When you decide to attend a show, you make the decision to face the mass, unpredictable crowds that have the capability to suck you under like the force of a raging vortex. And when you combine the effects of alcohol and drugs with the passion behind fans when seeing their favorite musicians, the result can be terrifying and sometimes even deadly. It's not only the crowds...pyrotechnics go wrong, riots break-out, natural disasters occur, and stages collapse. One can only hope that they will be attending a peaceful, happy event when going to a show, but sometimes the unexpected happens. These ten disasters are as equally traumatic as they are heartbreaking and it's every showgoers' and performer's nightmare.
Altamont Speedway: Bay Area, 1969
Altamont was a free festival on December 6, 1969 at Altamont Speedway in the Bay Area and included performances from Jefferson Airplane and Rolling Stones. It was held to be the west coast's response to Woodstock, which was held only four months before Altamont. The organizers paid the Hell's Angels $500 worth of beer to be the security for the event. The equation of Stones plus Angels plus pills and booze mixed with the desert-like scene of Altamont Speedway is generally recognized as the end of the 60s as it resides in the public's imagination.
The Hell's Angels continuously attacked fans and hit Marty Balin (Jefferson Airplane), Mick Jagger was punched in the face by a fan as soon as he arrived, and brawls broke out at each set. During the Rolling Stones performance, chaos began to break-out in the crowd. A man in the crowd, Meredith Hunter, pulled out a gun when he got in a scuffle with a Hell's Angel member and was stabbed multiple times in the back by the Angel. Prior to the incident, Mick Jagger cut the music to ask everyone to stop fighting or they were going to cut their set short. Just after that, Meredith Hunter was taken off in a stretcher but pronounced dead at the scene. The event ended with one man fatally stabbed, three additional dead, and hundreds injured.
The Beverly Hills Supper Club: Kentucky, 1977
On May 28, 1977, the third deadliest nightclub fire in US history occurred in Southgate, Kentucky, at the Beverly Hills Supper Club when Hollywood singer John Davidson was performing in the Cabaret Room. The club was over capacity by about 1,500 people and deemed unsafe by fire code per number of exits in the club. The fire was estimated to have started when guests were complaining of the warmth in the room and hearing explosions beneath the floor of the Zebra Room in the club. Within minutes, the fire spread to the Cabaret Room, where John Davidson was performing. The fire quickly spread throughout the building - blocking exits and taking over staircases - which trapped guests inside the building with no way out.
The total number of deaths in this disaster is 165 people, with several injured as well. There are a number of reasons why people believe the fire started such as faulty wiring, lack of firewalls, poor construction, and way too many people for the amount of fire exits in the Supper Club. This tragedy falls right behind the Hartford Circus Fire in 1944, where 168 people lost their lives.
The Who, Cincinnati's Riverfront Coliseum: 1979
Eleven people were crushed to death during a stampede of people rushing to get into the Riverfront Coliseum to see British rock band, The Who, in Cincinnati, Ohio. The show sold over 18,000 tickets to sell out with over 14,000 of them were general admission "festival-style" seating. People lined up outside the coliseum for hours prior to the show to get the closest spot near the stage. The doors were scheduled to open at seven that evening but The Who was behind and did a late soundcheck - which the fans heard outside - making them even more anxious to get into the coliseum. The fans in the back started pushing towards the front and when the doors finally opened, there were only two doors to go through. With thousands of people trying to get through two doors, it was inevitable that people would get hurt. Eleven people (ages 15 to 27) were crushed during the stampede and 23 were critically injured. The show went on as planned, as the band wasn't aware of the tragedy till after the performance.
Metallica/Guns N Roses: Montreal, 1992
In 1992, Metallica and Guns N Roses went on tour with Faith No More (Nirvana was asked to be the opener but Kurt Cobain turned it down) and after less than a month into tour, one of the most recognized riots in metal history went down in Montreal, Canada. During Metallica's set, frontman James Hetfield was severely burned when the pyrotechnics were set-off by the crew. He suffered second and third degree burns down his left side which ultimately caused Metallica to cut their set short to seek medical attention.
Guns N Roses could've saved the evening but instead took their time to set up the stage, leaving fans to wait three hours before they began. There were also sound problems and Axl Rose announced he had a sore throat then threw his mic on the floor and left the stage early. One thing you probably don't want to do is upset a whole stadium of metal-head fans. Infuriated fans rioted the streets of Montreal, flipping over cars, setting off fires, and looting stores. Arrests were made and people were injured, but luckily there were no casualties during the riot. But it did rack-up nearly half a million dollars in damages.
