For a second, you might have thought you really were at AstroWorld. The location was right, and there were the rides—ferris wheel, drop tower, carousel, swings—and the carnival games and concessions. There was face-painting, balloon animals, and performers on stilts.
But there were also armed security guards, champagne showers, and rappers making molds of their teeth for fresh sets of grillz. That's when it became clear that this was Travis Scott's AstroWorld—a trippier, rowdier version of the beloved theme park of yore, and one where you might not want to bring the kids.
For the 40,000-plus grown-ups who nabbed a pass—general admission tickets sold out rapidly on the strength of Travis Scott's name alone, with no lineup or details announced beyond his headlining set until less than 24 hours before go-time—the inaugural Astroworld Fest was a rousing success. The Mo City native made good on his word to revive the amusement park he and so many other Houstonians grew up visiting ('99 took AstroWorld it had to relocate / told the dogs I'd bring it back, it was a seal of faith) and for which he named his platinum-certified third studio album, released to critical acclaim this summer.
Currently on tour for said album, Scott's much-hyped November 17 Houston stop was bound to be over-the-top, but no one really knew much else. Would it do both H-Town hip-hop and the memory of AstroWorld justice, as promised in the festival announcement? Would there be real rides? Would Kylie be there?
Yes, yes, and yes. A star-studded line-up of hip-hop chart-toppers (Lil Wayne, Post Malone, Young Thug, Rae Sremmurd, Metro Boomin, and more) and Houston heavyweights (Bun B, Paul Wall, Slim Thug, Trae tha Truth, et al) on two separate stages delighted fans of the music. Beyond the Houston All-Stars set, there was plenty more local love, like a tent from Screwed Up Records & Tapes, photo-op murals of legends like DJ Screw and Pimp C, and a prominent appearance by jeweler Johnny Dang, a hip-hop celeb in his own right, who came onstage with Paul Wall for "Grillz," the song (and phenomenon) Dang inspired. Thanks to manageable lines, plenty of alcohol, and a live soundtrack, the rides were better than they were in our childhood. Travis Scott strapped himself into an on-stage roller coaster and opened his headlining set upside down. And, as he revealed in a loving shout-out to his "beautiful wife and beautiful daughter," Kylie and baby Stormi were indeed both on-site.
The secrecy around the day's events allowed for an element of surprise to make the experience that much more rewarding, and the vibe—excitement, revelry, pure nostalgia—was undeniable. Houston showed up and showed out, and everyone from the fans to the talent were praising Scott's name. Even Mayor Sylvester Turner got in on the action, proclaiming November 18 "Astroworld Day" in a ceremony attended by students from local high schools and Texas Southern University. Scott pledged his continued support of youth programs, including the Mayor's Art Scholarship Program. AstroWorld Fest's charity partner was Workshop Houston, a local bike repair shop-turned-arts-based youth development agency.
"This is a big day not only for me and not only for Cactus [Jack Records, Scott's label], but for the state of Texas and the city of Houston," Scott said on-stage.
On Sunday, he took to Instagram to share a photo of NRG Park flooded with people. "What ground???" he wrote. "Astroworld Fest. Thank u for the best first one."
See you next year.