Stage Collapses During Smith Westerns Show: Music Festivals Have Become Death Traps

Reports are still coming in, but at least three people appear be dead at the Pukkelpop festival in Belgium.

Stage Collapses During Smith Westerns Show: Music Festivals Have Become Death Traps

For the fourth time this summer, a stage has crumbled during an outdoor show. This time it was at the Pukkelpop Festival in Belgium. The most recent official tally seems to be three people killed and 60 injured, with 11 of those injuries serious, though reports keep varying. Earlier this month, five people were killed when the stage collapsed during the Indiana State Fair, where country group Sugarland was performing.

The Smith Westerns were on stage when it went down. They tweeted, “Stage collapsed max almost got crushed by the tress. I hope pukkelpop has insurance bc all our shit is broke” and “Praying no one got hurt. Wtf.” In addition to Pukkelpop and the Indiana State Fair, a Flaming Lips stage fell apart during a storm in Oklahoma, damaging about $800,000 worth of equipment, and Cheap Trick narrowly avoided disaster when their stage collapsed during the Ottawa Blues Festival.

Like all the other collapses this summer, Pukkelpop happened when a massive storm blew into the area. It seems like climate change, shoddy construction, or some combination of the two has made outdoor festivals downright scary and dangerous. While we can’t control the weather, promoters can take precautions to avoid collapse and injury. Obviously the most important step is to make sure all the stages and other parts of the set-up are up to code and regularly inspected, which can be difficult because standards can vary from place to place. But they also need to be unafraid to postpone or cancel shows because of weather. Yes, it can be financially problematic to reschedule or have to refund ticket costs, and canceling will anger a lot of fans—it certainly did when the Black Eyed Peas’ show in Central Park was postponed because of weather. But angry fans are certainly better than dead or injured ones. Pukkelpop has canceled performances for the rest of the day.

Not every tragedy can be avoided, of course, but these collapsing stages have become a frightening trend, especially with people being killed at the last two. Is it all part of Thomas Friedman “Global Weirding” phenomenon of unusually intense weather as a byproduct of climate change? Whatever reason is behind these problems it needs to be addressed, because no one should die at a concert.

Below is a short video showing a few seconds of how hard the storm was pounding one of the festival’s stages, though it doesn’t actually show the collapse. After that is a video showing the magnitude of the storm as well as people seeking shelter in what appears to be a food tent.