In December of 1969, the Altamont Speedway Free Festival was the hottest event on the calendar. Born out of the inspiration of the Rolling Stones, Altamont was meant to be the West Coast equivalent of Woodstock that had taken place just months before, taking the musical and pop cultural world by storm.
However, there were big differences between the festivals - differences that would lead Altamont to tragedy. It should come as no surprise that the concert would turn out to be a smear on the history of rock n roll...
The Idea Is Born
Just like all good ideas, the concept of “a kind of Woodstock West” started when American guitarist Jorma Kaukonen started discussing the idea of a free concert featuring the Grateful Dead and Rolling Stones. Describing the Stones in the words of Spencer Dryden, "Next to the Beatles, they were the biggest rock and roll band in the world, and we wanted them to experience what we were experiencing in San Francisco."
However, the plans started to break down, and various venue options slipped through the cracks. At the last moment, Dick Carter offered his Altamont Speedway in Alameda County. And although “the vibes were bad,” the plan went ahead — so how did they come to this conclusion?
Choosing the Altamont Raceway
When the concert was first conceptualized, it was set to be held at San Jose State University’s practice field. In the past, the venue had hosted a three-day outdoor festival with more than 80,000 partygoers. However, the venue was not excited to host another event of that size and rejected the proposal.
Next, the organizers approached Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, but another large event was recently hosted there, and the possibility of getting a permit was slim. The options then moved to Sears Point Raceway, but that fell through too. It wasn’t until local businessman Dick Carter suggested Altamont Raceway that the location was confirmed, just a couple of days before the event.
The Plan Comes Together
On December 4, 1969, the concert organizers finally settled on Altamont Speedway and started putting the first and last pieces of the puzzle together. The idea of a free concert was an exciting concept, and the lineup was looking great, with names like Santana, Jefferson Airplane, and the Grateful Dead. Each of these bands was due to warm up the stage for the Rolling Stones as the final [free] act of their expensive tour in 1969.
In addition to these major musical acts, the event included the infamous Hells Angels motorcycle gang as informal security staff. In exchange for their efforts, the group would be paid $500 worth of beer.
Making Hasty Moves During Preparation
Grateful Dead manager Rock Scully teamed up with the concert organizer, Michael Lang, to prepare the concert. Time was running short, and the preparation efforts were put together hastily, diminishing the chances of the Altamont Concert coming anywhere close to the Woodstock Festival.
The haphazard effort of putting Altamont together resulted in badly organized logistics and several oversights. From the lack of portable toilets and medical tents to poor stage design, the future of the concert was not looking great. Of all the shortcomings, the stage was the biggest concern. Placed on the top of the hill, the layout put massive pressure on the audience.
Using the Hells Angels as a Security Force
When the day finally arrived, the stage was positioned too low for comfort. To secure the band’s safety, the Hells Angels motorcycle club was tasked with surrounding the stage and offering protection. Unfortunately, they spent the majority of their time indulging in booze.
In hindsight, Rolling Stones management and Hells Angels representatives denied that the group had been hired to serve as security, but where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Sam Cutler, the Rolling Stones road manager, said, "The only agreement there ever was ... the Angels would make sure nobody tampered with the generators, but that was the extent of it. But there was no way 'They're going to be the police force' or anything like that. That's all bollocks." Whether this is true or not, there was no other security organized for the event.
A Serious Lack of Security
Since the event, a documentary titled Gimme Shelter has been released, and Sonny Barger admits that Hells Angels was not interested in policing the event. Instead, they preferred to sit on the edge of the stage, indulge in beer, and keep a vague eye on the surroundings.
Other versions of the story suggest that the group was tasked to look over equipment, but Sam Cutler had moved them closer to the stage to keep the leather lads happy. Sam Cutler said, "I was talking with them, because I was interested in the security of my band—everyone's security, for that matter. In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. They were the only people who were strong and together. [They had to protect the stage] because it was descending into absolute chaos. Who was going to stop it?" Unfortunately, the situation started looking dangerous…
The Event Becomes Progressively Violent
As far as rock n roll goes, the general mood of the event fit the stereotype and was governed by a complete lack of safety. It started off well and at first when Santana took the stage and the performance went smoothly. However, as the day unfolded, the event became increasingly chaotic — and the Hells Angels group reflected the same energy.
