Three Concerts That Have Ended in a Riot

Number Three: Marilyn Manson’s show at the Freakers Ball at the Kansas City International Raceway. The Freakers Ball also featured Seether, S.T.U.N., Mushroomhead and Memento. Manson’s performance was paused when the barrier at the front of the stage broke under the weight of the fans pushing against it. It took half an hour to fix, after which Manson continued his show. He barely made it through another song before the barrier broke again. The show’s promoter, concerned about safety, made the call to cancel the show around 10pm. Manson said in a statement later, “Even though the show was stopped twice for safety reasons, we wanted nothing more than to continue to play. Although we were not allowed to finish the show, we understand that safety needs to come first.” While the majority of the 12,000 fans duly headed for the exits, between 2,000 and 3,000 people started rioting in front of the stage. When the show’s security, Private Systems Security, realized they couldn’t get the riot under control they Kansas City police were called, 130 of whom responded in full riot gear. They formed a long line and ushered people towards the exits, which worked well until some rioters started throwing rocks, beer bottles and bottles filled with urine at the officers. The police reacted by firing pepper spray. The resulting damage included six fans with minor injuries, one officer’s finger hit by a projectile, and nine damaged squad cars. Those injured were taken to hospitals, and nine fans taken into custody were released once they calmed down, and only one was arrested for trying to hit a traffic officer with his car. No severe casualties, thankfully.

Number Two: Guns N’ Roses and Metallica Stadium Tour Montreal Show. Metallica’s James Hetfield suffered second and third degree burns from a pyrotechnics accident and had to be rushed to the hospital, cutting Metallica’s set short. Instead of going on right away, GNR took over two hours to go on stage after Metallica stopped. Axl Rose had been complaining of vocal problems since the beginning of the Stadium Tour, and varying reports state that he lasted somewhere between 15 and 55 minutes before Rose announced, “This will be our last show for a long time,” and walked off stage. At this point, fans turned violent. While it was only about 2,000 out of the 53,000 people in attendance, they managed to cause nearly half a million dollars in damage, by uprooting a street lamp, flipping a police car, and more. Montreal police responded in riot gear, spraying tear gas and arresting at least a dozen people. At least three officers and ten rioters were injured.

Number One: The Rolling Stones free concert at Altamont Speedway. This concert was intended to promote the peace and love ethos of the ‘60’s, a nice way to end their 1969 tour, but what it ended up doing was marking the symbolic end to the free peace and love era. The biggest of many mistakes that the Stones and their management made on this day was hiring the San Francisco chapter of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang to provide security for the event. They were supposedly paid in $500 worth of free beer. Never a good idea to enable your security team to become inebriated while on duty, especially when the 300,000-strong crowd they’re supposed to be keeping tabs on is already out of their minds on drugs. Minor scuffles and such were happening throughout the day, with the bikers becoming more aggressive after the crowd tipped over one of their bikes. One gang member even punched Jefferson Airplane singer Marty Balin unconscious. Mick Jagger was punched by a fan as soon as he disembarked from the band’s helicopter. Already nervous, he repeatedly pleaded with the crowd to “Just be cool down in the front there, don’t push around.” During the song “Under My Thumb” and 18 year old fan named Meredith Hunter tried to get on stage with a group of fans. Reports later showed he was on methamphetamine, out of his mind on drugs, he could barely stand, he pulled a long-barreled revolver from his jacket, and began to aim at either one of the Angels or at the band onstage. Hells Angel member Alan Passaro lunged forward, pushing the gun aside and repeatedly stabbed Hunter to death. The Stones kept playing, unaware of the homicide, and scared of the rioting crowd should they stop playing. Much of these events can be seen on the documentary Gimme Shelter.