This day in 1979 was a bad one for rock. One of the single worst events in pop music history took place at the gates of Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati. Eleven young people were killed, and 8 more badly injured in a stampede to get in to see a concert by The Who.The Brits were in the third and final leg of a nearly year-long tour for their Who Are You? album. The tour was slated to run through the northeastern States through until a little before Christmas. It was already a somewhat downbeat time for the band; they’d just recruited new drummer Kenney Jones to replace the friend and longtime drummer, Keith Moon, who’d died the year before.
While the stadium held about 45 000 for baseball, it was in a music venue format, with about 18000 tickets sold, of which a little over 14000 tickets had been sold as “general admission”, with first come, first-served seating . This could lead to enough problems in its own right, but making it much worse, a radio station had erroneously reported that ticket holders could begin getting in as early as 3PM. By the time 7PM rolled around and the crowds were still outside, agitation and anxiety levels were high when The Who began doing a soundcheck. People heard and assumed the concert had begun. The resultant crush to get in and get close to the stage had tragic results which eventually caused the practice of general admission seating to be stopped in most locations.
The Who played on, unaware of what had transpired outside and were horrified when they found out. Roger Daltrey said “there’s no words to say what I feel. I’m a parent as well…” The
The city and the promoters were successfully sued by the families of the deceased and a number of injured fans. The event was also covered with surprising solemn gravitas by the sitcom WKRP In Cincinnati, which was in its second season and revolved around a fictitious rock radio station in that city at the time.
Addendum — Hanspostcard correctly pointed out the concert was at Riverfront Coliseum not the Reds’ baseball Riverfront Stadium. The coliseum, now I believe called US Bank Arena, was also on the riverfront but was an indoor venue (sensible for Ohio in early winter) which only held the 18 000 tickets sold.