By the time it was dark, both the crowd and “security” were drunk, agitated, and unpredictable. When the Rolling Stones took the stage, the atmosphere had turned ugly and hazardous events were unfolding. For example, pregnant Denise Jewkes, lead singer of Ace of Cups, was hit in the head by an empty beer bottle thrown from the crowd, fracturing her skull.
One Mad Moment Follows Another
As the evening progressed, the crowd got more and more uncontrollable. At one point, an event-goer toppled a Hells Angel motorcycle, and the aggression was kicked up a notch — even toward performers. For example, Jefferson Airplane’s Marty Balin was hit and knocked unconscious during the performance. The incident scared other bands, and the Grateful Dead refused to play — further agitating the mood.
Even so, the Rolling Stones were gearing up to perform after sundown. The band was delayed after Bill Wyman missed the helicopter ride to the venue, and by the time that they eventually stepped onstage, there was a tight audience packed and restlessly waiting to watch them perform.
The Dramatic Chaos of the Rolling Stones Set
All of the drama was building up to reach an outrageous crescendo during the Rolling Stones set. Lead singer Mick Jagger was punched in the head within seconds of emerging from his helicopter, a fight erupted in front of the crowd pausing the performance, and then true tragedy struck.
Alan Passaro, a 21-year-old Hells Angel, stabbed an 18-year-old named Meredith Hunter — costing the concert-goer his life while the band performed "Under My Thumb". The scuffle led to tragedy and smeared the reputation of the event. Rock Scully, who saw the event unfold, said the following about Meredith Hunter, "I saw what he was looking at, that he was crazy, he was on drugs, and that he had murderous intent. There was no doubt in my mind that he intended to do terrible harm to Mick or somebody in the Rolling Stones, or somebody on that stage."
The Event Becomes Increasingly Violent
So, how did a scuffle lead to a tragic death? Meredith Hunter was indulging in the wild mood of the night and didn’t hold back when trouble emerged. Concert footage reveals the young man wearing a bright lime green suit as he moves to the front of the crowd before pulling out a long-barreled .22 caliber revolver from inside his jacket. Hells Angel Alan Passaro identified the threat and charged Meredith, brandishing a knife before stabbing him twice.
The Rolling Stones seemed oblivious to the scuffle and continued to play their set while Meredith drew his last breath. Tragically, Meredith’s death wasn’t the only one of the night. There were also two hit-and-run accidents and one LSD-induced drowning in an irrigation canal. In addition to these accidental deaths, many others were injured, cars were stolen, and there was extensive property damage.
Seeing Is Believing
The event's chaos is almost unbelievable, and perhaps there would be skepticism if it wasn’t captured on camera. Several cameramen recorded moments of the event. For example, Eric Saarinen was on stage, taking pictures of the crowd, while Baird Bryant climbed atop a bus.
Eric caught Meredith’s death on camera, only realizing what unfolded a week later when the footage was screened at the Maysles Brothers’ New York offices. Witnesses added to the story, suggesting that Meredith was trampled by several Hells Angels members. An autopsy later revealed that Meredith was high on methamphetamine at the time of his death. As far as repercussions for the death go, a jury acquitted Alan Passaro after seeing the revolver in the footage, suggesting that he acted in self-defense.
As more and more footage is discovered, the events keep returning to haunt everyone.
Stones in the Park
Decades later, people were still intrigued by the events of the Altamont Concert. Rick Prelinger, a renowned historian and collector, got his hands on a cache of reels from Palmer Films in 1996. Without thinking much further, he added the reels to his collection of films. Years later, in 2002, the Library of Congress acquired approximately 200,000 reels from his collection. It would take years for the library to work through this content — and they still aren’t done.
