Concert Deaths

10 Of The Most Horrifying Concert Tragedies In History


In November 2015, three rifle-toting jihadists burst into the Bataclan Theatre in Paris on Friday the 13th during an Eagles of Death Metal show. After shouting “Allahu Akbar!” they rained hot lead onto the horde of decadent infidels during a twenty-minute rampage. When the smoke had cleared, 89 concertgoers had been massacred. All three gunmen were blown to bits when their suicide vests detonated. It was the deadliest concert shooting in history and part of a wider series of attacks that night in Paris that killed a total of 130 people. (source)


Flower Power wilted and died in a single day in December 1969 at the Altamont Speedway Free Festival in Northern California. A sloppily thrown-together mega-concert that was billed as “Woodstock West” took place on a yard-high stage at the bottom of a slope. Three hundred thousand fucked-up and tripped-out hippies pressed downward on the slope toward the tiny stage that was guarded by a handful of Hells Angels who’d been paid in $500 worth of beer to protect the bands from being swarmed. As the day wore on, bad vibes started throbbing loudly. The Angels used pool sticks and chains to beat the crowd back away from the stage. One Angel punched the lead singer of Jefferson Airplane unconscious. The Grateful Dead were scheduled to play right before headliners The Rolling Stones, but they backed out due to the brewing violence. The Stones took the stage around nightfall, and prancing centaur Mick Jagger—at that point the world’s biggest rock star—tried in vain to tame the increasingly unruly crowd. As the band launched into “Under My Thumb,” an eighteen-year-old black man named Meredith Hunter, gakked out of his mind on meth and wearing a lime-green suit, attempted jumping onstage, only to be punched back into the crowd by a Hells Angel. With murder in his eyes, Hunter again lunged toward the stage, this time brandishing a .22 revolver, only to be intercepted by a knife-wielding Angel who stabbed him repeatedly. Hunter fell to the ground and a throng of Angels kicked him into the afterlife. Altamont became an emblem of the death of 1960s utopian dreams and has been called “rock ‘n’ roll’s all-time worst day.” The whole squirmy-wormy bad trip is chronicled in the film Gimme Shelter. (source)


In 1979, a mere year after The Who’s original drummer Keith Moon died, a fatal tragedy struck the band again in Cincinnati. Over 18,000 fans, some of them who’d been there for hours, huddled outside Riverfront Stadium waiting for the doors to open. The concert was mostly general admission, meaning whoever got through the doors first and ran fastest toward the stage got the best view. When The Who did a late sound check, the masses assembled outside mistook it for the start of the concert. When only a couple of the venue’s 134 doors opened, it hastened a stampede that ended with eleven fans being trampled to death.

According to an attendee who got trapped in the giant writhing cube of Ohioans:

A wave swept me to the left and when I regained my stance I felt that I was standing on someone. The helplessness and frustration of this moment sent a wave of panic through me. I screamed with all my strength that I was standing on someone. I couldn’t move. I could only scream. Another wave came and pushed me further left towards the door. I felt my leg being pulled to the right. The crowd shifted again and I reached down and grabbed an arm at my leg. I struggled for a while and finally pulled up a young girl who also had a young boy clinging to her limbs. They were barely conscious and their faces were filled with tears.

The concert proceeded without a hitch, and The Who were not informed of the fatalities until after the show. “If it had happened inside, I would never have played again,” Who guitarist Pete Townshend later remarked. (source)


A disastrous 1992 gig in Montreal featuring two of the era’s biggest douche-rock bands—Guns N’ Roses and Metallica—ended in street riots and police tear gas. Metallica cut their set short after singer James Hetfield suffered severe burns from stage pyrotechnics. An angry and hungry crowd of over 50,000 then waited more than two hours for Gun N’ Roses, who also cut their set short after singer Axl Rose complained of vocal problems. The furious crowd poured out into the streets, smashing and bashing and looting and setting fires until a cadre of club-wielding cops eventually beat them into docility.


Sometimes the march of time does not always signify progress. The original Woodstock Festival in 1969 featured Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix and was billed as “Three Days of Peace & Music.” Its lame retread 30 years later—Woodstock 99—featured Limp Bizkit and the Insane Clown Posse and comprised four days of gang rape, bonfires, and breaking stuff. According to MTV’s Kurt Loder:

It was dangerous to be around. The whole scene was scary. There were just waves of hatred bouncing around the place….It was like a concentration camp. To get in, you get frisked to make sure you’re not bringing in any water or food that would prevent you from buying from their outrageously priced booths. You wallow around in garbage and human waste. There was a palpable mood of anger.


In 2003 at a tiny packed club in the dead of an icy Rhode Island winter, tireless 80s hair-rockers Great White took the stage in front of a totally awesome pyrotechnics show that set the ceiling’s flammable insulation foam ablaze less than a minute after the band kicked into their first song. At first many attendees thought the flames were part of the show until the blaze spread through the entire smoke-filled club. In their frantic rush to exit the club, 100 died from either heat, asphyxiation, or being trampled. A Providence TV station eventually settled with the victims’ families for $30 million because their cameraman blocked the main exit by continuing to film the unfolding calamity.


Guitarist “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott, formerly of aggro metal band Pantera, was shot dead onstage by a schizophrenic ex-Marine one night in December 2004 while Abbott’s new band Damageplan were performing their first song. The Marine—who allegedly claimed Pantera had stolen his lyrics—managed to kill five people before being taken out with a single shotgun blast from an Ohio cop. (source)


During a thunderstorm at the Indiana State Fair in 2011 as the band Sugarland were waiting to perform, a vicious wind gust collapsed the stage, fatally crushing seven people and injuring 58 more. (source)


On New Year’s Day 2009 at a nightclub in Bangkok, 66 people died as a fire swallowed the club whole. They’d assembled to watch a band called Burn. (source)


The deadliest concert fire in world history happened in the bowels of Boston’s Cocoanut Grove nightclub in 1942. As a singer was performing downstairs, a fire suddenly swept through Cocoanut Grove, killing an astonishing 492 people. Some were crushed to death in their panic to escape. Some were caught completely unawares, and their charred corpses were found sitting at their tables with drinks in their hands, killed so quickly by smoke and fire that they didn’t even have a chance to move. (source) Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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