NEW YORK – Operators of several venues around the country, including a Rhode Island nightclub where scores of people died in a fire, said Friday that the band Great White did not tell them ahead of time they would use pyrotechnics in their show.
"At no time, did either owner have prior knowledge that pyrotechnics were going to be used by the band Great White," said a statement issued on behalf of the owners of The Station in West Warwick, R.I., where Thursday night's fire occurred. "No permission was ever requested by the band or its agents to use pyrotechnics at The Station, and no permission was ever given."
Video footage of the concert captured the ceiling of the club igniting immediately above the pyrotechnic displays on the stage.
Domenic Santana, owner of the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, N.J., the storied club associated with Bruce Springsteen, said no notice was given when Great White used pyrotechnics for a Valentine's Day show before 260 patrons.
Pyrotechnics are not allowed at the Stone Pony because of its low ceiling.
"It could have been the St. Valentine's Day massacre," Santana said.
At least three other Great White shows this month -- on Feb. 7 in Florida, Feb. 13 in Allentown, Pa., and on Tuesday in Maine -- apparently included the use of pyrotechnics without notice.
Jack Russell, Great White's leader, said the band's manager had informed officials at The Station pyrotechnics would be used. And Paul Woolnough, president of the group's management company, Manic Music Management and Knight Records, denied the band had failed to notify venues pyrotechnics were used.
"The tour manager always checks that (pyrotechnics are) able to be used, and that the club authorizes it," Woolnough said. "If there's any issue at all, then it's never used."
He said he did not have specific knowledge about individual shows.
Two nights before the catastrophic fire, Great White played in Bangor, Maine, and used pyrotechnics without seeking permission, according to a lawyer for the venue's owner. Also, the necessary state permit was not obtained, according to a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety.
At the Pinellas Park Expo Center near Tampa, Fla., where Great White played Feb. 7, the band also used pyrotechnics without notice to anyone involved in the concert, said Tim Bryant, a show organizer.
"It was a pretty hard shock to me," said Bryan, who added that a permit by local authorities is required. "Pyro makes for a really good show, and we would have gotten the permit."
At a performance in Glendale Heights, Ill., the band brought pyrotechnics with them even after being told they were not allowed, said Terri Barr, manager of the Shark City club.
"They said they used pyrotechnics in other places and it's fun and they've used it before and it would add to the show," Barr said. She said she told the band's management again that such displays were not allowed, and that pyrotechnics were not used during the show.
The Rhode Island show, which attracted about 300 patrons, was part of a tour that began in January. Not all the shows featured pyrotechnics, and some club owners said the band complied when asked not to use the effects.
At the Oxygen Club in Evansville, Ind., where Great White played Feb. 3, owner JJ Parson said the band asked if they could use small "flashpots."
"We said we'd prefer they not, and they went along," Parson said. "Everything we'd asked them to do, they'd do. They're really easy to get along with."
Great White used pyrotechnics briefly without incident at a show in Sioux City, Iowa, on Jan. 27, before a sparse crowd at the Lewis Bowl & Sports Bar. Owner Dan Lewis said he could not recall whether the band sought permission.
"They did a little thing at the very end. It was very calm. We weren't very full that night. It was no big deal," Lewis said.