Roughly 19 years later, a technician was working on the collection when he found a handwritten note on one film leader that read “Stones in the Park” and used the title for the inventory. Mike Mashon, head of the Moving Image Section at the library, stumbled across the title and was instantly intrigued…
Receiving a Lot More Than Anticipated
Mike wasn’t sure what to expect, but he sent the reels for 2K digitization anyway. Within a few days, he heard back from the film preservation laboratory, and he couldn’t believe his ears! Mike’s colleagues explained that the footage was taken at the Altamont Speedway and had never been seen before.
While many people had seen the 1970 documentary Gimme Shelter, this footage offered a lot more insight and different angles. Needless to say, Mike was excited to get the footage back into his hands.
As it turned out, the footage was silent, which took away much of the appeal of a rock concert. However, where it lacked sound, it made up in close-up footage of the performers, including those that had been cut from the documentary.
For example, Carlos Santana and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young were recorded rocking out on the stage to a crowd of enthusiastic fans. The footage offered different angles of visuals in the documentary, such as Gram Parsons from the Flying Burrito Brothers. Previously, only the back of his head had been captured.
Unforgettable, Notable Moments in the Footage
Mike was astounded by the silent footage that unfolded in front of his eyes. While it’s not known who captured it, the footage is priceless. For example, there are great shots of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards off-stage, watching fellow performers.
Now, there is also new footage of Grace Slick singing with Jefferson Airplane and snippets of the scuffles between the crowd and the Hells Angels. In the process, the footage offered different angles and perspectives on the concert — and the tragic events that unfolded.
Reinforcing the Violent Reputation
When Gimme Shelter was released after the events of the Altamont Concert and the final leg of the Rolling Stones tour, it was lapped up by the audience. The critically acclaimed documentary includes raw footage from the event — including the violence that unfolded.
Unfortunately, the second reel from the Rolling Stones’ performance didn’t offer any more insight into the death of Meredith Hunter at the hands of a Hells Angel, it does offer more context to the event as a whole.
A Smear on Rock N Roll History
While the music was good and the bands were top-notch, the rest of the concert was unstable and hazardous, ultimately leading to tragedy. At the end of the concert, there had been three accidental deaths, one killing, and countless scuffles among the makeshift security and concertgoers.
Today, the concert is viewed as the worst day in rock n roll history, described as “a day when everything went perfectly wrong” by the Rolling Stones themselves. The event was a far cry from the Woodstock festival and put the spotlight on the risks of free concerts and sub-par security.
Deadly Music: Some of the Worst Concert Tragedies in History
Music events are supposed to be an enjoyable way for fans to hear their favorite artists perform live. They have been a thing since 1672 when violinist John Banister charged admission for a show at his home.
Unfortunately, many concerts have ended in disaster due to overcrowding, terrorism, fire, or severe weather. Here is a list of some of the deadliest concerts in history.
David Cassidy's White City “Suicide Concert”
David Cassidy was an American actor, singer, and guitarist who rose to fame after his portrayal of Keith Partridge in the '70s sitcom The Patridge Family. In 1974, when Cassidy was 24 years old, he told his fans that he would be retiring from his solo singing career after his concert at the White City Stadium in London. On May 26, 1974, the arena was full of exhilarated fans eager to watch the pop star perform.
Those who were unable to get a ticket waited outside, hoping to be noticed by the icon. Concert-goers were so excited when Cassidy appeared on stage that it caused chaos in the stadium. Dozens of fans fainted and fell to the floor, and hundreds sustained injuries in a stampede. 14-year-old Bernadette Whelan was knocked unconscious. She never woke from the coma and died a week later in hospital.
The Blackest Day at a Belgian Festival
Five days after violent winds resulted in seven deaths at the Indiana State Fair, five people died at another outdoor event. British rock band Skunk Anansie was performing on stage at the Pukkelpop Music Festival on August 18, 2011, when an “unprecedented” storm hit. According to Skin, the lead singer, the day started warm and sunny before unexpectedly turning into a “mini-hurricane.”
