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A record-breaking performance
A record-breaking performance
Photo by Marco Torres

The Ecstasy and Chaos of Cardi B's Record-Setting RodeoHouston Debut

Three people. Six legs. 30 Fingers. 96 teeth, give or take. Sometimes three people don't amount to a whole lot, but sometimes three people are what push you over the edge into history. Such is the case with Cardi B, the new champion of RodeoHouston, whose debut performance on the giant star brought in 75,580 fans, three more than Garth Brooks' record-setting Rodeo finale last year.

Cardi B may be the ultimate “This is my Song!” artist, a person who people will defend no matter what because they've created a piece of art so transcendent it inspires endless devotion. This was one of those crowds that was just happy to be in the same space as the person on stage, and the energy that they brought with them made the show feel less like a concert to be watched and more like something you experienced in your bones. The energy was so high it made even the normally awful “DJ farts around with songs you know to hype you for the headliner” opening part of the show actually pretty fun; never underestimate the power of 75,000 people all yelling “From the windoooooooooow.... to the wall.”

Cardi B may be the perfect artist for a post-luxury rap world.
Cardi B may be the perfect artist for a post-luxury rap world.
Photo by Marco Torres

Cardi B may be the perfect artist for a post-luxury rap world. Sure, she loves money and jewels as much as the next rapper, but her emphasis on talking about not just about her success but her struggles as well make her easy to identify with. She's Stone Cold Steve Austin with better dancing; you want her to get the cash and jewels because you want the cash and jewels, and her success is your success, metaphorically speaking. That level of empathy is rare but very human. I've always been kind of indifferent to Cardi B, but seeing her in person, me and my two legs, 10 fingers and 31 teeth got why so many people wanted to be there.

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RodeoHouston generally operates on the principle that “most people are good.” Yes, there is security in place, but we're still talking about an event that invites 75,000 people and offers them up all the high-priced alcohol they can afford; things happen. The flipside to “most people are good” is, of course, “some people aren't.”

After the show, as the crowds log jammed near one of the exits, a sudden surge of people started coming my way. People were screaming, scrambling. They jumped behind cash registers and clothing racks. Some people got smashed. Others had panic attacks. In that kind of chaos, when visibility is limited to the three or so people in front of you, you can't tell what's happening ten feet away.

We are, as Rod Sterling once wrote, “a species of flimsy little two-legged animal with extremely small heads.” We live in a world where people fight at the smallest slight and panic is a rational response to almost everything.

The situation was intense, and really left a dark cloud over the evening, but I'll confess that I was hesitant to mention it because I can already imagine the response from some reading about it. “It was a Cardi B show, what did you expect?,” or “This is why you shouldn't book rap acts,” as if drinking and violence are limited to specific genres or backgrounds. But any person with two legs, ten fingers and 32 teeth can be an asshole, no matter whose song they love.

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There's no solution to the problem of people behaving badly, in the same

way

there's no replicating Cardi B's intrinsic force of personality. People are predictable, yes, but sometimes they'll inspire you just like sometimes they'll let you down. Although her show was not quite the family-friendly spectacle promised by RodeoHouston, there weren't a lot of angry families storming out. And after the panic and chaos, there were people still trying to line up to buy Cardi B hats from the clearly frazzled staff and mess of a merch stand.

Things happen. Sometimes they are joyous. Sometimes they are frightening. Sometimes they're both. But we've taught our small brains to be OK with both. We take things as they come, no matter how many legs, fingers, or teeth we have.

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