Concert Venues From Hell: Worst Tragedies of All Time
August 5, 2008
Everyone loves a good concert. Your favorite bands in town so you and a few friends grab tickets, show up early and head right for the front of the stage. This is what good times are all about, at least until something goes wrong.
Concerts are usually a great time, but things can turn bad in a heartbeat. Of course no one expects to go to a concert and actually die but it can, and does happen.
Here are some of the worst concert tragedies over the years that have rocked and shocked us.
1. Free Rolling Stones Concert at Altamont Speedway, 1969
Organized and headlined by the Rolling Stones, the Altamont Festival also featured Santana, Jefferson Airplane, The Flying Burrito Brothers and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. The Grateful Dead were originally included in the lineup but they bailed out because the event was so disorganized.
Some heralded the event as being “Woodstock West,” with roughly 300,000 people in attendance. What started out as a good idea is best remembered as an event marred by violence and death.
The Rolling Stones hired motorcycle gang Hells Angels to provide security at the event. They traded the Angels $500 worth of beer in return for controlling the crowd.
During the Stones’ set, an 18-year-old black man named Meredith Hunter got into an altercation with the Hells Angels. He drew a long-barreled revolver and a member of the Hells Angels stabbed him five times. He was then kicked to death.
The entire brutal event was captured on film by three cameras because documentary filmmakers Albert and David Maysles were there filming the Stones’ 1969 US tour, which was later made into the film Gimme Shelter.
Two people also died in a hit-and-run, another drowned and 850 were injured.
2. The Who in Cincinnati, 1979
It was December 3rd, 1979, and 18,500 fans had gathered outside the Coliseum in Cincinnati.
The concert was general admission, meaning that the best seats in the house were first come, first serve and already more people had gathered than the venue could hold.
The energetic scene quickly turned chaotic as the large crowd surged toward the doors, trampling upon and crushing 11 people to death.
Ron Duristch–one of the many Who fans caught in the crowd–describes the horror of the hellish situation:
“A wave swept me to the left and when I regained my stance I felt that I was standing on someone. The helplessness and frustration of this moment sent a wave of panic through me. I screamed with all my strength that I was standing on someone. I couldn’t move. I could only scream. Another wave came and pushed me further left towards the door. I felt my leg being pulled to the right. The crowd shifted again and I reached down and grabbed an arm at my leg. I struggled for awhile and finally pulled up a young girl who also had a young boy clinging to her limbs. They were barely conscious and their faces were filled with tears.” - Crowdsafe.com
The Who were not informed of the deaths until after the show. Needless to say, the band was very upset to learn that fans had died trying to get into their show.
The tragedy in Cincinnati was the result of a lack of crowd management at the event. In the wake of the deaths, a lot of attention was directed to the importance of crowd control, and Cincinnati put a moratorium on general admission seating.
Inspired by the famous music festival Woodstock, the Roskilde Festival in Denmark is Europe’s largest outdoor concert. In the year 2000, it drew a crowd of about 100,000.
In June of 2000, Pearl Jam took to the stage in front of a crowd of about 50,000 people. Fans in the back of the crowd couldn’t hear the music well enough so they decided to move up.
The crowd pushed towards the front of the stage, sparking a stampede that crushed people near the front. The band repeatedly asked the crowd to move back but they did not comply.
Some people slipped and fell in front of the stage and were trampled to death. People were climbing on top of each other to get air.
The tragic event caused the Cure, who was next to perform, to cancel their set although shows continued on at the other stages. In total, eight people lost their lives.
Devastated by the tragedy, Pearl Jam considered calling it quits.
4. Great White at the Station Nightclub, Rhode Island, 2003
The band Great White was headlining the show that quickly turned into a nightmare.
The band had just started playing the first song in their set when the tour manager Daniel Biechele set off a pyrotechnics display.
Sparks from the display ignited the soundproofing foam and the whole place quickly went up in smoke as fans were trapped inside.
The club’s capacity was 250 people and there were 432 people there. As fans stampeded towards the door, the exit quickly became blocked, trapping many inside where they perished in the flames.
Although there were other exits, people naturally headed for the door where they came in, causing a deadly bottleneck situation.
It was later discovered that the foam was not actual soundproofing foam and was in fact highly flammable, causing the club to ignite like a tinder box. Half of the staff died because they were pushing people out the doors
A reporter who was ironically doing a story on club safety captured the entire fire.
You can see how quickly the flames spread and how hard it was for people to escape. (Warning, footage is kind of scary)
5. Murder of Dimebag Darrell, 2004
Damageplan had just begun playing the first song in their set for a crowd of about 250 people when gunman Nathan Gale jumped on stage and shot Dimebag several times in the chest after making comments about Pantera. Gale then opened fire on the crowd.
Gale took a hostage onstage and was about to shoot him when Columbus police officer James Niggemeyer took him out with a single fatal shotgun blast. Gale had fired a total of 15 shots and five people died in total.
It turns out that Gale was a paranoid schizophrenic former US Marine who was having delusions that Pantera was stealing his thoughts and were laughing at him.
A camera on the stage captures the event: