11 of the Deadliest Concert Disasters in Recent History
Many of the world’s deadliest concert disasters have one thing in common: massive crowds. Surges of people can make events dangerous, as seen during the Astroworld Festival in Houston, Texas, on Nov. 5, 2021. Sadly, it’s far from the first time that people have died at a concert or music festival. Not including the 2017 terror attacks at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester Arena and the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas, crushing crowds and fires have caused some of the most dangerous and deadly concert tragedies.
These are 11 of the most numerous concert deaths in the last 50 years.
11. Indiana State Fair Stage Collapse
August 13, 2011 — Indianapolis, Indiana
Concert deaths: 7
Strong winds upended the metal scaffolding and stage equipment at the 2011 Indiana State Fair while a crowd was packed into the concert venue. Audiences had been waiting for an outdoor performance by Sugarland when 70 mile-per-hour wind blew through the fairground and caused the stage to collapse. The disaster resulted in the tragic deaths of 7 concert-goers.
10. Astroworld Festival
Nov. 5, 2021 — Houston, Texas
Concert deaths: 9
Surging crowds at Travis Scott’s Astroworld music festival led to pandemonium that turned fatal. The chaos started when Scott, the festival’s founder and headliner, took the stage. The crowd rushed to the front of the stage, with people squeezing together so tightly that many couldn’t breathe. Some suffered cardiac arrest. Eight people were ultimately pronounced dead, and dozens more rushed to the hospital in what was officially classified a mass casualty incident.
9. Roskilde Festival
June 30, 2000 — Roskilde, Denmark
Concert deaths: 9
In 2020, nine men were killed at a Pearl Jam concert when people rushed the stage and those in front collapsed. According to the BBC, the band was told to stop playing, and once aware of the problem they asked fans to back away, but it was too late. Several had fallen and the crowd pressed on, suffocating those at the bottom of the pile. Pearl Jam later referenced the incident in the song “Love Boat Captain” with the line “Lost nine friends we’ll never know.”
8. The Who at Cincinnati Riverfront Stadium
Dec. 3, 1979 — Cincinnati, Ohio
Deaths at concert: 11
More than 18,000 tickets were sold for The Who’s concert at Cincinnati Riverfront Stadium, and there were only 25 police officers allotted for crowd control. The set was to begin at 8 PM, but the doors were still closed at 7:45 when an anxious crowd, hearing The Who’s warmup and mistaking it for the opening number, surged toward the doors.
General admission seating made up 80 percent of tickets sold, which was said to be a contributing factor to the rush for entry as fans clamored for a good view of the show. As a result of the tragedy, new regulations were put into effect to keep order during large concerts that are still practiced today.
7. Mawazine Festival
May 23, 2009 — Rabat, Morocco
Deaths at concert: 11
This nine-day festival, according to Al Jazeera, was meant to promote the reputation of Morocco as a modern nation. Many international stars played the event, including Stevie Wonder, Kylie Minogue, and Ennio Morricone. On the final night as the festival came to an end, after a set by Moroccan singer Abdelaziz Stati, 11 people were crushed to death.
According to the BBC, attendees blamed the tragedy on the police who closed several exits, ushering the crowds through others “that were not destined for the purpose.” The official line was that fans, too eager to leave, climbed fences, and one of them collapsed, causing the 11 deaths.
6. Love Parade
July 25, 2010 — Duisburg, Germany
Deaths at concert: 21
Berlin refused to host the Love Parade in 2010, citing safety concerns over the size of the crowd. The event was also canceled in 2009 in Bochum due to the inability to host so many spectators. In 2010, it was hosted in Duisburg.
There, an underpass that led to the concert grounds became clogged with people who entered the tunnel despite no one being let into the festival at the time. Panic in the tunnel left 19 dead at the scene. Two survivors later died in the hospital as a result of their injuries.
5. Ghost Ship Fire
Dec. 2, 2016 — Oakland, California
Concert deaths: 36
At an underground electronic music party in Oakland, a fire broke out that trapped and killed 36 people. The incident took place in a former warehouse-turned-artist-collective venue called the Ghost Ship, which had no smoke detectors or sprinklers, and contained a significant amount of flammable material. It was the deadliest mass casualty event in Oakland since the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989.
4. Santika Nightclub Fire
Jan. 1, 2009 — Bangkok, Thailand
Concert deaths: 100
It’s unclear what started the fire in Santika Nightclub while hundreds rang in the new year and the band Burn played. Some mention sparklers, some say there may have been an electrical problem, others say it started as a result of pyrotechnics in the club. It’s possible that fireworks from outside the club started the blaze.
Other known facts are that the club was never sanctioned as such and never received a fire inspection. It was equipped with one fire extinguisher for the entire building and inspection papers were forged to keep the club operating. Exits had been welded shut to prevent patrons from skipping out on their bills, which meant that marked exits were non-existent. Sixty-six people ended up dead from the resulting fire.
3. Station Nightclub Fire
Feb. 20, 2003 — West Warwick, Rhode Island
Concert deaths: 100
Crowds were well past fire capacity the night of the Station Nightclub Fire, and 100 people died while watching the band Great White. The band’s tour manager set off some pyrotechnics that set insulation ablaze, and it took a while for the audience to understand that the flames weren’t part of the show.
Once they did, there was a mass exodus, but most tried to leave the way they’d entered. The ensuing stampede crushed and knocked over many, and people died from suffocation, smoke inhalation, or were claimed by the fire itself — including Great White’s lead guitarist, Ty Longley.
In January of 2010, the club’s owners, the foam manufacturers of the hazardous and toxic building insulation, Anheuser-Busch, Clear Channel Broadcasting, and the town of West Warwick settled for $176 million to be distributed among the survivors of the fire and the children and families of those who perished.
2. Beverly Hills Supper Club Fire
May 28, 1977 — Southgate, Kentucky
Deaths at concert: 165
The Beverly Hills Supper Club was a sprawling maze of a club in Kentucky, located just across the bridge from Cincinnati, Ohio. Several events were going on at the same time on the night of the fire, including banquets, receptions, and a John Davidson concert — all connected by narrow passageways within the same structure.
The exact cause of the fire was never determined, but what is known is that the fire was well underway when it was discovered by two waitresses. The ornate Cabaret room, where two comics were warming up an audience of at least a thousand people in a space meant for about 600, held the majority of the building’s occupants.
A busboy, Walter Bailey, stopped the show to make an announcement about the fire. Several people made their way toward the exits he’d pointed out while others didn’t take the threat seriously. When the fire reached the room, the crowd panicked and people were trampled as they tried to escape.
1. Cromañón Fire
Dec. 30, 2004 — Buenos Aires, Argentina
Deaths at concert: 194
Cromañón was a rock club in Barrio Once in Buenos Aires. The night of the fire, República Cromañón was packed with an estimated 3,000 revelers there to see the band Callejeros — nearly three times the crowd size that the club was zoned for.
The club had several doors that were permanently locked shut, and emergency exits were fenced off to prevent people from sneaking in and avoiding a cover charge. República Cromañón was about a month overdue for a fire inspection at the time of the incident and had no sprinkler system. A fire enveloped netting near the ceiling and quickly spread. Most of the nearly 200 casualties were the result of inhaling smoke and toxic fumes rather than being crushed or burned.
A version of this article was previously published in 2011, and was updated on Nov. 8, 2021.