SXSW 2014: When music, tragedy intersect, from Altamont to Austin

Great White nightclub fire
Great White lead singer Jack Russell and the band perform, in this view from television, moments before the group’s pyrotechnic display set off a deadly fire at the Station nightclub in West Warwick, R.I., on Feb. 20, 2003.
(Associated Press photo courtesy of WPRI-TV )

This post has been updated. See note below for details.

Wednesday’s incident at the South by Southwest Music Conference in Austin, Texas,  in which two people were killed and nearly two dozen others injured by a suspected drunk driver who police say drove into a crowd outside a club while trying to evade officers, was just the latest tragedy to hit during a heavily populated music event. Here are a dozen others, from Pukkelpop to Altamont.

2012: Radiohead, Toronto: A drum technician was killed when a stage roof collapsed in fair weather before the English band was scheduled to perform.

2011: Pukkelpop Festival, Belgium: Severe storms cause multiple stages to collapse, killing five people. The remainder of the 2011 festival was canceled, but Pukkelpop resumed in 2012.


2011: Sugarland, Indiana State Fair: Seven fans died and  58 other people were injured when storm winds caused stage and rigging to collapse before a scheduled concert by the country-pop duo.

PHOTOS: Scenes from SXSW 2014

2010: Electric Daisy Festival, Los Angeles: A 15-year-old  girl died of an Ecstasy overdose during the electronic dance music festival. Promoters subsequently moved the festival to Las Vegas.

2010: Love Parade Festival, Duisberg, Germany: When a crowd estimated at 1 million turned up in an area designed to handle 250,000, 21 people died and more than 500 people injured as fans overcrowded tunnels trying to get into the event.


2004: Damageplan, Columbus, Ohio:  A deranged fan shot and killed former Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell during a performance by his new band Damageplan. Three other people were killed before the shooter was restrained.

2003: Great White, West Warwick, R.I.: Pyrotechnics ignited flammable materials surrounding the Station club stage while the heavy metal band was performing, leaving 100 fans dead. The group’s tour manager was sentenced to 10 years for involuntary manslaughter and was paroled in 2008.

2000:  Roskilde Festival, Denmark: Nine people were killed as fans rushed the stage during a Pearl Jam show at the festival. Band members remained in contact with families of the victims and referenced the tragedy two years later in the song “Love Boat Captain,” which said in part, “Lost nine friends we’ll never know ... two years ago today.”

PHOTOS: Unexpected musical collaborations

1999: Woodstock ’99, New York: Rioting during rap-rock group Limp Bizkit’s performance left an enduring memory of  what was supposed to be a sequel to the original festival’s “three days of peace and love” in 1969.

1992: Metallica and Guns N’ Roses, Montreal. Metallica singer James Hetfield was injured during a pyrotechnic display, causing the band to cut its performance short, then fans rioted when Axl Rose left the stage after only an hour, complaining of vocal problems.

1979: The Who, Cincinnati: Eleven fans died and 23 otherwise were injured after being trampled during the crush for general admission seating when doors opened.

1969: The Rolling Stones, Altamont: A fan was killed during the Stones’ performance at their free festival near San Francisco when he got into a fight with Hells Angels motorcycle club members who had been hired to provide security.


Update on March 14, 11:01 a.m.: An earlier version of this post identified the location of the Sugarland concert stage collapse as the Iowa State Fair. It was at the Indiana State Fair.


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