“(A) tower fell on to our truck, we had to run for our lives mid-set as hail hit the stage and the wind began to tear it to pieces,” she wrote on Facebook. “This was the scariest moment I have ever seen or felt in my 20 years of being an artist.” According to officials, weather forecasters had not predicted the severe storm. Chokri Mahassine, the festival organizer, said that it was the “blackest day that any Belgian festival has experienced.”
The Year Roskilde Festival Became Deadly
One of the biggest music festivals in Europe takes place in Roskilde, Denmark, every year. Roskilde Festival usually happens without a hitch. However, on June 30, 2000, multiple people lost their lives when the crowd surged forward while Pearl Jam was performing. As soon as the band realized what was happening, they stopped playing and told their fans to move backward. Unfortunately, it was too late.
Nine people had already suffocated to death. Ironically, the song that they were about to sing was “Alive”. The band members, who always prioritize the safety of their fans, were heartbroken. The Cure was ready to take the stage next, but they canceled their set. Pearl Jam reached out to the relatives of the victims, and two years later, they released the song “Love Boat Captain,” mentioning the tragedy, with the line: “Lost nine friends we’ll never know.”
República Cromañón Fire in Buenos Aires
Omar Chabán was an Argentinian businessman who owned a nightclub called República Cromañón. Around 3,000 partygoers bought tickets to see Argentine rock back Callejeros play at the establishment on December 30, 2004. The building was one month overdue for a fire hazard inspection and had no sprinkler system installed. But Omar went ahead and hosted the event anyway. They were also way over the 1,500-person-capacity.
Four of the six exits were locked, reportedly to stop people from sneaking in without a ticket. The inferno started after someone set off a firecracker. Between the fire, the stampede, and the poisonous fumes, the building was a death trap. Rescue workers later discovered 194 bodies, which allegedly included children, who were in the nursery area. More than 600 people were wounded. Omar Chabán was arrested and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Collapsed Fence Kills Eleven at the Mawazine Festival
The Mawazine Festival is an annual nine-day-long music event held in Rabat, Morocco. Al Jazeera reported that the concert helps portray Morocco as a modern, open-minded country. In 2009, the performers included international stars Kylie Minogue, Khaled, Alicia Keyes Stevie Wonder. On May 23, 2009, 11 people died, and at least 30 were wounded while attempting to leave the festival.
According to witnesses, police had blocked off many of the exits, trapping 70,000 people in the Hay Nahda stadium. Police slowly directed the crowd out of the stadium, but many attendees refused to wait and attempted to jump over metal security fences. A fence collapsed, trapping people underneath. Authorities allegedly did little to save the four men, five women, and two children, who were crushed to death by the stampede that rushed over the fallen barrier.
2017 Las Vegas Mass Shooting
On October 1, 2017, country music singer Jason Aldean was performing at the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas when a gunman opened fire on the audience. The official report is that Stephen Paddock, a 64-year-old auditor and businessman with no criminal record, fired over 1,000 bullets from his Mandalay Bay Hotel window on the 32nd floor. He killed 60 concert-goers and wounded more than 400. An additional 867 people were injured in the chaos the gunfire created.
By the time police entered his room, Paddock was dead. His gunshot wound was determined to be self-inflicted. Investigations still do not know what his motive was. The shooting inspired multiple conspiracy theories, including Paddock being an ISIL “soldier”. Some people also claimed that there was a second gunman. President Donald Trump called Paddock “a demented man, [with] a lot of problems.”
The November 2015 Paris Attacks
On November 13, 2015, ISIL terrorists carried out a series of planned attacks in Paris, France. The terror began at 9:15 p.m. when three suicide bombers blew themselves up outside France’s national sports stadium during a football match between France and Germany. The attackers had tried to enter the busy stadium but were turned away because they did not have tickets.
