Thursday, December 3, 2009

30 Years Ago Today: The Who Concert Tragedy in Cincinnati...

On December 3, 1979, eleven fans were killed by compressive asphyxia and several dozen others injured in the rush for seating at the opening of a sold-out concert of 18,348 (3,578 reserved seats, 14,770 general admission seats) people by English rock band The Who. The concert was using "festival seating", (also known as "general seating"), where the best seats are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Due to the festival seating, many fans arrived early. When the crowds waiting outside heard the band performing a late sound check, they thought that the concert was beginning and tried to rush into the still-closed doors. Some at the front of the crowd were trampled as those pushing from behind were unaware that the doors were still closed. Only a few doors were in operation that night, and there are reports that management did not open more doors due to union restrictions and the concern of people sneaking past the ticket turnstiles.

As a result the remaining concerts of 1979, Blue Oyster Cult on December 14 and Aerosmith on December 21 were cancelled and concert venues across North America switched to assigned seating or changed their rules about festival seating. Cincinnati immediately outlawed festival seating at concerts, although it overturned the ban on August 4, 2004. The ban was making it difficult for Cincinnati to book concerts since many music acts prefer festival seating because it could allow the most enthusiastic fans to get near the stage and generate excitement for the rest of the crowd. Some performers and bands insist on a festival seating area near the stage. The city had made a one-time exception to the ban before August 4, 2004, allowing festival seating for a Bruce Springsteen concert on November 12, 2002. Cincinnati was, at one time, the only city in the United States to outlaw festival seating altogether.

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