Sun. Feb 23rd, 2020

Monday, December 3, 1979

(40 years ago)

The Who arrive at Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati around 6pm and begin a sound check. Outside the thousands of people that make up the general admission audience have been outside for hours in the freezing cold packed against the few doors that are scheduled to be opened at 7:00pm. When some members of the crowd hear The Who's soundcheck they begin to push harder and harder on the crowd yelling “One, two, three, push! “ The pressure grows to a level that some in the crowd can no longer take in air. Those few who know what is happening and can escape run to the hired security guards only to be rebuffed.¬† The leader of the security guard requests that the doors be opened to relieve the pressure but the promoter refuses because the sound check isn't over and there aren't enough ticket takers. At 7:15pm, four doors are opened but most of the time two of the doors are blocked by security guards. The pushing grows even stronger into the tight bottleneck as the tickets are slowly gathered and the crowd races into the arena. The first body is found at 7:54pm. Ambulances and firetrucks are brought in. As there are no marks on the bodies, the medical crews incorrectly suspect drug overdoses. It is almost an hour later before news filters backstage to The Who's manager Bill Curbishley about the tragedy outside. The fire marshall wants the concert stopped but Curbishley refuses fearing that a cancellation would spark a riot or send the crowd rushing back over the plaza were the wounded are being treated. The Who go on, completely unaware of what has occurred outside. By the end of the show Curbishley has been told that eleven fans have died. He tells The Who that something serious had happened and to hurry the encore. When they come backstage again Curbishley breaks the news to them. Roger begins to cry, the rest are silent and stunned.¬† The next morning The Who hold a short press conference before heading to their next show. Roger does most of the speaking. Fighting back tears, he defends The Who against charges that their stage show is violent and denies that The Who had anything to do with security and the opening of too few doors which he blames for the tragedy. By late that evening and the next day, video of the carnage is airing on the news around the world. Cincinnati's local television station, with no evidence, calls it a “stampede “ by a drug-crazed mob fueled by rock music and this is reported as fact by Walter Cronkite on the CBS Evening News and by The New York Times. Rock and drugs may be blamed in the press but the onus attaches itself to The Who.¬†


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Riverfront Coliseum, Cincinnati

Latitude: 39.097923
Longitude: -84.504436

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