Fans show in droves for Day N Vegas festival, but Astroworld tragedy not far from mind
Just a few minutes into his Friday afternoon set at the Day N Vegas festival, as a few thousand people gathered at the main stage, New York rapper Bas stood extra vigilant over his crowd.
“Cut the music. You all good over there?” he asked, pointing to a fan in some sort of discomfort near the front of the stage. He paused his set for about 30 seconds to let the fan catch their breath and make their way to open space. “We’re gonna let security do what they do.”
On the first day of the Las Vegas hip-hop and R&B festival featuring headliners Kendrick Lamar, Post Malone and Tyler, the Creator, the crowd-crush disaster at Travis Scott’s Astroworld Festival was at the back of everyone’s mind. From the fans gingerly returning to the festival scene, to the artists onstage with a wary eye on moshing to a trio of police helicopters hovering near-constantly over the grounds, it was clear the stakes were high.
Day N Vegas, from Coachella promoters Goldenvoice and AEG, came just a week after nine fans were killed and hundreds more injured after a crowd surge at the Houston festival from Scott and mega-promoter Live Nation.
Fans still thronged to see Lamar’s first festival show in two years (60,000 attended the first Day N Vegas in 2019) and sets from emerging superstars like Polo G and Roddy Ricch. But with Malone taking over Scott’s Saturday headline slot, the Astroworld disaster hovered over conversations.
“I really wanted to see Travis. I still like his music but that was a very, very sad thing to see,” said Carl White, who traveled to Day N Vegas with a pair of fellow thirtysomething friends from Minnesota.
The news of the disaster hadn’t undermined White’s festival experience, but he did pause to think about whether it would impede his Scott fandom.
“It’s not all on him, but that video where the ambulance is driving into the crowd, it didn’t look good,” White said.
“But this basic layout looks really safe,” added his friend Chelsea Bohmer, gesturing at the Day N Vegas main stage with its divvied-up viewing areas and wide passages among the three stages. “You can see at lot of medics walking around too.”
Representatives from Las Vegas’ Public Safety department did not immediately respond to requests for comment on any updates to the festival’s safety protocols after Astroworld. But unlike recent Southern California festivals, including Hard Summer, guards checked for proof of vaccination at the festival gates. Masks were relatively common any time crowds pushed closer in the thoroughfares.
Between sets, screens on the stages encouraged fans to speak up if anyone looked in distress. Several on-site security guards from the Apex Security Group declined to talk about the day’s work, but they and guards from CSC Security were a prominent presence throughout.
Even the rowdiest live acts seemed to know that this festival was going to be a crucible for good behavior. Rico Nasty — whose punk-inspired noise-rap has kicked up plenty of mosh pits — halted her set to reach out to a fan getting a bit banged up.
“You, in the red hat. You look like you’re getting crushed, bro. You can come sit up here,” she said. The fan got their bearings, and Nasty dove right back into her brash and bawdy performance.
For emerging acts, Day N Vegas was always supposed to be a post-COVID return to the kinds of stages that can change a career. Khamari is a new Boston-to-L.A. transplant with an ear for deep, suave R&B and Beatles-y melody.
He’s playing his first-ever festival set at Day N Vegas on Saturday afternoon.
“I got a little lucky in the casino last night so I don’t want to jinx anything,” he said and laughed. “There’s definitely been a learning curve to playing live again, but this festival is dope because there’s no boxes for genres here.”
He added that Astroworld made him understand his role as a performer a little differently.
“It definitely makes you think in terms of security, but it also reminds you that you have a responsibility to make sure people aren’t just having a good time, but feel safe too,” he said. “It’s been dope to see people looking out for each other.”
As the civil lawsuits against Travis Scott and Live Nation pile up, legal experts say that Scott could also face arrest for his part in the Astroworld tragedy.
Astroworld “was 100% on my mind,” added R&B singer Lucky Daye, who performed a poised, regal set of ballads at Day N Vegas on Friday. “I don’t sing with my eyes open typically, but I wanted to see that everyone was being safe, having a good time, taking a moment to breathe. We as artists definitely need to show more compassion for the people out there. In the end, it’s our responsibility.”
For the young fans who drive today’s hip-hop culture, festivals like Rolling Loud and Day N Vegas have become places to check out the favorite acts that emerged on streaming services and social media over the last year. The idea that a mass casualty could occur at a festival definitely shook them up.
“I was pretty upset when it happened,” said Priscilla Gamboa, an 18-year-old from Las Vegas, about the Astroworld tragedy. But she was eager to see Polo G later in the evening and happy to have Day N Vegas as a new fixture in her city. “People have to live in the moment too,“ she added.
Javier Lopez, another Vegas 18-year-old, was glad to see Day N Vegas taking extra precautions, both formally and culturally, as fans kept an eye on each other.
“I’m not too worried, it all seems pretty safe here,” he said, leaving the merch tent with an armful of new clothes. “I think most festivals are like this one. Astroworld was just one that got out of hand.”
”Travis is bearing the brunt of Astroworld,” said Tim Gilbert, a fan in his 30s who traveled to Day N Vegas from Minnesota. “But there were bigger problems with that whole thing.”
But few expressed reservations about returning to shows in the future.
Day N Vegas was the first-ever music festival for 28-year-old Gabrielle Sims from Washington, D.C. “I made a pact to go see Kendrick” as soon as the star hit the road again post-COVID-19, she said.
Astroworld left her a little nervous about her debut into festival culture. But as she surveyed the scene at Day N Vegas, she felt safe in her decision to fly cross-country to see a favorite rapper perform.
“The festival really did a lot of communication about safety beforehand,” Sims said. ”They’re checking vax cards at the door, and it’s not too crowded. I saw someone passing out water bottles into the crowd. I think everyone’s on high alert to take care of each other.”
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