A collection of posts from my original weblog...or the inscrutable rantings of a madman...could be both...

Saturday, February 22, 2003

I'm sure you've heard by now--the big news around here is the tragic fire that claimed 90 lives and caused injuries for 150 more at a nightclub in West Warwick, R.I. just two days ago. The 80s hair-metal band Great White were playing a show there on their latest reunion tour and brought along their pyrotechnic sparkler kit for y'know..revelling in the "glory days" or something. During the first song of the first set--the sparklers ignited a part of the ceiling..this led to the drapes at the side of the stage catching--and soon the *entire* club was ablaze. Jack Russell, the lead singer of Great White, attempted to douse some of the flames with his bottle of water, to no avail. People rushed the exits and several were trampled and were suffocated by the thick smoke that filled the club. I heard that if you weren't out within 30 seconds, you didn't have much hope of surviving--that may be an exaggeration, but hand-held video shot by a documentary film-maker (he was making a documentary on, of *all* things, club crowd-safety procedures) shows the happenings in a ghastly "up-close" nature. The club was constructed almost entirely of wood, and consequently it was virtually destroyed by the fire. Fire officials in Rhode Island are stating that the club possibly contained more people than is allowed by fire code. Now a war of words is breaking out between the band and their management on one side--and the club owners on the other. The club is claiming they never gave Great White permission to use their pyrotechnics on the premises, while the band is claiming that they checked with the owners and were given the go-ahead. And of course, the lawyers on both sides are gearing up for a big court battle--and more than likely sniffing for cash, too. I'm not sure if the band or the club will be sued by the families of the deceased--maybe in some sort of class-action suit. It's a tragedy all around--for the concert-goers who attended, not thinking about anything except to go see a band, scope out men or women in the crowd and enjoy a night out...and for the club owners, who will more than likely not get to purchase another club for some time. Now, I never really liked Great White--I thought their big "hit", Once Bitten, Twice Shy, was one of the worst songs to come from the wasteland of mainstream rock radio in the late 80s/early 90s--which, if you remember, was a particularly bad drought for decent radio in general. I feel a tiny bit of regret for them--because this will effectively end whatever "career" they had left--though it was mainly living off of their past glory..and yes, a lot of bands I like are doing the same--especially a lot of the 60s and 70s bands--I just happen to *like* their music. Great White are not The Who, who managed to overcome the unfortunate trampling of some of their fans at a concert in Cincinnatti in 1979...nor are they The Rolling Stones, who moved on past the horrible events at the Altamont Speedway in California in December 1969, in which a man was stabbed to death at the hands of the Hell's Angels after a scuffle in the crowd. Great White just doesn't have those other bands' creativity and longevity--though, to be fair, if either The Stones or The Who had only one recognizable "hit" at those points in their careers--those events might have finished them, too--well, The Who were effectively done in '79 anyway, after the loss of Keith Moon. Great White may have also lost a member in this tragedy--as guitarist Ty Longley is still missing--he was pronounced missing the night of the fire--and chances are looking very slim that he will be found alive. Great White were scheduled to play a show at The Webster Theater in Hartford, CT. tomorrow night--that show has been subsequently cancelled and the Webster's management are quick to point out that they have never allowed pyrotechnics inside the club. That's the saavy "P.R. move" at the moment--and now all clubs are likely to do the same...which really isn't a bad idea--do you really need all that "flash" in a 200-capacity club? The worst aspect of this tragedy is that it comes about a week after the trampling deaths of 21 at a club in Chicago. It seems bouncers shot heavy-grade pepper spray into the air to quell a fight that had broken out. People on the second floor rushed the back exits--which were chained shut to prevent patrons form sneaking in through the back and avoid paying cover charge--the problem is that chaining exits shut violates fire code and causes events like the one last week. It turns out, too, that the second floor wasn't supposed to be in use due to code violations--seems the owners were looking at more revenue from cover charges and drink sales than for the ultimate safety of their patrons. Sad sad sad.
On a somewhat lighter note, the annual East Hartford Record Show is taking place tomorrow (the 23rd) at a P&W building on Clement Street. I will be there--and I will actually be *selling* this time--as well as buying. I am helping out a couple of friends who are letting me use part of their space to sell off my vast collection of cassettes i acquired over the years. Mostly classic rock stuff--but hey, you never know when you'll want to throw E.L.P.'s "Trilogy" or Jethro Tull's "Heavy Horses" into the deck while driving to work. If you're in the area--and have $5 to spare..come down and give a holla..I'll hook you up with Ten Years After or maybe you're looking for some Byrds stuff. And to my crew who've made me mix tapes over the years--no, I'm not selling those--just store-bought ones! I'll let you know what I bought at the show..and any other goodies I've got in the past couple of weeks next time. Muso-geek Out!!