Travis Scott’s conclusory track of his most recent album Utopia, embodies a song that is full and complete. The reinvention of Kanye’s unreleased Future Sounds, featuring SZA and Future along with the major artist Travis Scott, was my 5th most listened to song in 2023, despite it being released at the end of July. It begins with a list of woes that hover around the idea of materialistic desires compared to the true gratification, or lack thereof, that they provide. Poetic spoken word is layered over an oscillating background track, the vibrating sound waves ripple, washing a film of rejuvenation over the listener. Future’s gravely tone is contrasted by SZA’s lyricism that is heaped with regret and heartache, along with rap cultural history for those who followed her whirlwind romance with Drake a decade and a half ago. The emptiness of feeling unfulfilled is what Scott’s lyrics convey with shocking accuracy, backed by slurring instrumentals that fill stadiums across the country without much effort. I knew that I had to be in one of these stadiums for one of Scott’s infamous concerts.
I purchased lower bowl seats for Travis Scott’s Circus Maximus Tour, unsure of what to expect, especially given Astroworld’s notoriety, where the body count eventually reached double digits due to unmanageable crowd surges during Scott’s performance at the music festival in celebration of his album. Despite this, in retrospect my experience at the Circus Maximus/Utopia Tour was completely unmatched, even the torrential rain that seemed to never end, was fully counterbalanced by the show. I attended the concert with two of my close friends and as we scrambled out of the car, into massive clumps of people, I yearned for the hooded jacket that I did not bring. The venue, Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center, was completely packed and every section lit up with the flashes of iPhone cameras that waved across the huge bowl. Scott’s stage was set up in the center of the stadium, with seating enveloping it from all sides, giving attendees a relatively equal chance of getting a good view of the rapper. The platform resembled another planet, generally beige and terracotta colors covering the rocky bits and craters that would eventually be surrounded by flames shooting up from the ground, and neon lights flashing in synchronization. After the opener, Teezo Touchdown, left the stage, time crawled past until the crowd began to go absolutely feral, everyone had caught a glimpse of the man we had been waiting for, he wore what looked like some sort of modernized space suit, with white and silver accents. The show began with HYAENA, the opening track on his most recent album, and only a few songs in, a relatively short man popped out of the ground, hopping onto the stage with an unfathomable abundance of energy. It was another very popular hip-hop artist, Lil Uzi Vert - “Uzi”, a fan favorite, and as the two began to play their collaboration, Uzi began to griddy across the uneven stage, paying tribute to his home city of Philadelphia. The seats felt like a mosh pit when Scott’s viral song FE!N began to play, and then played again, and again, until it had been five times, each one followed by the crowd’s whoops and chants of “one more time”. The lively nature of the stadium was palpable for the entire concert and even after, as huddles of teens ran through the pouring rain, miserable in the moment but fully assured that their concert experience had been worth it.