Concerts are a central place for fans and music lovers to gather and watch their favorite band perform live before their eyes. Often, fans will be propping up the bar, and depending on the genre of music there are mosh pits in front of the stage with people pushing each other around and running into each other at pretty high speeds. Between this mix of people and behavior, it is a bit of a shock that there aren’t more accidents at these events. Luckily, death at a concert is rare, but when it happens, it affects not only the fan base, but the musicians themselves. One has to wonder if the band feels a burden of responsibility for the actions that took place, or if the audience members feel a level of guilt as one of their own has fallen. Nevertheless, it is truly a tragedy when any human life is lost, especially during an event where people are supposed to be celebratory and joyful, even if it is (in the case of heavier rock) an aggressive sort of celebration.
The most frightening thing about some of the deaths that occur at music concerts is that, between the loud music and the chaos all around, it can be just too late by the time real trouble is identified. Here, we’ve looked at ten concerts that ended tragically in bloodshed, ranked by the number of fatalities. With the alarming number of deaths at these concerts, these incidents serve as a grim reminder that if you’re a regular concert attendee, you should be careful out there. And for night club or venue owners, some of these stories are a harsh reminder those annoying fire safety protocols are there for very good reason…
10. Altamont Free Concert – 4 Deaths
On December 6, 1969, San Francisco was host to the Altamont Free Concert at the peak of the rock and roll era of the sixties. Over 300,000 people attended the concert, and Hell’s Angels bikers were hired for security and keeping the stage clear, armed with chains and pool cues. With a combination of drugs and beer, the crowd began to attack each other, the security, and the stage. Throughout the day, attendees were becoming more violent and restless – to the point that the band, Grateful Dead, refused to play. During the Rolling Stones set, audience member Meredith Hunter brought a gun out after being punched in the face, and he ended up being tackled and stabbed by a Hell’s Angel.
9. Roskilde Festival – 9 Deaths
While Pearl Jam played a set at a festival in Roskilde, Denmark on June 30, 2000, nine people were killed as people rushed to the stage. The band was asked to stop playing and Pearl Jam asked the crowds to back away, but at that point, it was already too late. It turned out that people had fallen while rushing to the stage and were crushed to death as people kept going and trampling their fellow concertgoers below their feet. The Cure was supposed to follow Pearl Jam (who cut their set short), and did not perform. The band felt a tremendous amount of sorrow for the lives lost.
8. The Who – 11 Deaths
December 3rd, 1979 became a day that would change the world of rock music forever. While awaiting a concert at the Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati, Ohio, 18,000 fans arrived at 1:30pm for an 8:00pm show due to the festival-style seating that was strictly first come, first served. When The Who took the stage for their warm-up, thousands of fans mistook the music for the band’s first set and began to storm the doors. When police and Coliseum staff were able to break the masses apart, they found over two dozen people injured and 11 dead from the stampede and crushed to death. After the tragedy, the city banned festival-style seating for the next 24 years.
7. Mawazine Festival – 11 Deaths
The Mawazine Festival took place on May 23, 2009 in Rabat, Morocco, and was meant to showcase the country as a modern nation. The event was a nine day long ordeal and hosted major music celebrities such as Stevie Wonder. On the final night of the music festival, after a set by singer Abdelaziz Stati, people were anxious to leave. As police assisted with the mass amount of people exiting by closing off several exits, people got anxious and attempted to climb the fence, one of which collapsed. 11 people were killed from being crushed to death not only by the fencing, but also by fellow spectators.
6. Love Parade – 21 Deaths
Love Parade was an event that had a hard time finding a host, as Berlin refused to host the event in 2010, and Bochum cancelled the event in 2009 due to its inability to host the amount of spectators expected for the concert. So, Duisburg, Germany stepped up to host the large scale event on July 25, 2010, with 1.4 million attendees total. However, there was a panic in the entrance tunnel, which resulted in people getting trampled to death, suffocating from being pressed in the crowd, as well as falling. The tragic part was that no one knew there were any issues and kept pushing and pressing against each other to enter the event, not realizing they were injuring and killing each other.
5. Santika Nightclub Fire – 100 Deaths
The Santika Nightclub tragedy, which took place on January 1st, 2009, serves as a grim reminder to research the building where you’re going to attend a concert. The Bangkok building was never sanctioned nor received a fire inspection, meaning it was vulnerable to any number of disasters. The building also had exits wielded shut so that people couldn’t sneak in or stiff the club, as well as forging papers to keep the business running. So when a fire broke out during a concert by the band, Burn, there was utter chaos. Bodies were burned so badly that DNA analysis had to be used to identify the bodies. The cause of the fire is still yet undetermined.
4. Station Nightclub Fire – 100 Deaths
On the evening of February 20, 2003, numerous amount of people gathered at the Station Nightclub in West Warwick, Rhode Island to see the band Great White. Crowds were full to beyond capacity. When the band’s manager decided to add some pyrotechnics to the show, the sparks went rogue and the nightclub began to catch on fire. The problem was that many people in the audience didn’t realize that the fire was not a part of the show until it was too late. Over 100 people died from suffocation from being trampled, the fire itself, and inhaling smoke. One of Great White’s band members, Ty Longley, was also among the casualties from the night.
3. Beverly Hills Supper Club Fire – 165 Deaths
There were many things going on at the Beverly Hills Supper Club on the night of May 28th, 1977, in the town of Southgate, Kentucky. On that evening, there was a John Davidson concert taking place as well as lavish receptions and banquets, all connected by narrow hallways. A fire broke out in the evening, and to this day, it is still a mystery as to how the fire started. The fire was discovered by two waitresses and a busboy proceeded to make an announcement that a fire had broken out. While some people heeded the warning and left, there were many who didn’t take the threat seriously. So when the fire reached each respective location, people began to panic and tried to escape down the narrow hallways – 165 of whom fatally failed.
2. República Cromañón – 194 Deaths
Located in the Barrio Once club in Buenos Aires, Cromañón hosted the band ‘Callejeros’ on December 30, 2004, and over 3,000 people flocked to see the band perform. The amount of people in the club exceeded the zoning number by three times, almost guaranteeing some sort of disaster. Sources are inconsistent, but what seems to have occurred was that someone set off some sort of firework or explosive that resulted in a fire. Because the emergency exits were permanently locked and several doors fenced in and shut to prevent anyone from sneaking in, once the fire broke out the 3,000 fans had almost no way out. The people who died met their end due to smoke inhalation, toxic fumes, and burn injuries.
1. Kiss Nightclub Fire – 242 Deaths
Very similar to the Cromañón tragedy, on January 26th, 2013, the Santa Maria, Brazil nightclub became a blazing inferno during a concert performed by the band ‘Gurizada Fandangueira’. The cause of the fire was the band’s illegal use of pyrotechnics that caused the ceiling insulation to catch on fire. But there were no fire alarms, sprinkler systems, and no fire escapes. This meant that almost no one, other than a few band members and some crew, knew about the fire until it was too late. There weren’t enough fire extinguishers for the space of the building, and the extinguishers that people did attempt to use failed to work. Over 240 people died with 168 injured from stampedes, smoke inhalation, toxic fumes, and burn injuries. The college-centric town felt the loss heavily as most of the victims were students between the ages of 18 and 30.