Classic Rock

The Who chooses local band to open for them Sunday at their first Cincinnati concert since 1979 tragedy

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Rick Kern/Getty Images for The Who

This Sunday, The Who will play their first concert in Cincinnati since the band’s infamous December 1979 show at the Riverfront Coliseum, where 11 young people lost their lives as fans rushed the doors of the venue before the event.

Sunday’s Who performance will be the first concert ever at Cincinnati’s new TQL Stadium, and the British rock legends have chosen a very special opening act for the show: a local band named Safe Passage, with a personal connection to the tragic 1979 event. Two of Safe Passage’s members, Walt Medlock and Mike Simkin, were friends with three of the victims of the tragedy — Stephan Preston, Jackie Eckerle and Karen Morrison — and attended the same high school, Finneytown.

Safe Passage performs at an annual benefit for the P.E.M. Memorial — named after Preston, Eckerle and Morrison — which helps fund three scholarships each year for graduating seniors at Finneytown High School.

In an interview with local ABC-TV affiliate WCPO, Medlock notes, “We will be the first band to perform ever at TQL Stadium,” while Simkin adds, laughing, “And we happen to be opening with a little band called The Who.”

Regarding his band being asked to perform with one of the world’s most famous groups, Simkin says, “It was an almost like Godzilla walking down your street, something that’s so unreal, it’s just hard to believe.”

Adds Melock, “This is an amazing chance to live that for 25-30 minutes, I’ve got to thank The Who management.”

Safe Passage, whose set list usually includes some Who songs, will be playing a mix of originals and covers on Sunday.

Meanwhile, The Who will donate some proceeds from the Cincinnati the concert to the P.E.M. Memorial.

First up for The Who will be a show on Friday, May 13, in Memphis, Tennessee.

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