MJ PRESENTS: THE WHO PLAY CINCINNATI
December 3/ 1979
THE WHO play Cincinnati
Having been to numerous concerts over the years I have noticed that there are people in the crowd that go out of their way to be a nuisance. Whether it is throwing things at the musicians on stage, starting fights, trying to get on stage or just being irresponsible. What took place on December 3 1979 at Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati, Ohio had I guess a little to do with over zealous fans. The musicians cannot not be held responsible for what happened and really neither can the crowd. I am not sure really who deserves the blame, if there is any blame, but perhaps it was just a case of poor management by the entertainment venue. Let me explain:
The Who, arguably the biggest band to emerge from the British Invasion besides the Beatles and the Rolling stones, were notorious for playing loud, angry, aggressive music. The demolition of their equipment became a trademark at their live shows. Keith Moon, drummer for The Who, was often seen and talked about jumping into his drum set at some point during the concert. Guitarist Pete Townshend would be seen flailing a half broken guitar over his head. Not may people were surprised to hear about what happened at the Cincinnati concert thinking that it was typical of fans that listened to The Who. In my opinion that’s a bunch of bunk. Like most venues Riverfront Coliseum offered “festival seating” for their live events meaning that the best seats were available on a first come first served basis. Many fans arrived hours early because of the “festival seating” for their chance to get the best seats available. Many music acts encourage “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.
Now there was a massive crowd waiting outside the doors of Riverfront Coliseum. When they heard The Who taking a late sound check the crowd began to flood the locked front doors thinking that the concert had begun and they were missing the action. Some of the crowd at the front of the doors were trampled as the crowd from the back began to push forward not realizing that the doors were still locked. In fact there were only a few doors in operation, and there are reports that management did not open more doors because they were concerned that there would be people sneaking past the ticket turnstiles. Eleven people died in the crowd from being trampled and several dozen were seriously injured. The Who was NOT told about any of this until AFTER the concert as local authorities feared that more chaos and crowd control problems would arise if the concert was canceled.
The city of Cincinnati has outlawed “festival seating” since this tragedy making it the only North American city to do so. This made it next to impossible for bands to play at Riverfront Coliseum. A lot of bands still do encourage “festival seating” at their shows. Most concert venues across North America now offer assigned seating and changed the rules about “festival seating”. Offering wrist bands for fans waiting to buy festival seats has seemed to work.
The Who received a very negative image because of what happened. Their shows were banned in a lot of parts in the U.S. The Who have repeatedly said time and time again that they are VERY sorry and remorseful about what happened in Cincinnati saying that if they had known ahead of time what was going on the NEVER would have gone on with the concert.
It was a dark day in music. We learn from mistakes like this and to blame the musicians involved is not right. Cincinnati still has a ban on “festival seating” making them still the only city to have such a ban in place. Who lead singer Roger Daltrey, who attended the memorial held for the eleven victims and spoke at the ceremony, still has a hard time speaking about what happened. Pete Townshend won’t talk about it at all.
Unfortunately things like this happen. I understand that it’s supposed to be a fun time to go to a concert and listen to some of your favorite music. We have to use our heads though and remember that there is a time and a place for everything. Keep your wits about you and you’ll be fine.