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Great White
{ The Station }

Wednesday, March 19, 2003 6:03:50 PM
Where: West Warwick, RI

All the lists have been very quiet over the last week. The few that have been active seem to make no mention of the tragic events in Chicago or Rhode Island. Oh sure - this is because it was they were not goth clubs or underground clubs and it was a 'hair metal band' and so on. Right? Well the fact is that everyone of us that goes to any club could have been the victims. How many of us have been inside a crowded club? Packed in like sardines? How many of us know where *all* the exits are in a club? How many of us who work in the industry really pay attention to things like location of fire extinguishers in a venue? Those who use any form of pyro do we make sure the venue is up to code? Do we make sure they have really obtained local permits? Or do we just go on the promoter or stage managers word that "it is ok to use it here"? We somehow expect that the venue we walk into are safe and that the staff who work there are concerned with everyone's safety. When something goes wrong on the scale of the Station fire first instinct is to point the finger at the band on stage who used the pyro. Then come the 80's metal jokes and the old, fat singer jokes and even the sick t-shirts. A few other promoters and club owners who feel they have to save their own asses start to speak up as well. Who to believe? What to believe? In my almost 20 years of experience working with bands I have lots of issues with people pointing the finger solely at the band. I have even more issues with people like Domenic from the Stone Pony in NJ who come out calling GW 'terrorists' and boldly stating that pyro has never been used in his club, when it has been. With so many people involved behind the scenes you want to feel that someone involved would be telling the truth. You would think that perhaps the venues stage manager would come forward and shed light on the topic. At least from my perspective this would be good because any show I have ever worked the venues stage manager is more than likely the first person who is spoken too at a gig - the first person who tells you where to put your gear, where the sound person is, where the dressing rooms are, what time your set time is and would hopefully be responsible for the overall stage safety. I have a real issue with the Station's stage manager and sound person, Paul Vanner. I have read interviews with him and in the latest one the first thing he more or less says is: "I'm paid good money to a do a professional job, and one of the things that I was anal about was safety." Sounds good so far. "When you hire a KISS tribute band, pyro is part of the show, I never approved it myself. I was in no position to make that decision. It just wasn't my call." He is so concerned about pyro safety he won't mention it until, based on what he says, about November of 2002 when he told everyone he felt it was too dangerous to use. Thusly, supposedly, no pyro was used for three months, until the night Great White played. But you would guess that because he is the stage manager and that pyro had been used at least 12 times before he would know what too look for right? But what is his professional opinion of other pyro? "There were little flashpots and there were these sparkler things,'' he said. "I'm a sound guy. I don't really know a lot about it." So this safe and sane stage manager says in these interviews he showed up at the club at about 3 PM and the gear was all set up. He goes on to say he did not speak to anyone until dinner time and then only about the set times. So this means the band loaded in, set up, ran cables, mic'd everything, set monitor levels, sound checked and then went to sit down for dinner. So I am guessing this is about 4 hours worth of time...and not one person spoke to the house sound guy/stage manager about anything? Nor was there any attempt to talk to the band by Vanner??? Now it is probably between 10 - 10:15 PM. The support act is tearing sown their stuff and GW is setting up. Vanner is now at the side of the stage at the monitor. He insists there was no pyro being set up. Now it is maybe 10:59 PM - GW going on stage at 11. The lights go out, the pyro goes off and the show starts...more or less. Vanner, standing next to the stage, claims in this short time is when pyro was set up - too dark to see thusly it was snuck in. Yet more than a few fans say they did see pyro being set up. Now the fire - this safety minded person knows he must do something so what does he do? He goes to put out the fire he says. Being the anal safety person he is he knows the best place to keep an extinguisher is right there - on, or near, the stage...right? Wrong. He knows the best place to keep it is under the main mixing board out in middle/back of the club. (Not!) So he runs out to get it and says "I could see by the way the soundproofing was going up that it was `out now' or else. The speed was incredible. That fire was doubling in size about every three seconds." So being the anal safety person he is, and because he has worked at this club for at least 3 years, he either tries to fight the fire with the extinguisher he has in his hands or he calmly tells/shows people how to get to the nearest exit right? Wrong - "I just screamed to the faces around me, `Get out now!'" as he himself ran to the exit in the kitchen. He also takes the fire extinguisher with him and tosses in it the woods. Ok...so now all this is said an done. What does he have to say? "These guys are in and out of the club before you know it. Clearly their main concern was not with my club. I think these guys from Great White have a lot to answer for." Ok...did I miss something? "Clearly THEIR main concern was not with my club"? Lets see...we now know for a fact that Great Whites' Sound person, Robert Rager, was helping to get people out and almost died and was pulled from the flames by GW singer Jack Russell and GW tour manager Dan Biechel, who may have been pulling others out as well. We now know that roadie Jeff Rader is seen in the video *outside* the club helping people, yet his body is found *inside* the club - meaning he went back in to help get people out. And everyone who knew GW guitarist Ty Longly thinks he was probably in the club helping people out as well. So wait - what was that again? "THEIR main concern was not with my club"? Hmmm...in addition to those above facts this 'anal about safety' stage manager didn't say anything about the pyro use for 2 years, he did not question the fire safety of the sound material, he didn't seem to care that the club was often oversold, he seemingly walked into the venue late that day and then made no effort to do his job until he briefly talked to the band about set time and then paid no attention to what people in the crowd saw - pyro being set up. Not to mention the fact he may have taken the only fire extinguisher anywhere around and tucked it in under the sound board where no-one would ever find it and then took it out of the club as he ran out an exit, tossing it into the woods!?!?!?!?! No wait...WHAT WAS THAT AGAIN?? "Clearly THEIR main concern was not with my club"? No..sorry, this guy has no credibility with me at all. This is all about anyone who has set foot into any club for any reason. Pyro or not safety is an issue we should all be concerned about. Get involved. Check out http://www.crowdsafe.com as a start. This is about the only watchdog organization that is international in scope and they have lots of information on past tragedies as well as information on how to stay safe. As for me I can only try to now put things into a rider that reflect an added safety measure. Be more aware of exits and fire extinguishers when I walk into a club. Be assertive with the bands I work with that unless these safety issues are met we simply do not do the show. ~Dave


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