The Dark Side of Music Events: Death & Mayhem (pt.2)

While attending concerts and music festivals is a favourite pastime for many across the globe, they can be dangerous if poorly planned or managed. The second part of this article looks at deadly and dangerous incidences that have occurred at music events in recent years due to issues with terrorism.


When it comes to terrorism at concerts and music festivals, planning and management are important elements in ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience for attendees. While event organizers cannot reasonably ensure that no terrorist attacks will take place, they can ensure a safe environment through thorough security checks upon entry, police and/or security presence throughout the space, and emergency plans.

Bataclan Theatre (2015)

On November 13, 2015, there was a coordinated attack on the Bataclan Theatre in Paris, France. The American rock band, Eagles of Death Metal, was in the middle of a performance when three gunmen wearing suicide vests started firing into the crowd and taking hostages.

Figure 3 – Bataclan Theatre memorial

When police stormed the theatre, two of the three gunmen killed themselves by detonating their vests. The third gunman was shot by police before he could detonate his. The band members of Eagles of Death Metal and most of their crew escaped unscathed, other than their merchandise manager who was one of 90 fatalities.

The Bataclan attack was part of a series by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) that occurred across the city throughout the day (see Figure 4). Over the span of the attacks across Paris, at least 150 people were killed and more than 350 were injured.

Figure 4 – Britannica Map of Attacks

Manchester Arena (2017)

On May 22, 2017, a suicide bomber detonated a homemade bomb laden with shrapnel as people were leaving the Manchester Arena at the end of an Ariana Grande concert. With 14,200 people in attendance, there were many excited concertgoers and their waiting parents in the venue’s foyer when the bomb went off.

The blast resulted in the deaths of the attacker and 22 people in the foyer and injured over 119 people. Most of the victims were under the age of 20, with the youngest being an 8-years-old girl. The following day, on May 23rd, ISIL claimed responsibility for the bombing.

The number of those injured was revised in May 2018 with the addition of severe psychological trauma and minor injuries, raising it significantly to 800. Then, in December 2020, there was a public inquiry into the bombing and the number rose to 1,017.

Figure 8 – One Love Manchester

In honour of the victims, Ariana Grande held a benefit concert, “One Love Manchester” on June 4, 2017, at Old Trafford Cricket Ground and had it broadcast live on TV, radio, and social media. The concert included a series of performances from big names such as Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, and Coldplay.

Free tickets were offered to anyone who attended the original show, and a Red Cross fund was created. The concert and associated fund raised £10M by early June and £17M by August.

Route 91 Harvest Festival (2017)

Figure 9 – Las Vegas Strip

On October 1, 2017, a lone gunman named Stephen Paddock, opened fire on a crowd attending the Route 91 Harvest music festival on the Las Vegas Strip. Paddock stationed himself in a 32nd-floor suite in the Mandalay Bay Hotel, where he fired more than 1,000 bullets into the crowd below, killing 60 people and wounding over 400. However, in the ensuing chaos, the number of those injured rose to over 850.

Over the span of 4 days, Paddock brought an arsenal of weapons with him into the hotel including 14 AR-15 rifles, 8 AR-10 rifles, a bolt-action rifle, and a revolver (see Figures 12 & 13). According to his girlfriend, he had repeatedly cased out the strip from different windows in their room when they stayed at the Mandalay about a month before the shooting. Reports suggest that Paddock also considered attacking other large events, having researched large-scale venues in cities across the United States since at least May 2017, and had even reserved a room overlooking the August 2017 Lollapalooza festival in Chicago.

Paddock ended up staying at The Ogden in downtown Las Vegas overlooking the Life is Beautiful festival that ran from September 22nd to 24th. For whatever reason, none of these events or locations were ideal, until he checked into the Mandalay on September 25th and began preparing for his attack.

The mass shooting occurred between 10:05 pm and 10:15 pm on the final night of the festival as country music singer Jason Aldean was closing. SWAT teams quickly descended on the strip, with officers using explosives to get into the hotel room where Paddock was. According to reports, when officers blasted the door open, Paddock was already dead, having committed suicide. Leaving no notes or justification for the shooting, his motive for the mass attack continues to be unknown.

After the mass shooting, the Mandalay Bay Resort renumbered its floors, skipping floor 32 altogether. As well, rooms 134 and 135 – those rented by Paddock – have been sealed off and made inaccessible to guests.

Find part 1 of this article here, looking at music events marred by infrastructure failures and crowds.

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