Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Who, Cincinnatti, 1979

No music here.

I have a friend, Lauren, who's recent blog ( really bothered me. The story of The Who in Cincinnatti circa 1979 just expands on her recent experience. I remember as a child thinking it was cool to see The Who on the newscast when I woke up that morning. It was almost as if something I ( as an almost teenager) thought was cool, was being recognized by them.

Then I listened as the news reporter said that many people had died at the concert. People died trying to listen to music. I couldn't understand. I still can't.

No music or bullshit today, just an account of what happened that day in Cincinnatti. Thanks Lauren.

"Dan Reed, Music Director at XPN, recalls his experience at the Who concert tragedy at Cincinnati’s Riverfront Coliseum:

I was a ticket holder and witness. We got our tickets about a month before, and I drove two hours from college (I was a freshman) to meet my friends. It was a cold Monday evening. We arrived about an hour before the doors were to open. The tickets were not reserved but “festival seating”… the sooner you got in, the better location you could get to see the show. Despite the cold, we were psyched… it was our first time seeing the legendary Who. I was personally enamored at the time with Quadrophenia. Who Are You was their most recent release, but I had been listening non-stop to Quadrophenia at that time. I was 18, and that album spoke to me in many ways. I’ll admit that I was dissappointed that I would be seeing the Who sans Keith Moon, but I was still very excited.

When we arrived, there were maybe 1000 people already there. We stood in line in front of four glass doors, but the pushing and shoving got really annoying, so we dropped back and stood on some light pole fixtures to wait for the doors to open. Up there, we had a view of what was going on in the front of the line, and none of it was good. We observed people clearly panicing, falling and crying out. A man emerged from the fray, sweating, wide-eyed, missing shoes and most of his clothing. He found a uniformed Cincinnati police officer, and told him “Man… you GOTTA get up there and put a stop to this… people are really getting hurt!” The cops’ response was “What in the hell do you want ME to do about it?” It was a pretty scary show of indifference, and - in light of what was about to transpire - not very suprising.

The best we could tell, there were 4 doors open… 4 doors for a crowd of well over - I’d say - 2,000 people by now. We saw fists flying, and a sort of vapor rise up over the crowd in the cold December night. Just about then, we noticed that another bank of doors north of us had opened. We jumped down and went in without much pushing at all. As I looked over to my right - where all the pushing was taking place - I saw people still pressed up against the doors, and a pile of shoes at the entrance. It was a crazy scene.

The show was outstanding. The band lived up to their reputation as one of the world’s most incredible live performers. Kenny Jones - the late Keith Moon’s replacement on drums - was more than servicable. After the show, as we walked out of the coliseum, we observed all of these news trucks - NBC News, CBS, etc — and all kinds of other assorted media ALL OVER the pavilion outside. We knew then that SOMETHING had went down. Did somebody O.D.? We turned the radio to WEBN (Cincy’s long-standing rock station) when we got to the car, and heard the terrible news. We were all sick to our stomachs… we had actually seen some of this going down. Even though we did not understand at the time the enormity of the tragedy we were witnessing, we still all felt a sense of - I don’t know - maybe guilt over not doing something. I still have that feeling to this day every time I think back on this event.

We all got to a bank of pay telephones as soon as we could and called our parents. My dad had heard Howard Cosell interrupt Monday Night Football to report the tragedy.
This was an accident waiting to happen. I had seen Led Zeppelin at the Coliseum two years before (again with the dreaded “festival seating”) and had commented to a buddy that night that “somewbody was gonna get killed here some day.” The shows at the Coliseum were always crazy… it was anything goes at the doors. "

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