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Nine Dead At Pearl Jam Concert

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At 5 P.M. on July 1st, the bishop of Roskilde, Jan Lindhardt, walked onstage, prayed briefly to the assembled crowd and called for a moment of silence for the dead. The Senegalese singer Youssou N'Dour then took the stage, and the music started again at the Orange Stage. Candles and flowers had been placed in an impromptu memorial nearby. Roses and letters to the victims were inserted in the barbed wire lining the security barrier near where they had fallen. Earlier in the day, Skov had given a press conference in which he declared that the festival would continue. "Life is stronger than death," he said.

Two of the bands on the Saturday bill did not agree. Oasis and the Pet Shop Boys both canceled their appearances in the aftermath of Friday's calamity.

Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys was in his Copenhagen hotel room on Saturday morning when band mate Chris Lowe phoned him with news of the tragedy, which Lowe had just seen on television. Tennant then spoke to the Pet Shop Boys' tour manager, James Monkman, and said he couldn't imagine going onstage that night. "This show that we're doing," Tennant says, "is a greatest hits show. It's like a party. Everybody jumps up and down and sings 'Go West.' To do that on a site where eight people had just died seemed inconceivable."

Tennant notes that he talked with Oasis' manager, Marcus Russell, who handles Tennant's side project, Electronic. According to Tennant, Russell had already spoken to Oasis vocalist Liam Gallagher, who reportedly asked how he could be expected to go onstage and sing "Live Forever" under those circumstances. Russell issued a statement on behalf of Oasis and the Pet Shop Boys urging Roskilde organizers to cancel the mainstage activities on Saturday, both to facilitate the investigation and out of respect for the dead and their families.

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That afternoon, at Roskilde, representatives of both acts, including Monkman, met with Skov and a Roskilde police official, who said the investigation into the deaths was under way, the previous night's security arrangements had been double-checked and OK'd, and the day's shows could go on as planned. Monkman claims Skor also said that both bands should respect Roskilde's long tradition of safety.

"Well," Monkman replied, "you don't have that anymore, as of twenty-four hours ago."

At the end of the meeting, Monkman and the other Oasis and Pet Shop Boys representatives signed a letter stating their withdrawal from the show because of what they felt to be continued safety risks to the audience at the Orange Stage. "If one person had hurt themselves," Monkman says, "and you were seen to have gone on, knowing what we knew, I felt that would be a serious position."

After Oasis and the Pet Shop Boys canceled, Roskilde issued a press release denouncing both groups: "The Roskilde management are of the opinion that the bands that decide to follow through with their concerts on the existing and approved conditions show both respect and consideration to the dead, their families and the audience."

Skov now admits that "some words were said that should not have been said," adding that Oasis and the Pet Shop Boys "talked of respect for the dead. We did not agree on what 'respect' was. I fully understand the Pet Shop Boys and Oasis not playing." Skov says that on July 7th he sent a letter to both bands, "regretting what had happened." In the letter, he also brought up the issue of the band's performance fees, which he told Rolling Stone he wants to put into a Roskilde 2000 Tragedy Fund for the study of safety and security: "We will see." (In a July 5th interview, Tennant said he had only heard through the press that Skor intended to withhold the Pet Shop Boys' fee and put it into a trust fund for the families of the deceased. "There was no communication between him and our agent on that," he said.)

Throughout the rest of the Roskilde weekend, fans and musicians mourned in different ways. On Sunday, July 2nd, a memorial service was held at a local cathedral, attended by about 1,200 people, many of them festival attendees who showed up in jeans and shoes covered with mud from the festival grounds. That night, the Danish band DA-D lit eight torches onstage for the then-known dead and passed them out to the crowd.

And a week later, Christian Mueller was still wearing his black Roskilde wristband – his ticket to what was supposed to be four days of rock & roll heaven. "It doesn't seem right to take it off," he said. "Not yet."

This story is from the August 17th, 2000 issue of Rolling Stone.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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