Pete Townshend recalled the advice he offered Eddie Vedder when nine Pearl Jam fans died in a crowd surge in 2000, and said it was advice that wasn’t available to the Who when they endured a similar horror.
Pearl Jam were on stage at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark when the incident took place, which injured a further 26 audience members. It was a flashback moment for Townshend – 11 Who fans had died in Cincinnati in 1979.
“For us, it came close on the heels of the death of Keith Moon,” Townshend told Mojo in a recent interview. “So it was a double blow. I was definitely still really pretty fucked up from that. When Roskilde happened, I just sent Eddie a two-word message: ‘Don’t leave.’ And they did stay. And I think it was very important that they did.”
He said he believed it was important to remain at the scene, communicate with other victims and process the emotions. “Because what we did is we left [Cincinnati], we left the next day, we went to Buffalo. And I remember going on the stage, and Roger [Daltrey] saying – and I should really make it clear I was perfectly behind what Roger said at the time – ‘Let’s play this gig for rock ’n’ roll and the kids of Cincinnati!’ It was just entirely inappropriate. I mean, just wrong. You know, we shouldn’t have gone on, we shouldn’t have performed.”
Townshend reflected that both bands ended up “carrying a tainted flag,” explaining: “I was such a flag-waver for the rock ’n’ roll ethos; I believed something magical happened when great music took place in public. And I think it’s something that still happens. But I think I exalted it perhaps too much. And I think, therefore, when the moment came that everything went wrong, you look and you think, ‘Is this our fault?’ And although you don’t… want to live with that for the rest of your life, the answer has to be yes. There can’t be any other answer. Whether or not that responsibility extends to huge insurance suits is another story.”
He continued: “But the emotional impact is carried differently by every individual. I think, for me, I sort of buried it for a long time. I’m not very good with grief, and I’m not very good with drama. So what actually happens is that I tend to internalize it and it pops up later. In fact, Eddie and I have never talked about it since.” He added: “[I]f next year we do get back to America, and I think we will, we’re doing a really big event for a Cincinnati foundation. It’s taken a long time for us to get to a place where we can talk about it in public.”
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