Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Souvenirs of Howard Matre

Today marks the 35th anniversary of The Who Concert Tragedy. On December 3rd, 1979,  renown rock band The Who was scheduled to perform the third United States stop of their world tour. Held at the Riverfront Coliseum (today known as US Bank Arena), the concert's 18,348 tickets were all sold out. The tickets were for a "first come, first serve" general admission platform leading to large crowds circling the arena early in the day. Before the doors were open, the band began a sound check. The muffled sound coming from within the arena led many waiting outside to believe the show was starting. A mass push of people began trying to force their way forward. As few doors were opened to relive the crowd, people began getting trampled. Eleven attendees were asphyxiated to death, the oldest of them being 27 and the youngest being 15. The band was not informed of the incident until after the show and never returned to Cincinnati. The city passed legislation banning "festival seating" at future concerts (the ban has since been repealed and replaced by strict regulation on "festival seating").

In 2009 I covered a candlelight vigil at the arena which marked the 30th anniversary of the event. In the above photo from that vigil is Howard Matre, who attended the show. Matre still owns the ticket stubs and the souvenir t-shirt he bought that night. I wanted to re-post the image I made of Howard, because it's one that's always stuck with me. He was unaware of the incident until after the show had ended and he returned home. The souvenirs he owns undoubtedly carry a strong meaning. When purchased, they were meant to be symbols of an event, physical representations from an anticipated and exciting experience commemorating when he saw The Who live in concert. Instead, they memorialize tragedy and carry a different emotional weight.

At the vigil in 2009, there was frustration among the crowd about the lack of a memorial to honor those who perished. Five years later, as the Cincinnati Enquirer reports, there has been some momentum gained.

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