Roskilde Festival: Denmark, 2000
On June 30, 2000, every band's nightmare came to life for Pearl Jam at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark. It was a rainy, muddy weekend at the Denmark festival and Pearl Jam was playing one of the last sets of the night. About 45 minutes into their set, the crowd rushed the stage and created a mosh-pit, causing fans to fall to the ground and other fans to step on top of the fallen. A member of the security tried to alert the crew to cut the music and announce people were being stepped on but it is estimated that it took as long as 15 minutes for them to stop the music. Once the music finally stopped, Eddie Vedder asked the crowd to take a few steps back. People were able to be lifted from the ground, but unfortunately for some, it was too late. Nine people lost their lives due to suffocation. Since the tragedy, every time Pearl Jam plays their hit "Love Boat Captain," Vedder changes the lyrics to honor the fans they lost during Roskilde saying they "lost nine friends we'll never know, ___ years ago today."
The Great White: Rhode Island, 2003
American hard rock band, Great White, was performing at Station nightclub in West Warwick, Rhode Island when a fire broke-out on February 20th, 2003. They were only seconds into their opening song when their crew set off outdoor fireworks inside the club. The fireworks ignited sound insulation foam from the band's equipment and a fire emerged within seconds. The fire quickly spread throughout the club in minutes until it blocked all the main exits, causing everyone to stampede and push their way through the remaining exits. 100 people lost their lives in this fire - including Great White guitarist, Ty Longley - and 230 were injured, making this the fourth deadliest nightclub fire in US history.
Dimebag Darrell: Columbus, 2004
Heavy metal shows are no stranger to some sort of catastrophe. All the head-banging, mosh-pitting and drug-doing can be quite the recipe for disaster. But nobody could prepare for the senseless on-stage murder of Pantera and Damageplan guitarist Dimebag Darrell, whose shocking death, which also took the lives of 4 others. On December 8th, 2004, Damageplan was playing at the Alrosa Villa nightclub in Columbus, Ohio. They were a few minutes into their opening song when a man, Nathan Gale, snuck through a side door and onto stage and shot Dimebag Darrell in the head multiple times. As people were trying to help Dimebag, three additional people were killed. Gale had a hostage in a headlock when a police officer snuck behind Gale and killed him. Nathan Gale is an ex-marine who was known to be on medication for PTSD and other mental illness he developed during his service as a marine. It is believed that Gale was also upset that Pantera (Dimebag and his brothers former band) broke up and he was also convinced that Pantera stole songs that Gale originally wrote.
Love Parade: Germany, 2010
Duisburg, Germany was home to the 2010 Love Parade that had an estimated between 220,000 to 1.4 million people gathering for the celebration that year. Love Parade is an international dance party where techno fans from around the world gathered in different cities to celebrate the music. At the start of the festival, thousands of people rushed through the front tunnel, which was the only way of entry to get to the main stage. People climbed light towers and stairs to go over the tunnel while many of them tried to push their way through. The stampede caused people to fall down and suffocate due to the force of the fans trying to get in. Because of this tragedy, organizers of Love Parade decided the event wouldn't happen anymore.
Pukkelpop: Belgium, 2011
Pukkelpop is an annual music festival that takes place in Belgium and on August 18, 2011, a severe thunderstorm occurred during the year when the line-up included Eminem, Foo Fighters, The Offspring, and the Ting Tings. The thunderstorm took place during the opening night of the festival and it was so intense that it rooted trees, knocked down festival light towers, collapsed stages and tents and tore-up the festival campgrounds. There was high-speed winds, huge hailstones and a torrential downpour. All of the damage caused five people to lose their life and hundreds were injured. The organizers of Pukkelpop decided to cancel the rest of the weekend because of the disaster and damages. This happened in the same month as the stage collapse during Dixieland Chicks at the Louisiana State Fair which was also caused by bad weather conditions.
Eagles of Death Metal: Paris, 2015
On November 13th, 2015, Eagles of Death Metal were playing at the Bataclan in Paris, France. About an hour into their performance, while playing "Kiss the Devil," two gunmen entered the venue and opened fire on the fans. The show was sold out with over 1,500 people attending the show. People scrambled in complete shock and terror as the gunmen fired rounds and reloaded for over 15 minutes. When it was done, almost 90 people lost their life and hundreds were injured. This was part of a series of attacks at cafes and restaurants in Paris by ISIS terrorists. Eagles of Death Metal returned to Paris in February to do a show at the Olympia, which included 900 survivors and families of victims. The band said they wanted it to be a happy show with no time to be sad so they didn't play the song that was playing when the men opened fire.