Inside Astroworld 2021 and 14 Other Concert Disasters
Travis Scott’s Astroworld Festival isn't the first tragedy at a music event. There have been other concert disasters. From terrorist attacks to deadly fires, many concerts are more well-known for their devastation than for the artists who played them.
These are the worst concert disasters of all time, including Astroworld 2021 and 14 other concerts you may not have known about.
Altamont Free Music Festival
Date: Dec. 8, 1969
Location: Altamont Speedway, Tracy, California
What Happened at the Altamont Free Music Festival
Altamont — featuring the Rolling Stones, Jefferson Airplane, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, the Flying Burrito Brothers, and Grateful Dead — was supposed to be "Woodstock West," a weekend of peace, love and music that rivaled the iconic festival four months earlier. But poor planning and an abundance of drugs made Altamont memorable for all the wrong reasons.
The Stones, who headlined the show, hired the Hells Angels as security at the recommendation of the Grateful Dead. Trouble began early, and the day and never let up.
As soon as the Stones arrived, singer Mick Jagger was punched in the face by a random concertgoer. When Jefferson Airplane took the stage, their singer, Marty Balin, was knocked out by a Hell’s Angel, and David Crosby was stabbed in the leg multiple times.
When the Dead decided not to take the stage due to the violence that was occurring, it left a three-hour break in the day, which made the audience and Angels even more on edge. Multiple fights broke out, and by the time the Stones began their set, chaos ensued.
Eighteen-year-old Meredith Hunter, who attended with his girlfriend, tried to make his way up to the stage, but was beaten back by the Angels. Enraged, he tried again, and pulled out a gun. An Angel stabbed him five times in the back, and others kicked him while he lay on the ground dying.
The whole event was caught on camera by Albert and David Maysles for their documentary, "Gimme Shelter." Three other people also died that day — two in a hit-and-run accident and one by drowning in an irrigation canal.
Date: May 28, 1977
Location: Beverly Hills Supper Club, Southgate, Kentucky
What Happened at the John Davidson Concert
The Beverly Hills Supper Club was a large venue with multiple rooms that held everything from weddings to concerts. On the night John Davidson was scheduled to perform, 3,500 people were in the building. The main cabaret room held at least 1,200, which was 300 over capacity.
After a wedding cleared out of the venue’s Zebra room, a fire started and quickly spread. A busboy warned the waiting audience that the building was on fire, and the exits quickly became bottlenecked.
With no employee training in emergency procedures, no sprinklers or alarm system, and no knowledge of all the ways out, 165 people perished in the blaze.
Date: Dec. 3, 1979
Location: Riverfront Coliseum, Cincinnati, Ohio
What Happened at the Who Concert
In the 1970s, most venues offered tickets on a first-come, first-serve basis. Fans would rush the doors to be the first inside to get closest to the stage.
The day The Who were scheduled to play, fans queued up for hours before the doors opened to be the first inside. When people heard the band during sound check, they began surging forward, thinking they were missing the show.
Eleven people of high school and college age were crushed to death in the melee. The Who and most concertgoers did not know the tragedy had occurred. The band played as scheduled because the city was afraid a riot would ensue if they didn’t.
City officials banned festival seating for the next 25 years.
Date: July 22–25, 1999
Location: Griffiss Air Force Base, Rome, New York
What Happened at Woodstock 99
Many people have tried to recreate the magic of the first Woodstock, but it was indeed a moment in time. Woodstock 99 was marred by problems from the get-go.
The environment was hostile. There was no shade, and temperatures reached up to 100 degrees. People who camped at the site were forced to do so on hot asphalt.
Vendors took advantage of concertgoers by overcharging them for water and food. There also weren’t enough toilets, and the ones that were available overflowed. By the second night, tempers flared. During Limp Bizkit’s performance, the audience began breaking up stage walls.
During the Red Hot Chili Peppers slot the next night, the audience lit bonfires at both stages using plastic water bottles and bits of the stage as fuel.
Looting began, and ATMs, merch trucks and media equipment were all burglarized. Several instances of rape and sexual assault were reported in the festival’s aftermath. One person, who collapsed in the mosh pit during Metallica’s set, died of heatstroke.
Date: June 30, 2000
Location: Roskilde, Denmark
What Happened at the Roskilde Festival
About half an hour into Pearl Jam’s set, the 50,000-strong audience attempted to get closer to the stage. The ground was slippery due to a recent rain.
The audience surged forward, causing a "wave," and many people fell in one area and could not get up. Other concertgoers were pushed on top of them, and those that were on the bottom were asphyxiated within just a few minutes. Pearl Jam stopped playing and told everyone to step back, but first responders were too late to save everyone.
Nine people were killed, and 26 were injured in the crush.
Date: Feb. 20, 2003
Location: The Station, West Warwick, Rhode Island
What Happened at the Great White Concert
When Jack Russell’s Great White began its set at the Station, tour manager Daniel Biechele made a grave decision. He set off four large fireworks that were designed to go about 15 feet in the air.
The Station’s 12-foot ceiling and walls were lined with foam to dampen the sound. That foam first lit up at the back of the stage, and the audience, thinking it was part of the show, didn’t move. The flames spread, and by the time patrons realized what was happening, they couldn’t escape.
