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Symphonies Of Destruction: 7 Times Concerts Set The Stage For Tragedy
These musical events are unfortunately remembered for all the wrong reasons.
Concerts usually make for fond memories for those who attend. Some events, however, will forever be known not for the musical experiences they produced but the tragic disasters they played host to.
News that innocent people had been killed at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, and at a Jason Aldean show in Las Vegas a few months later shook the world last year. But mass shootings and other terrorist activity aren’t the only possible dangers large concerts present: British band The Who stirred debate on the safety risks of festival seating in 1969 after 11 people died when thousands of fans rushed the Cincinnati venue, all vying for the best spot and stampeding over one another to get inside. A similar tragedy occurred decades later during a Pearl Jam performance in Denmark, when eight fans lost their lives in a crowd of thousands of other fans all trying to get as close to the stage as possible.
Here are seven occasions when concerts took a turn for the worst.
1. Ariana Grande, 2017
An Ariana Grande concert in the United Kingdom turned deadly last May after a suicide bomber, later identified as 22-year-old Salman Abedi, targeted the event as it was ending. Abedi detonated a handmade bomb near one of the arena’s exits, killing 22 concertgoers, some of them young children, and injuring hundreds more as they were leaving the show.
Witnesses described the scene as one of mass hysteria, with many people searching desperately for their friends and family without knowing if they survived the blast or not.
“It was more a moment of confusion, but still the bang was really great, really massive. I saw at least three people on the floor injured,” one witness, Ivo Delgado, told CNN. “There was a lot of little girls running out, and parents shouting out and yelling names.”
Abedi was killed in the explosion and the transnational terrorist group ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack shortly afterward, putting the country on high terror alert, Time reported at the time.
Grande headlined a benefit concert in honor of the victims the following month, drawing a crowd of 500,000 to Manchester, according to CNN. Other stars like Justin Bieber, Katy Perry and Pharrell also took part in the show.
2. Jason Aldean, 2017
The Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas, Nevada became the setting of the deadliest mass shooting in American history last October after a gunman opened fire on the crowd, killing 58 and injuring hundreds.
From his room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock targeted concertgoers below who had gathered to watch country music star Jason Aldean perform on the final day of the festival. When police later forced their way into Paddock’s hotel room, they found 24 guns and Paddock lying dead of self-inflicted gunshot wounds, according to The Associated Press.
Footage shared on social media captured the chaos that erupted during the 10 minutes of shooting; some in the crowd mistakenly thought that the gunshots were fireworks, but many who were present hit the ground and hid in fear.
“People were trying to save their friends. There were gunshots everywhere. Helping them would’ve meant that we got shot, too,” one witness, Meghan Kearney, told MSNBC.
Paddock’s motive is still unknown, and police have concluded that he acted alone, NPR reports.
3. Eagles of Death Metal, 2015
Rock band Eagles of Death Metal was performing at Paris’ Bataclan concert hall in November of 2015 when gunmen invaded the venue, opening fire and turning the night into one filled with terror and tragedy.
The three men, armed with assault weapons, shot at concert-goers blindly and took others hostage for a time, CNN reports.
When police raided the hall hours later in a rescue mission, one of the terrorists was killed by police while the other two men took their own lives, according to the outlet.
One witness told CNN that the scene before police arrived was a “bloodbath,” saying that two of the terrorists, who took up posts near the back of the venue, shot at the people inside “like birds.”
Eighty-nine people were killed in the theater in what turned out to be part of a series of coordinated terrorist attacks throughout the city that took the lives of at least 130 in all and injured hundreds more, according to CNN.
Terrorists attacked six locations, including a sports stadium and multiple restaurants, simultaneously, with ISIS taking responsibility for the vicious acts.
The attacks prompted an outpouring of support around the world, with many uniting under the #PrayForParis hashtag.
4. Rolling Stones, 1969
What some reportedly thought would be a "Woodstock West" turned into a fatal disaster due to what many have called last-minute planning and a lack of proper management.
The free concert, planned in part by the Rolling Stones and the Grateful Dead, was held at California’s Altamont Speedway in December of 1969 and drew a crowd of around 300,000. In what turned out to be a fatal mistake, the event was policed by the notorious Hells Angels motorcycle gang. The group was reportedly hired as a makeshift security detail in exchange for $500 in beer, and patrolled the area while wielding “sawed-off pool cues,” according to the Boston Globe.