Shortly afterward, more terrorists opened fire on busy cafés before inflicting damage at the Bataclan theatre. At the time, the American rock band Eagles of Death Metal was performing for around 1,500 spectators. Three gunmen entered the theatre and started shooting into the crowd. A gunman shouted, “This is because of all the harm done by Hollande to Muslims all over the world.” The attackers killed 130 people that night, wounding 416. Most of the casualties were concert-goers.
An Overcrowded Love Parade
Love Parade, a free EDM (electronic dance music) festival, attracted over one million people on July 25, 2010. The concert was held in Duisburg, Germany after venues in Berlin and Bochum were ruled out for being ill-equipped to accommodate such a large crowd. The attendees poured in through tunnels leading to the concert grounds. They were packed like sardines, making it difficult for security to notice a dangerous situation arising.
The space was big enough for 200,000 people, yet more than six times as many people showed up. Trapped in a swarm of people, many attendees began to panic, causing a stampede. Some people fell off stairs into the crowd. The chaos ended in 21 deaths caused by asphyxiation and crushed ribs. More than 500 people were injured. After the tragedy, the Love Parade was permanently banned.
The Who Concert in Ohio
English rock band The Who was known for their energetic concerts during the 1960s and 1970s. The band originally consisted of lead vocalist Roger Daltrey, guitarist Pete Townshend, drummer Keith Moon, and bassist John Entwistle. When Keith Moon died from an accidental overdose of a prescription drug in 1979, his band members were devastated. Tragedy struck again on December 3, 1979, at Cincinnati Riverfront Coliseum.
Minutes before the start of the concert, the band tested their sound equipment. Around 7,000 concert-goers were still outside in the queue. Some people thought it was the opening act and forced their way forward, resulting in a stampede that injured dozens of people and killed 11. Unaware of what had happened, the band continued with the show. After hearing the tragic news, the lead vocalist wanted to cancel the other US shows, but Pete Townshend convinced them not to.
Axl Rose Arrested for Inciting Violence
When two of the most famous rock bands announced that they would be co-headlining at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal, expectations were high. On August 8, 1992, over 50,000 fans poured into the stadium to watch Metallica and Guns n’ Roses perform. Unfortunately, everything went wrong. While Metallica was performing, a stage prop exploded, wounding their lead singer James Hetfield. The band left, leaving the stage to Guns n’ Roses. They started the next performance three hours later.
But frontman Axl Rose cut it short because he had a sore throat. The audience was disgruntled and frustrated, leading to a violent riot. They caused $500,000 in damages. Ten people sustained injuries, but miraculously, nobody died. A previous Guns n’ Roses concert also ended in a riot. Axl Rose found himself in handcuffs after inciting violence at a show in 1991.
The Day the Music Died
In 1969, one of the most famous music concerts, Woodstock Music and Art Fair, took place on a dairy farm in Bethel, New York. “Just like the flyers said, this was a festival of love, peace and happiness,” recalled concert-goer Dr. Charles Jarret. In 1999, organizers held another festival to celebrate 30 years since the original Woodstock. Unfortunately, Woodstock ’99 was a complete failure, with the San Francisco Chronicle dubbing it “The Day the Music Died.”
Although the line-up included iconic bands like Metallica and Red Hot Chili Peppers, the organizers prioritized profits over the unifying musical experience. The 100-degree heat and exorbitant water prices contributed to the downfall of many concert-goers, who became violent. They gang-raped a woman, sexually assaulted others, looted, and destroyed property. More than 1,000 people were wounded. Thankfully, there were no deaths, except for the reputation of Woodstock.
The Assassination of Damageplan’s Dimebag Darrell
Heavy metal band Pantera was one of the most successful bands of its genre, selling around 20 million records worldwide. The group consisted of the Abbott brothers (Vinnie Paul and Dimebag Darrell), Phil Anselmo, and Rex Brown. In 2003, tensions arose, and the band split up. Vinnie Paul and Dimebag Darrell started a new band called Damageplan. The band had only existed for a year when they played their final show on December 8, 2004, in Columbus, Ohio.
