Some of my most memorable and scariest moments as a child were at AstroWorld.
Each year Travis Scott’s festival hypes up the inner AstroWorld kid in me that was always looking for some trouble to get into, and acted like they weren’t afraid to ride the tallest rides in the park, such as the festival’s ferris wheel and swings.
Back in the day, going to the park in the fall was always special. My family would visit in October, during Fright Fest, which was the first time I ever encountered a possessed zombie or scarecrow. This was the scariest Halloween festival a Houston child could go to back in the day. The possessed AstroWorld characters would chase and yell, and sometimes even accidentally touch innocent bystanders, which was very creepy.
Now, when I return to the grounds of my city’s long-gone amusement park, it’ll be for one of the biggest rap festivals on the planet.
It was the epicenter of fun for Houston kids up until 2005, when the amusement park closed. I remember the first year my family had season passes to the park. One thing I remember most vividly was that I discovered I had a fear of heights.
Maybe, it was my brother shaking the gondola ride that took us from one side of the park to the other, or getting stuck at the top of malfunctioning water rides that caused my fear of falling. Either way, I always remember leaving the park feeling good about the time I spent there.
I found one ride in particular always brought me back to the park, it was called the Mayan Mindbender. It was the park’s first indoor roller coaster, and it was perfect because it was in the dark, which relieved my anxiety.
It Was About the Music
Although the rides were the highlight for most kids, I was always excited about watching the different performances at the park.
The life-sized Looney Toons characters would roam the streets interacting with their fans, and perform songs and skits. If you were there on a good day, you could catch Yosemite Sam singing Rhinestone Cowboy.
Attending Astroworld Festival each year leaves me yearning for those simple times of growing up in Houston, when there were regular concerts at the amusement park’s amphitheater.
Houston’s best-known trio, Destiny’s Child performed their first show with a live band in July 2000 at the Southern Star Amphitheater inside AstroWorld, before they started touring internationally. Six Flags AstroWorld will forever be remembered as an amusement park that was for thrill seekers and music lovers of any age, background or fan level.
But I was too young to really enjoy all of that at the time. If I was a little older I would have snuck out to attend the concerts inside the park during the 90s, to early 2000s.
The amphitheater headliners were traditionally popular white male-led bands which began to change in the mid-1990s, when the park booked Texas legend Selena.
To me, this transformed the park into a space for Texas female artists to be put on a nationally-recognized platform in front of the fans that got them there. Travis Scott’s Astroworld has made Houston a popular destination for music lovers to enjoy national talent as well as learn about Houston music and culture. It’s like Travis created his own version of AstroWorld’s Southern Star Amphitheater stage.
But now in its third year, it’s probably time to start thinking of ways to make Astroworld’s music experience better, and more equitable.
As a woman who works in the local music industry, and a Texas lady who loves Houston rap, the inclusion of Black and Brown Texas female artists on the lineup is a topic that needs to be seriously addressed each year when curating the festival.
This is not just one festival’s issue, but rather a reflection of America’s current festival culture, which is just now starting to make space for more women artists on lineups.
Although Travis' Astroworld has booked Megan Thee Stallion in the past, there has only been a small amount of women booked for the festival, even though there is still plenty of room. There are Texas female artists like OMB Bloodbath, KenTheMan, Queendom Come, Kam Franklin, Monaleo, Lilly Aviana, Erica Banks, Krystall Poppin and Big Jade to name a few who could fill an Astroworld lineup.
Houston rap lovers are grateful that Travis places the Houston rap OGs, known as the Houston All Stars, on the lineup every year. It gives me a chance to image myself at the old AstroWorld. I always leave the festival wondering what it would have been like to see Z-Ro or Bun B perform at the amphitheater back in the 2000s.
Overall, Travis Scott’s Astroworld festival captures the aesthetic of the original amusement park, with the fun and excitement you feel just by being there. Although now it’s this event that attracts international festival goers to experience a taste of what it was like to grow up during a certain time in Houston.