With a lack of concession stands and adequate bathrooms, as well as unbridled drug activity, the festival quickly deteriorated into a disaster that culminated in the grisly slaying of Meredith Hunter. The 18-year-old student, who was black, lost his life during the Rolling Stones' performance after a Hells Angel stabbed him multiple times.
Hunter’s killer, then 21-year-old Alan Passaro, was acquitted in 1970 after his lawyer successfully argued that he’d acted in self-defense because Hunter was carrying a gun, according to SF Gate.
Some reports indicate that Hunter was stabbed because his gun was drawn, while others claim that he’d carried the weapon that day for self-defense and only took it out after being attacked by a group of bikers.
Three other concert-goers also lost their lives during the catastrophic concert — two were killed in hit-and-run accidents and one drowned to death, according to Rolling Stone.
The disastrous day became the subject of the 1970 documentary “Gimme Shelter,” as well as countless books.
5. Damageplan, 2004
Rock musician Dimebag Darrell was murdered during a show in 2004 after a crazed fan rushed the stage and shot him in the head mid-performance.
Dimebag Darrell, born Darrell Abbott and known for being a founding member of the metal group Pantera, was performing with his band Damageplan in Columbus, Ohio, on Dec. 8 when the evening erupted into chaos.
Nathan Gale, a 25-year-old fan, reportedly snuck into the venue through a side door and, having made his way to the side of the stage, took out a handgun and shot Abbott in the face as he was performing, Rolling Stone reports.
Gale killed three more during the shooting — a fan, an employee at the club and one of the band’s technicians — and injured others. He was able to take a hostage before police made it to the small club, according to Rolling Stone.
A responding officer named James Niggemeyer arrived at the venue within three minutes of the 911 call and, with no backup, entered the club and immediately located Gale, who was standing on stage and holding the band’s technician in a headlock, Loudwire reports.
Niggemeyer fired once at Gale and killed him, according to the outlet.
Gale, a former Marine, was reportedly upset about the breakup of Pantera and blamed Darrell, according to Rolling Stone, but investigators later refuted that theory. Another theory is that Gale was a paranoid schizophrenic who had begun to believe that Pantera had stolen his music, according to the Associated Press.
6. The Who, 1969
Thousands of eager fans and a lack of adequate crowd control proved to be a fatal mix in December of 1979, when 11 would-be concertgoers were trampled to death as fans rushed a venue where The Who were scheduled to perform.
The legendary rock band were slated to play a sold-out show at the Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati, Ohio on Dec. 3. Hours before the show was set to begin, approximately 8,000 ticket-holders gathered outside, all of whom had purchased general admission tickets and were eager to secure a prime spot close to the stage, according to History.com.
Despite a police presence, the crowd was difficult to control; thousands eventually pressed forward en masse, forcing open the glass doors of the venue and shattering some of them.
During the resulting stampede, 11 people — four women and seven men, some of whom were in high school or college — were killed, according to the New York Daily News.
Some victims suffered “footprint-like injuries,” a doctor told the outlet; at least 20 were treated for their wounds.
Despite the tragic turn of events, The Who’s show went on as planned because officials feared that cancelling the event would result in even more mayhem, according to History.com’s report. The band was not told about the deaths until after the show.
The disaster prompted the city to to place a ban on unassigned seating, a move that lasted until 2004 when the law was repealed, according to Billboard.
7. Pearl Jam, 2000
More than 30 years after the fatal stampede at The Who’s Cincinnati show, a similar event occurred at a Pearl Jam performance in 2000.
The Seattle grunge band was scheduled to perform at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark on June 30, drawing approximately 50,000 fans, Rolling Stone reports.
During the band’s performance, the mosh pit got more and more out of control as fans pushed and pressed into each other in an effort to make it as close to the stage as possible, according to the outlet.
Security was eventually able to relay the message that things were going horribly wrong in the crowd and the concert halted, but it was too late to save the lives that had already been lost in the packed crowd.
Eight men suffocated to death, while a ninth man died in the hospital days later from chest injuries he sustained in the crowd, according to Rolling Stone. Three others were treated at a hospital for their injuries and 25 others suffered minor injuries, the outlet reports.
Sara Kastrup, a young woman who was in the crowd that day, told Danish newspaper Politiken that friends of hers were unwittingly “standing on one of the poor people,” according to Rolling Stone.
“They thought it was bags,” she said. “When they saw it was a person lying on the ground, they couldn’t get off.”
[Photo Credit: Getty Images]