing dozens of fans onstage to “bust it open like a freak” during “Simon Says.” Megan’s performance surely didn’t disappoint, with the 24-year-old rapper making frequent mentions to Houston. But, the performance was a huge missed opportunity for Scott and his festival.

She was originally scheduled to perform at 3:30 p.m. until it was moved to 4:45 p.m. following Gucci Mane’s removal from the lineup due to travel issues. Either time would put her before artists such as Rosalia, Migos and Young Thug. You could argue that each of those three acts has bigger international followings than Megan. But, none of them were Houston heroes like her, which was evidenced by the fact her earlier set drew bigger crowds than both Rosalia and Thug.

Even with an early set, Megan still saw the importance of what Scott is doing for Houston with the Astroworld Festival. “We missed Astroworld in Houston. Thank you Travis for bringing that all back,” she said.

Last year’s festival was practically devoid of any noticeable presence of a major brand, which is highly uncharacteristic of major music festivals this decade. This year saw Nike make its debut instead of Bacardi just providing bottles of its Bacardi Limon and Cuba Libre at the bars last year.

“Honestly, the response of the people [impressed us],” Tyler Phillips, director of lifestyle & culture sponsorships at Bacardi USA, told REVOLT. “The fact that you have a second year in a row with a sold-out show, without talent announced in a market that doesn’t really do a lot of festivals, to be honest, is an opportunity we don’t have with a lot of different festivals.”

The top moments of the festival were fit for a movie screen. Rosalia’s performance at the Thrills stage was so captivating that Kylie Jenner and her friends partied in the photo pit. Given the rumors of Jenner and Scott’s separation, this public showing of support for not only Rosalia, but also the father of her child was one that had many at the festival speculating on what it all means like a real-time episode of “Keeping Up With The Kardashians.”

The biggest moments were reserved for Scott’s performance. The rapper injured his knee at Rolling Loud NYC, a month before Astroworld Fest after he fell performing his song “Butterfly Effect.” That injury was rumored to be the reason the rage pastor pulled out of his scheduled headlining performance at Goldenvoice’s Day N Vegas festival the week prior. Introduced by Dave Chappelle, Scott came out onstage by being wheeled out of an ambulance after a satirical video of EMTs working to repair his blood-gushing knee displayed. Scott then performed his set either from a Frankenstein-style contraption or presiding over the crowd from an elevated platform.

His performance was theatrical without sacrificing the playlist-like spontaneity where anyone can come out and do anything. Migos, Scott and Young Thug premiered a new song. Thug, Scott, and Gunna performed Thug’s “Hot (Remix)” for the first time ever with Gunna running onstage with the sort of youthful zeal. Scott also brought Kanye West out to a rapturous response from a crowd that largely was expecting Drake to be the surprise guest. They shared a prolonged embrace while Travis vehemently shared words in West’s ear to the visible pleasure of the GOOD Music head honcho.

At one point near the end of the festival, all of the lights on the stage went out and Scott explained they raged so hard the electricity short-circuited. However, that was definitely indicative of the biggest issue with Astroworld Fest this year: Ambition outweighing abilities.

The event sold more than 50,000 tickets and probably had an extra 2,000 people in attendance unaccounted for. Around 3:00 p.m., patrons who entered the VIP entrance saw dozens of overzealous fans scale the gate and evade a confounded group of security guards who were usually outnumbered 8 to 1. The same was true deeper in the festival, where people hopped over the general admission barricade at the Chills main stage with relative ease and waited until Scott’s performance.

Scott didn’t directly endorse people sneaking into the festival without permission, but did promote the festival with an Instagram video of anxious ticket holders rushing to enter the festival the moment it opened. Scott advised to “BE SAFE, RAGE HARD,” which proved to be difficult for a few concertgoers. The Houston Fire Department later told CNN affiliate KTRK-TV that three people were hospitalized with leg injuries after trying to enter the festival.

It’s going to be interesting to see how the anarchic energy that predicates the festival and its promotion is precluded in future festivals.

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