As concert-goers mourned the death of Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell, thunderstorms canceled some performances Friday at Rock on the Range at Mapfre Stadium.
The rock festival’s opening day was cut short as attendees were evacuated due to severe weather that moved through the area. Once the weather cleared, doors reopened at 7:10 p.m.
The canceled performances added to the already somber atmosphere at the stadium. Soundgarden was to be the headliner Friday night and was scheduled to be the last act. Cornell was found dead Wednesday night in his hotel room after his concert performance in Detroit.
The Wayne County, Michigan, medical examiner’s office ruled 52-year-old Cornell’s death a suicide by hanging. Detroit police said he was found with an exercise band around his neck.
During his Detroit performance, in which he praised Detroit Rock City, he had said, “I feel bad for the next city.”
Cornell was an icon during the ’90s grunge-rock movement through his time as a lead vocalist with bands Soundgarden and Audioslave.
“When you come to an event like this, where you were looking forward to seeing him, it’s tough to take,” said Tara Sigal, who traveled from New York to Columbus for the Rock on the Range show. “This is really hard to accept, especially for rock music fans.”
Cornell’s wife, Vicky, and his family are disputing the suicide ruling, saying in a statement that it is not possible to rule he “knowingly and intentionally” killed himself without toxicology tests because Cornell might have taken more of an anti-anxiety drug than he was prescribed.
Meanwhile, Rock on the Range attendees tried to make sense of it all.
“I really hope they come out with how he died because I really don’t think it was a suicide,” said Pittsburgh resident Nadine Luther. “I am just so shocked. Everyone here is so shocked.”
“I heard the news on the radio on my way to work, and my jaw just dropped. I was really looking forward to seeing them this weekend,” said Columbus native Harry Cutting. “... I really hope they do something cool for him during the festival because this impacts a lot of people.”
Rock on the Range planned a special tribute for Cornell on Friday after Live’s performance. Stone Sour also paid tribute to Cornell and Soundgarden at a festival kickoff Thursday night.
“Our hearts are filled with sorrow,” Rock on the Range spokeswoman Kristine Ashton-Magnuson said of Cornell’s passing, “but the show must go on.”
The festival is expected to bring in 120,000 people over three days for dozens of performances.
As storms moved through the area Friday, organizers shut down the show shortly after 3 p.m. Some attendees argued with employees about the legitimacy of the closing for the storm as others flooded the parking lot to leave or camp out in their cars.
The second day of Rock on the Range is scheduled to start at 11 a.m. today with Korn as the headliner. Metallica is scheduled to kick off the final day of the series Sunday.