It’s hard to steal the show from Kendrick Lamar turning his discography into an on-stage art installation while dressed like the messiah; Tyler, the Creator performing in a speed boat; and Doja Cat giving a headliner-worthy show. But, it isn’t impossible. A week removed from the tragic events of Astroworld Fest, Day N Vegas unmistakably reshaped its festival to make it clear they were intent on preventing anything like that from happening on the Las Vegas Festival Grounds.
Before you walked onto the festival grounds, screens near the entrances made advisories seldom seen at festivals. Screens flashed “See something, say something. Flag down any staff member for assistance.” There were recommendations for people traveling in groups to choose a meeting place before trying to make your way through the swarm of people. The main stage screens displayed messages asking those in the crowd to make room for medical personnel in the event they need to assist a festival goer. This comes after an ambulance attempting to transport injured festival goers at Astroworld Fest was impeded by stampeding Travis Scott fans who saw the ambulance as nothing more than another stage for them to rage on.
Some attendees, like 25-year-old Nay Williams from the Los Angeles area, felt the increased safety precautions made her feel safe but also made her realize how dangerous festivals can be. “They had that shit on the screen. I was like, ‘Oh, this is for real. They’re being very active about it,’” Williams told Okayplayer. “Astroworld really made people think, ‘We need to take this shit seriously.’” Kevin Leaven, 24, attending his first festival since the start of the pandemic, had a friend who went to Astroworld Festival and didn’t learn about the fatalities until day after, a sign to him of how the deaths, while tragic, may have been an isolated incident and not indicative of the threat level at all festivals. Even still, his Day N Vegas experience was preceded by Astroworld’s influence.
“I had a lot of people who knew I was going to the festival check in with me to say, ‘Be careful.’ They didn’t say too much else besides, ‘I saw what happened at Astroworld, be careful.”
Opinions may have differed, but the message from Day N Vegas organizer Goldenvoice was clear: Concert safety goes as far as the cooperation of the community. And you could see them rewriting the rules of festival standards in real-time. On the first night of the festival, VIP patrons complained to security about not being able to make their way to the main stage VIP area. The next day, a new pathway was constructed in the entrance to the Guest/Industry Lounge, splitting it in half to allow for VIP holders to access their separate area easier. Also, on the first day, the pathway to the VIP area on the Sunny Stage was so packed with people it prevented the few people in the area watching Isaiah Rashad’s standout performance from safely leaving. For the remaining two days of the festival, that stage’s VIP area was removed, a somewhat unprecedented move from festivals who make a lot of money selling VIP tickets.
While the organizers were clear on their commitment to safety, the artists’ messages about crowd safety were a bit more mixed. Rico Nasty has likened herself to a “pop-punk princess,” yet midway through her performance, she stopped the show to point out a young woman in the front row seemingly being pressed into the barricades and gasping for air more than she was reciting Rico’s lyrics. Instead of simply getting the young woman help from the security guards, she decided to allow the fan to come watch the show from the stage.
Artists like Snoh Aalegra and 24KGoldn made it a point to also check in with the crowd to make sure they were comfortable and safe. Other artists either made no mention of safety or Astroworld Festival or were disappointed by the new normal Day N Vegas was establishing. Flatbush Zombies shows are usually excuses for unhinged mayhem. At Day N Vegas, one of the members disappointingly remarked he’d usually be turning up in the crowd, to which another member of the group exclaimed, “Thats not allowed anymore!” Artists like Lil Baby and Don Toliver, who performed at Astroworld Festival, made no mention of the deadly festival or checked in with the crowd about their safety during their sets. But, no artist was more defiant against Goldenvoice’s new safety precautions than Lil Uzi Vert, the prince of rage rap.
After arriving 30 minutes late to a 50-minute set with no explanation or apology, he started the show by almost immediately scaling the barricade at the front of the crowd and moshing with the crowd. Shortly after, he stopped his set to state he went into the crowd too early without explaining his reasoning. In the middle of performing one of his next two songs, the Generation Now artist could be seen telling someone he’s not taking any breaks in his set. Then, he proceeded to firmly draw a line in the sand between him and the new normal of festivals post-Astroworld Fest.
After asking his DJ to pause the set, Uzi took the time to confirm the audience understand he was an artist who is “psyched the fuck out” and has been pretty successful being as such. “I don’t take no breaks. If it’s getting bad, leave. If you ain’t gon’ leave, stay,” he told the crowd. “I want to lose my mind. I want to have a headache after this shit. I want to pass out.” Even after 10 people passed away from riotous conditions in the Astroworld Fest crowd a week prior, Uzi encouraged the Day N Vegas crowd to create an atmosphere so frenzied he’d pass out, letting his impressionable fans know that behavior was warranted at a Lil Uzi Vert show.
At the completion of his following song, he reiterated “don’t stop my rage.” That’s when Goldenvoice did something I’ve never seen in any of the festivals I’ve attended over the last eight years: They ended his show. As he began flailing around the stage to perform his next song, the music and his mic volume were cut to his bemusement and eventual frustration. In retaliation for the abrupt ending of his performance, he thought it’d be a great idea to hurl the mic into a packed crowd, leaving no doubt in anyone’s mind he valued the rage over the safety of those in the crowd.
Attendees I spoke with in the crowd figured Uzi’s set was cut short because he started late, a logical explanation that doesn’t fall in line with the way festivals operate or the reality of the situation. Uzi’s set was scheduled to run from 7:00 – 7:50, yet his set was stopped roughly five minutes before it was supposed to end. Also, main stage acts of Uzi’s caliber typically are given leeway with going over their allotted time, especially since only SZA and Tyler the Creator were left to perform on the stage. But, it became abundantly clear his set was stopped due to it endangering people in the crowd when a voice was heard over the speakers advising those in the crowd to move backwards to give those in the front of the crowd space.
It’s truly a shame Baby Rose’s most riveting performance of her career, Griselda’s first group performance in Las Vegas, Victoria Monet’s dazzling set, and one of the best live experiences of 2021 will be mostly remembered as the start of a new normal for music festivals. But, until artists and festival organizers find a compromise between artistic expression and crowd safety, festivals will never look the same again.
Keith Nelson Jr. is a journalist who has covered hip-hop, technology, and movies/TV for VIBE, Revolt, Digital Trends, Flaunt Magazine, and more. Follow him @JusAire
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