Twenty years ago today (June 30), nine Pearl Jam fans were crushed to death shortly after the band took the stage at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark. Audience members slipped on the muddy grounds during a chaotic push to get closer to the front, and, in the chaos, they were inadvertently trampled by others.
The band had no idea what was happening until it was far too late. They wrote the 2003 song “Love Boat Captain” to honor the victims. They also pledged never to play another festival, but they eventually reversed that decision when new safety measures were implemented that would make another incident like Roskilde very unlikely. The group has said many times over the years that it was the darkest moment in their history that continues to impact them in profound ways.
Guitarist Stone Gossard, writing on behalf of the entire band, posted a statement on the band’s website Tuesday to mark the solemn occasion:
It’s been 20 years since that day.
A normal festival show day…show up five hours ahead. Wait for your slot.
I barely remember it…
Sunny, I think.
Lou Reed played, I think.
Then rain and wind.
But nothing has been the same since.
An unexpected moment intervened that forever changed all involved.
The nine young men who were trampled. The lives of their families and loved ones who had to endure imagining their deaths over and over and the reality of never seeing them again. Every person at the festival who witnessed what was happening and tried to do something, maybe pulling someone up, or not being able to…
And those, like our band, who never realized anything was going on at all until it was too late…
All of us forever waiting for the news to be different.
Twenty years later our band has 11 more kids, all of them precious, and another 20 years between us…
Our understanding of gravity and the loss felt by the parents of those boys has grown exponentially, magnified as we imagine our own children dying in circumstances like Roskilde 2000.
It is unthinkable, yet there it is. Our worst nightmare.
Every day our hearts continue to ache and our stomachs turn at the thoughts of those young men dying and of what might have been different, if only…but nothing changes.
And our pain is a thousandth of that of the families…. the moms and dads, sisters and brothers, best friends…
Our deepest condolences and apologies to the families who lost their boys that day.
To the brothers and sisters, grandmas and grandpas and friends, all who lost their precious being…
Everyone failed to live up to what was needed in those hours before and in those days following the tragedy. The festival, the media, us included. We retreated and became angry after many reports implied PJ was responsible. Our words were nothing to help at that point. We hid and hoped that it wasn’t our fault. We have been trying our best to unhide ever since.
We’ve met some of the families over the years. With some, we have forged strong friendships…sharing and supporting each other. Some we do not know.
Young men who loved PJ and wanted to get up close. That was the through-line of all those who passed that day. We hope we will never know what that loss feels like. We hope.
We are forever in the shadow of your pain and loss and we accept that shade and are forever grateful to share that sacred space. The space created by the absence of those nine young men…