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Rock’s Worst Concert Mishaps And Tragedies

Sugarland Stage Collapse
Joey Foley, Getty Images

An unforeseen stage collapse at last month’s Ottawa Bluesfest, where veteran power pop legends Cheap Trick were scheduled to perform, was the opening of what has been a bizarre and sometimes tragic series of similar stage incidents this summer. Weather and the unpredictable nature of large gatherings can occasionally lead to unfortunate events. Here’s our chronological list of the 10 Worst Concert Mishaps and Tragedies at rock shows:


The Rolling Stones At Altamont



When the Rolling Stones headlined a free festival at Altamont, it was supposed to be a celebratory wrap-up for their successful U.S. tour. In retrospect, hiring members of the Hells Angels as security was a deadly mistake. Fighting in the crowd led to injuries and one audience member was killed after a scuffle with a member of the motorcycle club.

Rolling Stones
Hulton Archive


The Who In Cincinnati



11 people were killed when an impatient crowd of 8,000 fans, who had been waiting outside for hours for a show by The Who, turned into a panicked stampede upon being allowed into the venue. The band were not told of the deaths until after the show, and they were collectively heartbroken. In fact, Roger Daltrey wanted to cancel the rest of the tour. It was Pete Townshend who urged the group to push forward, saying that “if we don’t play tomorrow, we’ll never play again.”

The Who


Metallica And Guns ‘N’ Roses In Montreal



After Metallica was forced to cut their half of a co-headlining concert with Guns ‘N’ Roses short when frontman James Hetfield was severely burned in an incident with pyrotechnics, Axl Rose further disappointed the audience by showing up late and then leaving an hour into the set due to reported vocal issues. The crowd of over 50 thousand people began rioting, smashing stadium windows and setting fires. The incidents caused area police to chase the rioters through the streets, eventually using tear gas to regain control.



Limp Bizkit And Woodstock ’99



Hot temperatures, long lines for expensive water and general poor planning allowed destruction and violence to run rampant on this weekend, which retained very little of the free-spirited peace and love vibes of the original Woodstock festival. Limp Bizkit’s performance was the low point of the weekend, with a great deal of the mayhem and vandalism, egged on by frontman Fred Durst, happening during their set.

Frank Micelotta, Getty Images
Frank Micelotta, Getty Images


Pearl Jam At The Roskilde Festival



Tragic events during Pearl Jam’s set at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark left nine people dead, many of them killed as fans rushed the stage. The always safety-conscious Pearl Jam stopped the show as soon as they learned of the events, but it was already too late. The band stayed in touch with the families of the victims since then, referencing the lost in the lyrics of ‘Love Boat Captain': “Nine friends we’ll never know…two years ago today.”

Troy Augusto, Getty Images
Troy Augusto, Getty Images


Great White In Rhode Island



One of the most preventable tragedies in recent rock history happened in 2003 when pyrotechnics ignited soundproof insulation, causing a fire that killed 100 people at a Great White concert in West Warwick, R.I., including the band’s guitarist, Ty Longley. More than 200 additional concert goers suffered smoke inhalation, burns and other injuries. Great White tour manager Daniel Biechele was sentenced to 10 years for involuntary manslaughter, and eventually paroled in 2008. The club ownership faced additional criminal charges, and the band, particularly lead singer Jack Russell, were deeply affected by the horrific events of that night.

CNN via Getty Images
CNN via Getty Images


Damageplan In Columbus, Ohio



A deranged fan named Nathan Gale climbed on stage and shot former Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell multiple times in the head during a Columbus, Ohio concert by his new band, Damageplan. Three others were killed before Gale was brought down. After an understandable struggle, Darrell’s brother and bandmate Vinnie eventually found his way back to the stage, joining the all-star metal project Hellyeah.

Dimebag Darrell
Scott Gries, Getty Images


The German Love Parade Festival



More than 500 people were injured and 21 people died at last year’s version of the annual German electronic music festival, which drew more than one million people to an area that had capacity for roughly 250,000. Passage to the area was mainly through tunnels which quickly became overcrowded with people trying to get to the show. Even though the tunnels were eventually closed, it did little to quell the deadly issues with capacity. As a result of the these tragedies, all future Love Parade events have been canceled.

2010 Love Parade
Getty Images


The 2011 Indiana State Fair



Seven people have died to date as a result of this month’s weather-induced collapse of the stage prior to Sugarland’s scheduled performance at the Indiana State Fair. Sugarland themselves were “stunned and heartbroken” by the events, calling them “tragic” and saying that there were “no words” to describe what had happened. State fairs and other similar events of a temporary nature are currently under intense pressure to put new safety measures in place in the future.

Joey Foley, Getty Images


Pukkelpop Music Festival In Belgium



Severe storms in Belgium caused multiple stages to collapse at the Pukkelpop Festival, where a diverse lineup of acts were scheduled to perform, including the Offspring and the Foo Fighters. After the weather-related events left four people dead, the remainder of the festival was canceled. Local officials said that the intensity of the weather had not been predicted by local meteorologists, calling the storm “unprecedented” in comparison to previous tropical weather events.

Pukkelpop Festival
Mark Renders, Getty Images

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