Uncharted: Crime and Mayhem in the Music Industry, episode 16: The Radiohead Stage Collapse

The very last thing an artist or a promoter or owner of a venue wants is for someone to get hurt—or worse–at a concert. But it does happen.

There are always stories about bad behavior or unexpected crowd dynamics: Altamont in 1969; The Who crowd crush in 1979; Woodstock 99; the nine dead during Pearl Jam’s set at the Roskilde Festival in 2000; the deaths at the Astroworld festival in 2021; and the Brixton Academy crowd crush in 2023 all come to mind.

Those were security failures and problems with crowd control. But occasionally, there’s a different type of disaster, the kind that happens suddenly and without warning.

When you go to a show, you expect that the building and everything in it will be safe, that everything has been constructed to proper standards, and won’t present any danger to anyone at the gig. The last thing you think about is the stage coming down on top of the performers, the crew, and the crowd.

The summer of 2011 was a very bad year. The stage collapsed at the Indiana State Fair just before a concert by the country band Sugarland. The outdoor structure couldn’t handle the wind from an approaching thunderstorm. Seven people were killed and 58 others were injured.

A few days later, there was an incident at the Pukkelpop Festival in The Netherlands. Five people died. Then Cheap Trick almost got crushed when part of the stage set up for Ottawa Blues Fest suddenly gave away because of high winds. The flaming lips had a similar problem in Oklahoma. All that within a few weeks.

Despite all that, the problem has not gone away. Wind gusts brought down the stage at a Spanish EDM festival in 2022 with one person killed and dozens hurt. Two members of the Hong Kong boy band Mirror were badly hurt when a giant LED screen fell from the ceiling during the show. And there have been similar incidents in California, China, Brazil, and Thailand…

The most infamous of all might be what happened at Downsview Park in Toronto on Saturday, June 16, 2012. It was a clear, calm summer day. But just minutes before the grounds were to open for fans, thousands of pounds of equipment and scaffolding suddenly came crashing down. One person died and three people were injured.

What happened? And why did it take so long for justice to be served? And while we’re at it, was justice served? This is Uncharted: Crime and Mayhem the Music Industry, episode 16: The Radiohead stage collapse. Have I got a story for you…

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38403 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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