Travis Scott's sold-out Astroworld festival brought joy back to the youth of Houston

Like his music, the fest was an escape from what is, at times, an exhausting reality.

He did it. He finally did it.

Travis Scott, hip-hop’s most polarizing figure and arguably its biggest star today, brought Astroworld back to the kids of Houston, Texas.

In 2005, Six Flags Astroworld — a once-iconic landmark in Houston — was shut down due to aesthetic and financial decline; its land was repurposed as parking for the nearby rodeo and NRG Stadium. The park’s closure didn’t sit well with residents of the city, especially Scott, who began making music in an effort to give back to the kids who had been stripped of a youthful respite from the real world.

In 2018, Scott’s dream manifested itself in the form of Astroworld, his third studio album and most successful project to date. Following the album’s release, the 26-year-old announced his first headlining arena tour, as well as an all-out Astroworld festival date in Houston.

While the festival promised to feature a lineup handpicked by the rapper himself, details remained a mystery during the entirety of Astroworld's build-up. Still, the festival sold out two days prior to the Astroworld tour’s kickoff on November 6.

The first few dates of the tour were met with rave reviews, but the jaunt curiously stalled when Scott postponed several dates — including a November 12 show at Tampa's Amalie Arena — due to “technical production issues.” The postponements led to doubts about Scott’s ability to meet the production demands of a full-scale festival.

On Friday, he made amends by announcing the long-awaited lineup in impressive fashion.

Co-headlining alongside Scott would be fellow Texan Post Malone, Lil Wayne, Rae Sremmurd, and Young Thug. Astroworld tour openers Sheck Wes, Trippie Redd, Virgil Abloh and Gunna were also on the bill.

The lineup drop gave the already buzzed-about event even more hype, and on Saturday morning fans showed up hours early to line up at the festival’s entrance. At 12 p.m. the festival, held in the yellow lot of NRG Stadium, opened the gates to Scott’s re-envisioned theme park.

Walking in, fans were greeted by a giant arch sporting the park’s name as well as the massive gold inflatable head seen on the Astroworld album cover.

In addition to two stages, the grounds were adorned with numerous theme park rides and even a small-scale “Astrodome” planetarium that served as an ode to the former home of the Houston Astros.

Warming up the crowd early were DJ sets by Louis Vuitton artistic director Virgil Abloh and producer Metro Boomin, a longtime collaborator of Scott’s.

Following Metro’s set, Sheck Wes took over on the Thrills stage, where he crowd-surfed his way through one of the year’s biggest tracks, “Mo Bamba.”

Playing before Scott on the Chills stage were Young Thug and Post Malone, the latter easily flying his way through a brief 45-minute set packed with a seemingly endless run of hits that culminated with a performance of “Congratulations.”

Only theme park rides illuminated the sky as night fell, and the bulging crowd inched closer to the railing in anticipation of the hometown star’s headlining set.

Late by just 10 minutes, Travis Scott appeared at 9:40 p.m. atop a small stage that was positioned further out in the crowd. If you were looking for a roller coaster, it was actually right there as the rapper performed “STARGAZING” while he brought people onstage to ride a one-seater coaster ride affixed to a circular track. The crowd erupted into a moshing frenzy, and that energy burned hotter as Scott followed with “Mamacita” and “No Bystanders.”

As is typical for Travis Scott shows, fans along the rail sporadically jumped over the barrier and climbed on stage. On a few occasions, the rapper even fought off security attempting to eject said fans and instead helped fans onstage only to have them jump back in and crowd-surf on top of the mob.

On “3500” Scott traded verses with two such fans, but his biggest onstage collaborations were yet to come. Young Thug and Gunna would both join him, and so did artists not featured on the lineup: Juice WRLD and Nav appeared, with the Nav assisting on “Biebs in the Trap.”

Scott used the more than 30-song set to shuffle through his tracks he’s guested on (SZA’s "Love Galore"), radio hits ("Sicko Mode") and even fan favorites from his mixtapes days (Days Before Rodeo rarity “Drugs You Should Try It”).

He was almost never not beaming at the crowd, a sea of people culled together for 90 minutes in the spirit of his beloved theme park.

When he wasn’t panting for air in between songs, Scott was telling fans to “Remember Astroworld day,” repeatedly thanking them, and expressing his love for them. Despite doubts about his ability to put on a festival, the first year of Travis Scott’s Astroworld festival stands as a resounding success. Not because it sold out, but because it brought joy back to his hometown and his fans.

That’s all Scott has ever been about, really. While critics continue to portray him as a product of musical fads or trends, the rapper has made it his mission to block out the noise and focus on cultivating something meaningful for his audience.

His music won’t appeal to everyone, but, ultimately, who cares?

His tireless, rage-driven output has always served as a gift to the kids who use music as an escape from what is, at times, an exhausting reality, and that’s something you can’t knock or critique.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner made it official, November 18 will forever be known as “Astroworld Day,” in commemoration of the afternoon that Travis Scott brought Astroworld back to the city of Houston.

About The Author

LJ Hilberath

Franz “LJ” Hilberath is a Clearwater-native who contributes to Creative Loafing's Music section. He previously served as an intern and is now a freelance contributor for all things music.LJ can be found in the field reviewing concerts and music festivals around the country, and also works interviews for both local...
Scroll to read more Music News articles
Join the Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state.
Help us keep this coverage going with a one-time donation or an ongoing membership pledge.


Join Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Creative Loafing Tampa Bay. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at [email protected]