The temporary roof collapsed over Radiohead’s stage in Toronto June 17, killing a member of the crew and injuring three others.
Radiohead’s drum tech Scott Johnson was pronounced dead on the scene when investigators were able to get to his body through the wreckage at 8pm. The stage had collapsed hours before, while fans were still lining up outside the gates.
“I want you to know, he’s not coming back.” So sings Thom Yorke on Radiohead’s “Knives Out,” a somber tune full of sadness on Amnesiac. The Flaming Lips dedicated the song to Johnson before playing it to a group of fans who had gathered at the Toronto concert the same day after the Radiohead show had been cancelled. “Peace be with their hearts tonight,” said Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne.
Who is at fault, what happened and the ramifications of the accident are all yet to be determined, possibly mired in insurance investigations for years to come.
The band is reportedly devastated by this, as Johnson was close to the group. Radiohead released a statement on its website, “We have all been shattered by the loss of Scott Johnson, our friend and colleague. He was a lovely man, always positive, supportive and funny; a highly skilled and valued member of our great road crew. We will miss him very much. Our thoughts and love are with Scott’s family and all those close to him.”
As a drum tech, stagehand, concertgoer and huge Radiohead fan, this accident had an impact on me upon hearing about it four days later.
It only takes one missed bolt, one forgotten safety wire, one displaced connector to cause a stage to collapse. The conditions under which stage technicians work are often extremely stressful, and after long hours, even routine procedures can become difficult to finish.
“Just imagine if that happened during the show,” is what I keep thinking. It’s also what people keep saying. There would be no more Radiohead, and even some fans would have possibly been injured or killed, not to mention dozens of the best audio and video technicians in the world.
All that video stuff and those light shows are cool and everything, but maybe it’s time to take a step back and ask if it’s really worth it. Isn’t a concert about music? Extraneous creative additions can add to the concert experience, but if this is the cost, I’d rather just listen to the record at home and watch my lava lamp.
This accident probably won’t spark a backlash against summer blockbuster music tours or require new legislation for safety at outdoor events. And I probably won’t be boycotting them, personally. So, what’s the point of this thought process? Just to be sad for a moment, I suppose, and really respect and appreciate the work that goes into concerts like this. Don’t take it for granted.
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