Sept. 25, 1980:
Rock ‘n’ roll lived up to its name one late September night when rock band Blue Oyster Cult brought its lavish stage show to the Kingston Armory.
Indoors, 2,700 fans heard songs from the band’s recent album, “Cultosaurus Erectus,” plus hits such as “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper” and “Godzilla,” all accompanied by a laser light show valued at $250,000. At one point, lead singer Eric Bloom rode a motorcycle onto the stage for the song “Born to Ride.”
Later in the show, Bloom spoke to the crowd about the group’s previous visits to the area. The group had performed at the Catholic Youth Center in Scranton with British Lion on Oct. 21, 1978, and at the Paramount Theater — now F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts — in (Wilkes-Barre on Oct. 16, 1974, with Rush and KISS.
Outside the armory, however, trouble was brewing. Hundreds of the band’s fans, some with tickets, some without, tried to enter the building. According to an eyewitness, security for the concert started hitting the fans with nightsticks. The fans fought back, and a full-on riot broke out.
Fans started throwing all sorts of glass bottles at the Armory, smashing windows and doors, and uprooted shrubs, broke fences and damaged cars.
Wilkes-Barre and Kingston police arrived to get the situation under control. As all of this was going on, the concert ended, and the fans inside started walking out into the riot. Some of the concertgoers joined the mayhem, but most just kept on walking.
As the havoc continued, officials decided to spray the rioters with water from fire hoses.
“There wasn’t a thing we could do with them,” a (Wilkes-Barre patrolman told The Scranton Times at the time. “We had to turn the hose on them. I was kicked, punched, spit on and hit with a rock in the middle of the back. These kids weren’t fooling around.”
In the end, police arrested 16 adults and nine juveniles.
“Young people can’t win when it comes to rock shows,” a member of the concert’s audience, Glenn Adams, told the Times after the event. “Did you see the way the crowd inside behaved tonight? It was excellent. The show was good, really good. Then you come outside and see something like this. It’s crazy. What are people going to remember, that it was a good concert or that there was a riot?”
Brian Fulton has been the librarian at The Times-Tribune for the past 14 years. On his blog, Historically Hip, he writes about the great concerts, plays/musicals and celebrity happenings that have taken place throughout NEPA. He is also the co-host of the local history podcast, Historically Hip. He competed and was crowned grand champion on an episode of NPR quiz show “Ask Me Another.” Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9140; or @TTPagesPast