The Dark Side of Music Events: Death & Mayhem (pt.1)

While attending concerts and music festivals is a favourite pastime for many across the globe, they can be dangerous if poorly planned or managed. The first part of this article looks at deadly and dangerous incidences that have occurred at music events in recent years due to issues with infrastructure or crowds.

Infrastructure

When it comes to the infrastructure at concerts and music festivals, planning and management are very important and a lot has to be taken into consideration. Some important elements pertaining to health and safety include: the number of emergency exits, any fire hazards, and working equipment.

Indiana State Fair (2011)

On August 13, 2011, a storm with high winds rolled through the Indiana State Fair just before Sugarland was set to perform. At one point, authorities got on stage and warned crowds to seek shelter due to rough conditions, and minutes later, speakers and metal scaffolding fell into the “Sugar Pit” a VIP section for Sugarland’s fans.

Figures 1 & 2 – Stage Collapse / Crowd Working Together

This collapse caused the deaths of five people, with two more people succumbing to their injuries later on. Unfortunately, many more people were injured and were lucky to survive. In the end, there was a $50M settlement meant to “resolve the claims arising from the seven deaths and over fifty-eight injuries.”

Kiss Nightclub (2013)

In December 2021, a Brazilian court found four people guilty of murder and attempted murder after a fire started during a concert at Kiss Nightclub in 2013. On January 27, 2013, the band performing at the club ignited the fire when they lit flares on stage and the ceiling burst into flames. This triggered a stampede that injured more than 600 people and killed 242.

According to a police investigation, sparks from the flare set the insulation material on the ceiling on fire, which produced toxic fumes. The venue had no functioning fire extinguishers, poor emergency signage, and only two emergency exits. As such, the two band members and the two owners of the nightclub were found responsible for what happened.

Hong Kong Coliseum (2022)

On July 28, 2022, the popular Cantopop boy band, Mirror, performed at the Hong Kong Coliseum. During the concert, a suspended video screen fell onto the stage, injuring two dancers. Screams erupted from the crowd as the edge of the screen fell directly on top of one dancer, before falling over onto another.

Figures 5 & 6 – Medical Attention / Screen Falling

Both performers and staff rushed to their aid, stopping the concert and asking fans to exit the venue. According to reports, the dancer who was struck first, Li Qiyan, is in serious condition, with rumours he may be paralyzed. The second dancer was lucky, obtaining only minor injuries, and was discharged from the hospital the next day.

Crowds

When it comes to the crowds at concerts and music festivals, planning and management is very important, as there can be tens of thousands of attendees and often drugs and alcohol are in the mix. Some important elements pertaining to health and safety include: proper security, medic tents, emergency plans, and infrastructure.

Roskilde Festival (2000)

On June 30, 2000, Pearl Jam was performing their headlining set at Roskilde Festival in Denmark when concertgoers started pushing through the crowd to get closer to the stage. Due to weather conditions, the ground was slippery, so as people pushed, others fell to the ground and were unable to get up in time.

Figures 7 & 8 – Roskilde Festival / Festival Tribute

With over 50,000 people in attendance, at first, the security and band didn’t realize anything was happening. However, once they were informed, the band stopped playing and told the crowd to move back. While this helped, it still took several minutes for all of the victims to be reached, at which point it was too late for some. In the end, twenty-six people were injured – three seriously – and nine men aged seventeen to twenty-six died.

Love Parade (2010)

On July 24, 2010, the electronic dance music festival in Germany, Love Parade, experienced a significant crowd disaster. The 2010 show was the first time the festival was held in a closed-off area, accessible by a ramp that served as the sole point of entry and exit. To the east of this ramp was a long tunnel, and to the west was a series of underpasses.

While the festival grounds were supposed to open at 11:00 AM, admittance was delayed until around noon. At one point, the police at the entrance instructed new arrivals to turn back in an effort to relieve overcrowding, with over one million people set to attend. Even though they told attendees that the tunnel’s only exit was closed off, people started pushing into the tunnel from the rear.

People started falling off the stairs and pulling others along with them, causing many injuries and fatalities. While there was some debate as to how these deaths occurred, autopsies showed that they were all caused by crushed rib cages. In the end, a total of twenty-one people died – thirteen women and eight men, between the ages of eighteen and thirty-eight. Fifteen of the victims died on-site, while six died in hospital. The number of those injured in the event was over 600. After this tragedy, the event organizers decided not to hold another Love Parade in the future.

Astroworld Festival (2021)

Travis Scott’s Astroworld Festival became the poster child for poor festival planning and management on November 5, 2021, when a crowd rush left 10 attendees dead and over 300 injured. Those killed ranged in age from 9 to 27 years old.

Honestly, there was just so much wrong with the planning and management of this festival that explaining it all would take up too much time and space. However, the most troubling, were reports from festival attendees who had begged security and management for help, only to be dismissed.

One survivor, Quention Sauvage said he was about 40 feet from the stage. He called 911 numerous times and screamed to anyone who could hear for the show to stop, while trying to save his brother from being trampled. “There’s no way to describe the feeling that you have to accept that you might die,” Sauvage said. “Word for word the event staff looked me in the eye and said, “It’s a mosh pit, what do you expect?’ I was shocked.”

Another concertgoer, Ayden Cruz, spoke out about his experience at the festival after nearly getting trampled himself. He said he scaled a camera platform and began screaming for help when the camera operator just yelled at him to get down. He kept screaming at anyone who could hear him to stop the show and help people, but no one would listen. In the end, Travis Scott performed for almost an entire 45 minutes while audience members were screaming for help, passing out, and dying.

Find part 2 of this article here, looking at music events marred by terrorism.

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