"The man who left this city with nothing and conquered the world."
Dave Chappelle's unexpected appearance on stage at Astroworld Fest to introduce Travis Scott was punctuated by the statement above. A summation of the incredible, improbable rise of a kid from Missouri City, Texas to the pinnacle of the entertainment industry.
The second iteration of Scott's now world famous one-day music festival, Astroworld, was in many ways as stunning and extravagant as we all hoped — complete with a surprise Kanye West appearance, Dave Chappelle cameo and many of the same carnival rides and attractions seen at last year's inaugural festival. In other ways the event disappointed like so many major festivals often do.
Curated by Scott himself, this year's lineup was decidedly more eclectic than last year's. Released less than 24 hours before the gates opened, the long anticipated list was full of surprises, let-downs and rumor. Fans and local celebrities speculated on the potential for A-list onstage cameos, while others debated the surprise inclusion of Marilyn Manson and Spanish language superstar Rosalía — both of whom were given prominent time slots near the end of the night.
Early performances included a repeat appearance by the Houston All Stars — a rotating collaboration of iconic Houston rappers who first appeared all together at the now defunct Free Press Summer Fest. This year the All Stars included Alief's Maxo Kream for the first time. Kream took the stage last to the surprise of most in attendance, providing a powerful performance in an afternoon lineup that severely lacked effort.
Although an extremely young, wildly enthusiastic and rather unruly crowd (the festival was once again plagued by dozens of gate hoppers and barrier breakthroughs) did not seem to mind, early performances included some of the lowest effort showmanship this reviewer has ever seen. Artists like rap sensations Dababy and Playboi Carti jumped and danced while full vocal versions of their songs played on massive speakers — only occasionally bothering to scream a few lines into their mics between exhausting and momentum-killing intermissions. Even global superstar rap group Migos offered a half-assed performance of 45-second song clips interspersed by a series of massively annoying machine gun song breaks.
However, any lingering doubt about the festival's value and the justifiable nature of a $200 general admission ticket was all but forgotten the moment Marilyn Manson took the stage. The now 50-year-old rock star wowed the massive crowd before him, introducing a generation of Travis Scott stans to his brand of '90s-era shock rock and industrial metal. Manson was not ignorant of the juxtaposition that his appearance presented against the rest of the lineup, calling Scott a "f***king genius" for the decision.
The two encore set was perhaps one of the only true concerts heard all day, as Manson and company played nearly an hour of material complete with heavy stage production and pyrotechnics. The frenzied and raging crowd was decidedly more animated than at any previous moment in the day, marking a tangible turning point in the night.
Headliner Pharrell followed the act with an energetic set that was highlighted by his many throwbacks including tracks from his early 2000s projects N.E.R.D. and The Neptunes. Singer-songwriter and Latin Grammy winner Rosalía followed with a more mellow set of both Spanish and English hits (apparently attended by Scott's ex-partner and baby mamma Kylie Jenner). As her set came to a close, a massive crowd had already started forming around the festival's larger stage awaiting the evening's main event.
By the time the lights dimmed and Dave Chappelle unexpectedly took the stage to introduce Travis, the crowd of over 50,000 had reached a veritable fever pitch of nervous, even hysterical anticipation. Despite the Houston native's recent knee injury limiting him notorious onstage mobility (Scott has been known to stage dive, climber rafters, and jump security gates during shows) the Mo-City rapper still thrilled from atop a boom that lifted him above the crowd for the first half of the show.
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As anyone who's ever been to a Travis Scott performance can attest, the indescribable energy and once-in-a-lifetime nature of his shows is as much a product of his fanatically devoted fan base as anything he does onstage. The enthusiasm and revelry displayed by his hordes of adoring fans resonates and pulls you in. Massive mosh pits form 100 yards from stage and no distance seems far enough to escape the sheer insanity of the moment.
Like the Beatles in West Germany or Queen at Live Aid, Travis Scott at Astroworld has become an iconic moment in live music history — now repeated. It's likely the experience will lose some of its luster and "you should have been there" purity if the event becomes an annual tradition. Without this year's uproarious, though half-expected Kanye appearance, the second iteration may well have lacked the true unforgettable nature of last year's festival. The realization of the brevity and rarity of such moments only makes the mantra posted throughout the festival grounds all the more relevant.
"Don't blink. You might miss the moment."