On December 3, 1979, touring behind Who Are You, The Who played Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati, Ohio. This, in and of itself, isn’t noteworthy, but what happened before the show is: 11 fans were stampeded and/or suffocated to death by the massive crowd. Because of the incident, the then-mayor of Providence, Rhode Island, Buddy Cianci, cancelled The Who’s upcoming gig in his town. Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend haven’t been in Providence since — but they will in 2013, and any ticket from that cancelled show will be honored.
According to a 1992 Entertainment Weekly article on the tragedy:
More than 18,000 people had begun assembling as early as 1:30 for the 8 o’clock show. The crowd jockeyed for position all afternoon; pushed from behind, fans in front became an undulating tide. At 7:05, after the Who had finished their sound check, a paltry 5 of the Coliseum’s 134 doors were opened, and the real trouble began. The 25 police officers assigned to keep order were helpless since only the Coliseum’s security staff had the authority to open more doors. For nearly an hour, people were jammed together up against the glass doors, unable to move or, in some cases, even breathe. At 7:30, partway through the bedlam, a police lieutenant asked the Coliseum manager to open additional doors but was told there were no more ticket takers available — only nine had been hired — and to enlist ushers would be a union violation. Even as the Who, unaware of the horrors outside, began their concert, ambulances were arriving to tend to the more than two dozen injured and the 11 people who died in the stampede or suffocated in the crowd. (Via)
It was such a major news story that WKRP in Cincinnati dedicated an entire episode to the incident, called simply “In Concert.” Fast-forwarding to the present: the Who are scheduled to play Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence on February 26, 2013, as part of their Quadrophenia Tour, and if you do still have an unused $14 ticket from 1979, you can exchange it for a seat at that gig, which will actually save you about $40 (lowest priced seat at DD Center goes for $59.50). According to Spin, “[Exchanged] tickets will be donated to help raise money for the Special Olympics of Rhode Island.”
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