Hundreds surged toward the only exit they knew. More than 460 people attended the show, in a room that had an official licensed capacity of 404. One hundred people died, and another 150 were injured due to being crushed, burned, or by smoke inhalation.
Date: Dec. 30, 2004
Location: República Cromañón, Buenos Aires, Argentina
What Happened at the Callejeros Concert
About 3,000 people were in the República Cromañón to see Callejeros, though the club had a capacity of only 1,500. A pyrotechnic flare from an audience member started the blaze, which spread quickly over the club’s decorations made of wood, styrofoam, and plastic netting.
Of the club's six doors, four were chained shut so that people couldn’t get in without paying, but that also left patrons inside with no way to exit.
One hundred and ninety-four people died, and about 1,500 were injured. Many of the victims were children that were in a room that was set up as a makeshift nursery.
Date: Dec. 8, 2004
Location: Alrosa Villa, Columbus, Ohio
What Happened at the Damageplan Concert
Just a few bars into Damageplan’s opening song, Nathan Gale, a former police officer and Marine suffering from PTSD, shot and killed guitarist Dimebag Darrell and three others.
He would have continued his rampage if another officer, James Niggemeyer, hadn’t been in close proximity to the club. He shot Gale, who had 35 rounds of ammunition left on him when he died.
Gale’s motives in the killings are not known, but it is believed he was upset about the breakup of Pantera (of which Dimebag Darrell was a member) and said the band was stealing his songs.
Date: Jan. 1, 2009
Location: Santika Club, Bangkok, Thailand
What Happened at the Burn Concert
No one knows exactly how the fire started at the Santika Club. Some say it was fireworks from New Year’s celebrations outside. Others say it was sparklers lit inside or an electrical explosion.
Once the fire started, there was no real way out. There was only one exit. The others had been locked due to robberies.
Whatever the cause, lax building regulations and flammable waterproofing materials led to the tragedy that occurred. As Burn played their set to 1,000 in attendance, 66 people died and 222 were injured from burns, smoke inhalation, burns and crushing.
Love Parade Festival
Date: July 24, 2010
Location: Duisburg, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
What Happened at the Love Parade Festival
This free music festival went on every year without incident since 1989, but the disaster that occurred in 2010 prompted its permanent cancellation.
That year was the first time the event had taken place in a closed-off location. With up to 1.4 million people attending, the only way in and out of the festival area was a 260-yard-long tunnel, which quickly became overcrowded as people arrived.
Despite pleas from police for people to turn back, they continued pushing into the tunnel. A crush ensued. Twenty-one people died, and over 500 were injured.
Date: Aug. 13, 2011
Location: Indiana State Fair, Indianapolis, Indiana
What Happened at the Sugarland Concert
Fans were waiting for the country band Sugarland to hit the stage when inclement weather and high winds swept through the fairgrounds, knocking scaffolding and equipment into the packed audience.
The stage toppled as fans ran for safety, but some didn't make it to safety. Seven people died, and dozens were injured in the chaos.
Later, investigations found that fair officials were unprepared for the storm, and the stage was not constructed to handle high winds.
Eagles of Death Metal
Date: November 13, 2015
Location: Bataclan Theatre, Paris, France
What Happened at the Eagles of Death Metal Concert
The Eagles of Death Metal were playing the Bataclan to a crowd of about 1,500, when jihadists stormed the venue wearing suicide vests and wielding automatic rifles and grenades.
As the band scattered, some members made it out of the building, some hid in the bathroom with audience members.
Omar Ismail Mostefai, 29, Samy Amimour, 28, and Foued Mohamed-Aggad, 23, murdered 90 people in the venue.
Date: May 22, 2017
Location: Manchester Arena, Manchester, England
What Happened at Ariana Grande’s Concert
Just after Ariana Grande's final song, a suicide bomber detonated an explosion in Manchester Arena, killing 22 people and injuring hundreds, many of them children.
The terrorist organization ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack. The person who detonated the bomb, Salman Abedi, died at the scene. His younger brother, Hashem Abedi, was charged and convicted on 22 counts of murder for helping his deceased sibling build the explosive.
Route 91 Harvest Country Music Festival
Date: Oct. 1, 2017
Location: Las Vegas Village, Las Vegas, Nevada
What Happened at the Route 91 Harvest Country Music Festival
Route 91 had run annually for about three years when tragedy struck. A loan gunman, 64-year old Stephen Paddock, checked into the Mandalay Bay Casino and opened fire on the concert crowd below from his 32nd-floor suite.
He fired more than 1,000 bullets into the crowd, killing 60 people. The gunfire and ensuing panic injured another 867 more.
Paddock killed himself, never disclosing his motives.
Date: Nov. 5, 2021
Location: NRG Park, Houston, Texas
What Happened at Astroworld
Travis Scott’s Astroworld Festival was jammed with 50,000 people, and by the time the rapper took the stage, the crowd reached the point of no return. Concertgoers nearly everywhere were crushed. As people passed out, some audience members attempted to get organizers and employees at the venue to stop the show and were ignored.
When first responders attempted to get to them, concertgoers jumped on their vehicles. No one knows what exactly caused the crowd surge, although the Houston police chief alleges someone injected a security guard with some kind of drug, and the man had to be revived with Narcan.
Eighth people died, and hundreds were injured at the concert. The second day of the festival was canceled, and several lawsuits were filed against the entertainment company, the venue and Scott himself.