During the performance, 25-year-old Nathan Gale jumped onto the stage and shot Dimebag Darrell in the head. Nathan was reportedly mentally disturbed and believed that Pantera had stolen his lyrics. He then killed two employees who tried to disarm him and a 23-year-old Damageplan fan who attempted to resuscitate the victims. Police officer James Niggemeyer then shot and killed the shooter.
Travis Scott’s Astroworld Music Festival
Rapper Travis Scott was criticized for his actions at the Astroworld music festival on November 5, 2021, in Houston, Texas. With 50,000 audience members, the show was sold out. Travis Scott is known for hyping up crowds, writing the lyrics, “It ain’t a mosh pit if ain’t no injuries,” in a 2018 song called “Stargazing”. At the 2021 Astroworld, chaos ensued as the crowd rushed forward, creating one big mosh pit.
People were packed together so tightly that they were slowly being crushed. Many could not breathe properly. Some concert-goers fainted and suffered heart attacks. Travis Scott noticed that one fan was in trouble, so he called medics to come in and assist. However, as they were taking away the unconscious victim, Travis Scott continued to sing. Dozens of people were injured, and ten people have died so far.
Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa Were Sued Over a Collapsed Railing
More than 40 people were injured after a barrier broke during a Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa concert on August 5, 2016. The railing was separating the audience from the stage. When it collapsed, several people fell about one story down onto the concrete floor. Some of the victims sued the rappers and the venue operators for not taking adequate precautions to ensure the safety of the concert-goers.
The Plaintiffs included three injured staff members and a victim who had suffered a fractured spine. “I can tell you there is no doubt there was a crowd surge based upon the setup of the lawn with no chairs and no aisles, lack of security ... and then the artists telling people to come forward,” attorney Robert J. Mongeluzzi said. “That's the setup, and that's the failure.”
Deadly New Years’ Party at Santika Nightclub
The owner of Santika nightclub, an establishment in Thailand, obtained fraudulent papers to avoid a fire inspection. If it had gone through the legal channels, the business would not have met the requirements. The building only had one fire extinguisher, and there were no marked exits. The club was operating without a permit and only had a license to sell food.
Thai singers Joey Boy, DJ Poom, and DJ Petjah were booked to perform at Santika nightclub on December 31, 2009. Just after the count down to the New Year, the building burst into flames. According to Alex Wargacki, a Briton who attended the party, someone let off a firework into the audience. The deadly fire killed 67 people and wounded 222.
Bad Weather at the Indiana State Fair
On August 13, 2011, the Indiana State Fair was affected by a severe storm. Moments before Sugarland were scheduled to take the stage at the outdoor concert, disaster struck. Violent gusts of wind reaching 70 miles per hour knocked down the 35-ton stage, trapping several audience members under scaffolding and stage equipment. Dozens of concert-goers were severely wounded. Five people died on the scene, and two others succumbed to their injuries in hospital.
Sugarland band members were physically unscathed but were “stunned and heartbroken” by the freak accident. Their lawyers claimed that the winds were unpredictable and blamed the victims for the deaths. However, the band issued a statement saying that their fans are the “most important thing” to them. Lead vocalist Jennifer Nettles added, “There are no words to process a moment of this magnitude and gravity.”
The Ghost Ship Warehouse Fire
On December 2, 2016, a fire killed 36 people at an illegal underground party in Oakland, California. Several house music artists performed at the concert, which took place in a warehouse called Ghost Ship. Around 100 attendees were trapped in the building when an electrical fault reportedly caused a fire. With no smoke detectors or sprinklers, and only two fire extinguishers, the blaze spread quickly.
The venue also served as accommodation. One of the residents, Carmen Brito, was asleep when she smelled smoke. She grabbed her coat, put on her shoes, and ran toward the exit. Within seconds the whole place was in flames. Tenants Derick Almena and Max Harris were charged with involuntary manslaughter for organizing the event but were later acquitted after a mistrial. The Ghost Ship warehouse fire is the deadliest in the history of Oakland.
