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Who Are They?: A tale of the Who concert, Dec. 3 1979

By Rich Shivener · November 16th, 2011 · Music

 When I was working on my master's degree in English, I wanted to round out my studies with a final project on Cincinnati music, something I've invested in as a musician and journalist. Easily, I could have written a journalistic treatise on the city's sonic tapestry, but I wanted a challenge that would force me into a new outlet of creativity. That's why I wrote a graphic narrative. In the end, I scripted six stories, including "Who are They?," the most recent story that artist Tom Bolton and I are publishing here at CityBeat. (The other stories are deep in someone's bat cave.)

"Who are They?" is a tight focus on Connie Morris (last name changed), who faced a personal tragedy on Dec. 3, 1979, when Rock band The Who played Riverfront Coliseum. As reported over the years, crowds outside the coliseum went into a frenzy when they thought The Who was starting early; many were fighting their way to the door, simply because the concert allowed "festival seating," or what I call squeeze-in-where-you-can standing.

As a result of the rush, 11 people died and many were rattled. Tom's artwork drops you in the thick of that evening.

We connected with Connie in early 2010, shortly after she told my girlfriend about the incident. (Disclosure: They work together.) I remember Connie's gut reaction when I told her I was writing a "comic book" on Cincinnati music.

"But this isn't going to be funny, is it?" she laughed, nervously, as we sat down for drinks.

"No, no," I said. I searched my mind for a way to explain that it wouldn't be a superhero comic or something from the Sunday funnies, but rather, a graphic dramatization. "This is serious."

Flash forward to December, 2011. Tom and I have a serious graphic narrative, centering on one of the most influential incidents in our city's music history. This is Connie's story. 





11.21.2011 at 01:19 Reply

i was actually there. if it were not for the set of side doors getting opened by someone who got in, when they finally started letting people in. i think things may have been worse. we were drivin to the ground but literally fought our way up. doors opened and scads of people ran in the side doors. our freinds DAVE HECK and BRIAN WAGNER did not make it. did'nt know what happened. when we got to my freind RICK SIMMS car a note from his father stating get home right away. always wondered how he found his car that night? my freinds that are still around can verify the episodes of that night. thanx for allowing a way of talking about that night. i dont get to talk about it.


11.22.2011 at 02:45 Reply

Thanks for telling it.  I still have two tickets to that show that went unused because my wife at the time were fighting and she decided she didn't want to go, so I didn't go, either, nor did I give or sell the tickets to anyone else.  Makes you wonder, doesn't it? 


01.20.2012 at 09:05 Reply

I was a news reporter that awful evening.  I recall reflecting on how parents would feel, how the band would react, and what would happen next regarding festival seating.  The next day,  as details on dead children rolled in,  the evidence of corporate greed, overselling of tickets, holding doors closed to the last second to froth up the crowd, all came into focus.   This event changed the way concerts are entered.  It changed the way many people viewed concert attendance.   The reporter's vantage point -- fly on the wall -- is not without feelings.