Disaster At Who Concert Still Haunts Band

   I’ve written a lot about the Beatles and Beatlemania, but there is another side to the craziness of rock and roll.

   Yesterday was the 43rd anniversary of the tragedy at Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati when eleven people were killed in a stampede to get into a concert by The Who. There was no assigned seating for the concert. That and poor communication were major contributors to the tragedy. It’s not entirely fair to blame it on rock and roll. But the fevered intensity of rock fandom is at least part of the conversation. 

   Here is what happened that night, according to Wikipedia.

   I’ve written a lot about the Beatles and Beatlemania, but there is another side to the craziness of rock and roll.

   Yesterday was the 43rd anniversary of the tragedy at Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati when eleven people were killed in a stampede to get into a concert by The Who. There was no assigned seating for the concert. That and poor communication were major contributors to the tragedy. It’s not entirely fair to blame it on rock and roll. But the fevered intensity of rock fandom is at least part of the conversation. 

   Here is what happened that night, according to Wikipedia.

   I’ve written a lot about the Beatles and Beatlemania, but there is another side to the craziness of rock and roll.

   Yesterday was the 43rd anniversary of the tragedy at Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati when eleven people were killed in a stampede to get into a concert by The Who. There was no assigned seating for the concert. That and poor communication were major contributors to the tragedy. It’s not entirely fair to blame it on rock and roll. But the fevered intensity of rock fandom is at least part of the conversation. 

   Here is what happened that night, according to Wikipedia.

   “Although all the doors were expected to be opened simultaneously, only a pair of doors at the far right of the main entrance were finally opened. As concert goers entered the stadium through these two open doors, those waiting in front of all of the other doors began pushing forward again.”

   “After a short period of waiting and then knocking on the doors and the glass next to the doors, the crowd assumed that none of the remaining doors would be opened. At about 7:15 p.m., the situation began to escalate. Conflicting reports suggested that concertgoers could hear either a very late soundcheck or The Who’s Quadrophenia movie, in lieu of an opening act. Either way, the crowd assumed that The Who were on earlier than scheduled.”

   “At that point, the entire crowd surged and pushed toward the two doors which had been opened. This caused many people to get trampled. Eleven people were unable to escape the dense crowd pushing toward them and died by asphyxiation. Twenty-six other people reported injuries.”

   “Fire officials advised Who manager Bill Curbishley to cancel the concert, but he convinced them to allow the show to continue to avoid further panic. The concert went on as planned, with the band members not told of the tragedy until after their performance.

   “You know, I’m still traumatized by it,” guitarist Pete Townshend said on The Who’s website. “It’s a weird thing to have in your autobiography that, you know, eleven kids died at one of your concerts. It’s a strange, disturbing, heavy load to carry.”

   “I still feel inadequate. I don’t know about the guys, but for me, I left a little bit of my soul in Cincinnati,” Curbishley said.

   At the heart of rock and roll is rebellion and frenzy.  You don’t have stampedes of people going to poetry readings.

   I remember being speechless after attending a Billy Joel/Elton John concert in Wichita.  Two of my rock and roll heroes came to my town and it was very exciting.

    Had I been a teen at that point instead of in my 40s how would I be reacting?  In that moment I sort of understood how a younger person could get caught up in the moment.  And what if the doors had been closed, at the concert I attended?  

   The eleven young people who lost their lives that night, were: Walter Adams, Jr., 22, Trotwood, Ohio, Peter Bowes, 18, Wyoming, Ohio, Connie Sue Burns, 21, Miamisburg, Ohio, Jacqueline Eckerle, 15, Finneytown, Ohio, David Heck, 19, Highland Heights, Kentucky, Teva Rae Inlow Ladd, 27, Newtown, Ohio, Karen Morrison, 15, Finneytown, Ohio, Stephan Preston, 19, Finneytown, Ohio, Philip Snyder, 20, Franklin, Ohio, Bryan Wagner, 17, Fort Thomas, Kentucky and James Theodore Warmoth, 21, Franklin, Ohio.

   “The families of the victims sued the band, concert promoter Electric Factory Concerts, and the city of Cincinnati. The class action suit filed on behalf of ten of the families was settled in 1983, awarding each of the families of the deceased approximately $150,000, the equivalent of $408,100 in today’s dollars. The family of Peter Bowes opted out of the class action and settled later for an undisclosed amount. Approximately $750,000 ($2,040,500 today) was to be divided among the 26 injured,” according to Wikipedia.

   “The city of Cincinnati also imposed a ban on unassigned festival seating on December 27, 1979, with minor exceptions, for the next 25 years.”

   The P.E.M. Memorial was created in August 2010 to commemorate the lives of the Finneytown High School students who died that night. (P.E.M. for Stephan Preston, Jackie Eckerle, and Karen Morrison.) Every first Saturday in December, local musicians perform a free concert.  Three scholarships are awarded annually to eligible Finneytown High School seniors who are pursuing higher education in the arts or music at an accredited university or college,” according to Wikipedia/.

    “In 2018, Roger Daltrey of The Who visited Finneytown High and met with a group of family members of victims and survivors. Daltrey and the families later said the meeting brought a great deal of peace and healing.”

   “After 43 years, The Who returned to perform in Cincinnati on May 15, 2022,” according to Wikipedia.  A concert had been planned for April 2020 but was postponed by the Covid pandemic. 

   “Students from Finneytown High were booked to play and sing alongside the band for a portion of the concert. The concert’s opening act was Safe Passage, a local band featuring members of the Finneytown High Class of 1979. Two of its members had attended the Riverfront Coliseum concert. The families of nine of the victims of the disaster were in attendance.

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1 Comment

  1. Wow! I don’t believe I’ve ever seen that list of names before. I remember well when that happened though. What an absolute tragedy. How terrifying it must have been. I have on occasion been in a crowd where you literally had to move with the crowd and I can well imagine that horror for those who were killed or injured. God bless those who survived such a thing and bless the families and friends of those who did not.

    Tracy Duffy tlduffy1962@gmail.com

    >

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