February 2003

Live Concert Industry

Following on from the death of 21 clubbers in Chicago on the 17th February, America was reeling after the deaths of at least 95 people in West Warwick, Rhode Island when the band Great White’s pyrotechnic display set fire to the venue where they were playing.
The 17th February tragedy was caused by security staff letting off pepper spray in a nightclub to break up a fight; this caused members of the audience to panic in trying to escape. The Rhode Island tragedy was described by state Governor Don Carcieri as ‘a real disaster. The building went up so fast no one had a chance’. It was estimated that over 300 people were inside the one-story wooden building. 187 people were taken to hospital and over 30 remain critical. The low ceiling ‘Station’ club had no water sprinkler system as it was too small to require one by law. It also had no pyrotechnics licence although the band claim that they had checked in advance with the venue and permission for their display was given. Reports say that that after the pyrotechnics ignited the roof of the venue soundproofing material also ignited and the fire spread in seconds. Govenor Carcieri added ‘if you weren’t out of that building in 30 seconds you didn’t have a prayer’.
In the earlier Chicago disaster, local fire chiefs pointed out that part of the club was supposedly closed to the public as it had previously failed fire safety checks.
See Pollstar Vol 23 issue 10 (March 10 2003) for more details.

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