Altamont Speedway Free Festival
On December 6, 1969, more than 300,000 people flocked to Altamont Raceway Park in California to watch The Rolling Stones perform. It was the final concert of their 1969 American tour, and they had made it a free event after being criticized for their exorbitant ticket prices. To cut costs, they hired the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club for security and compensated them with $500 worth of beer.
Their thriftiness ended up costing more than they could imagine. An 18-year-old black man named Meredith Hunter had armed himself with a .22 Smith and Wesson pistol for protection. A member of Hells Angels saw the concert-goer with a weapon and stabbed him in the neck. The teenager died moments later. Some people have speculated that it was a racial attack. Three other concert-goers died that day: Two from a hit-and-run and one after drowning in an irrigation canal.
A John Davidson Concert at the Beverly Hills Supper Club
On May 28, 1977, the Beverly Hills Supper Club in Southgate, Kentucky, drew a large crowd for their show, with Hollywood singer and actor John Davidson as the headline act. Although the Cabaret Room could safely hold 600 people, there were around 1,000 audience members crammed inside. The club also had several restaurants, and on that evening, there were roughly 3,000 people in the building.
A comedian was entertaining the crowd in the Cabaret Room when a waiter interrupted them to inform everyone about a fire in the building. A few people promptly exited the room, but many felt they would be safe there and continued watching the performance. When the fire spread to the Cabaret Room, the audience scrambled to the exits, causing a stampede. More than 165 people died, making this the third deadliest nightclub fire in America.
The Manchester Arena Bombing
Immediately after Ariana Grande performed a concert at the Manchester Arena in the United Kingdom on March 22, 2017, a suicide bomber detonated an explosive device in the crowd. Out of the 14,200 attendees, 22 died, and over 1,000 were injured. Some of the victims were children. British Prime Minister Theresa May commented on the incident. “All acts of terrorism are cowardly attacks on innocent people," May said. "But this attack stands out for its appalling, sickening cowardice — deliberately targeting innocent, defenseless children and young people, who should have been enjoying one of the most memorable nights of their lives.”
After the incident, Ariana Grande tweeted, “From the bottom of my heart, I am so, so sorry. I don't have words.” The singer returned visited some of her wounded fans in hospital. The following year, she paid tribute to the victims in her music album Sweetener.
An Unexpected Tsunami Kills an Indonesian Bassist
In December 2018, an unforeseen tsunami tore through a concert at the Tanjung Lesung Beach Resort. Indonesian pop band Seventeen was performing when the sudden natural disaster occurred after the Anak Krakatoa volcano erupted. Video footage shows the massive wave crashing into the stage before heading toward the concert-goers. More than 200 people died, including the band’s bassist Muhammad Awal Purbani and their manager Oki Wijaya.
Hundreds of people were injured. In the aftermath of the tsunami, dozens of people were missing, as well as the guitarist, drummer, a member of the crew, and the wife of lead singer Riefian Fajarsyah. The singer posted a heart-wrenching video on Instagram. “We lost our bassist Bani, and our road manager Oki. Andi and Herman and Ujang have not been found,” Fajarsyah said in the video. They were later found alive.
Great White’s Fiery Concert
On February 20, 2003, rock band Great White performed a concert at The Station nightclub in Rhode Island. The tour manager Daniel Biechele wanted to make it a night to remember. He decided to operate pyrotechnics, although he didn't have a permit. He did succeed in making the event unforgettable but for all the wrong reasons. At least 400 people were in the audience – 150 more than the building could safely hold.
The building had four exits, but two of them were blocked off. Once the fire started, it spread quickly due to the flammable materials used in the soundproofing. The crowd could not escape fast enough. Tragically, 100 people died. One of the casualties was the lead guitarist Ty Longley. Over 200 people were wounded, many of whose lives were changed irreparably. Daniel Biechele served four years in prison for involuntary manslaughter.