Cheap Trick Survives Freak Accident at Ottawa Bluesfest

Posted July 19, 2011 by J Matthew Cobb in HiDef

During Cheap Trick’s performance at Ottawa festival, the stage goes down – and they live to tell the story

Describing what happened at the Ottawa Bluesfest in Ontario, Canada is nothing short of a miracle. Out of nowhere, gusts of wind, estimated somewhere between 96 and 100 miles per hour, blew at the stage while rock band Cheap Trick performed their live set. “It just blew everything back, cymbals are flying and everything. And we’re just like ‘get off the stage!’ and then I heard the rivets in the truss just starting to pop,” said the band’s manager Dave Frey.

The stage gave in to the forces of nature and collapsed. Amateur video taken from a YouTube user named gastorch997 surfaced on media websites and news broadcasts, revealing what looked like an earthquake as the stage succumbed at rapid speed. “It was like the Titanic or something, and it just started coming down, the roof fell,” he recalls. Amazingly, the band survived, with minor scrapes and bruises. A few fans were reported to be injured and the band’s truck driver did sustain an injury to his abdomen and a cracked femur.

All of Cheap Trick’s equipment and instruments were totally destroyed. Still the band is grateful to be alive. “We are so thankful,” Dave Frey adds. “It’s so unbelievable that with everything that happened, with the crowd, tents flying away and debris flying.”

News is surfacing that this isn’t the first time the stage company behind the Ottawa Bluesfest has been a victim of this type of catastrophe. A similar incident happened in June 30, two years ago, where the roof of an outdoor stage buckled and fell at Quebec City’s Grand Rire comedy festival after high winds and heavy rains chipped away at the stage’s structure. Luckily, no one was injured, but investigators are once again analyzing Groupe Berger’s staging company, wondering if they are taking all precautions with their setups.

Berger responded to the stage collapse at the Ottawa festival. “I don’t believe it,” he said. The high-tech stage built by Berger’s company was estimated to be worth $1.8 million. “It’s not something that’s been done on the corner of a table. There’s hundreds of thousands spent on engineering for those type of structures. All of Berger’s setups are inspected and approved by six licensed engineers before they are erected for use and are normally inspected daily by Berger’s technicians. It is still unclear if the Bluesfest stage received scrutiny from local government.

Cheap Trick, with their blend of power pop and their edgy hard rock,  is best known for their hits””Surrender,” “I Want You to Want Me,” “Dream Police,” and “The Flame.”

So what do you think?
Scary stuff or what?
Do you think our Canadian neighbors need to tighten up on staging specifications?
Should the festival or the Berger’s company be penalized for the accident?

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine



    If high winds were the only cause they must engineer the hell out of the port-a-potties that were all standing in the park after the storm. And the vendors tents. And the other four stages. And the garbage cans. I am a technician who was helping the one Berger employee cut steel cables used to replace straps that had been cut the night The Black Keys played. Those cut straps allowed the walls to flap freely. After that night Stephan Berger was pissed off at the expense of the straps and, he ordered his guy to use steel so that we COULDN’T cut the walls away so easily. In my opionion if we had gotten the walls off in time the stage would have stayed up. Also, I have read a quote from Stephan Berger saying that we’ll never know the true force of the wind. He must have forgotten the weather station on top of the stage that was constantly monitored by his employee. I and many other local technicians have been saying that the Mega Stage is a death trap for years, and another collapse inevitable. The NCC fired them from providing stages for them last year because the stage in Major’s Hill Park (that I worked on) was deficient. It is a miracle no one was killed. If the stage had blown forward the death toll wpould have been in the hundreds.


    I have seen Berger employees grind foot sized pieces of steel off sopport beams to make them fit. three years ago the last the tool box on their truck (hit a car) so, when we were building the floor we ran out of bolts. I was instructed to remove every third bolt and use those to make up the short fall meaning two instead of three bolts were to be used. I refused to remove the bolts and the Berger employees did it them selves. They have no culture of safety, they climb with out fall arrest systems in place, they refuse to wear appropriate protective clothing, and show very little concern for the now obvious results of constant corner cutting in the interests of penny pinching. My heart goes out to the single technician who through following the greedy, dangerous orders of Stephan Berger had this stage literally crash down around him.

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