10 Years Later...
The date was February 3rd, 2003 and I was still relatively new to town. I was on my way up 1st Avenue for the first time in search of Oxygen Nightclub. The place at the time was a trendy "oxygen bar" with a mechanical bull. A great combination I must confess, but I was there to see live rock and roll.
A few days earlier I was informed by the boss lady that I would be interviewing Great White frontman Jack Russell. Now I had talked to a few rock stars before, so the thought of spending time on the phone with Russell wasn't to intimidating. However, I prepared and set out some questions and let him talk. You see, believe it or not, most rock stars don't mind talking (well except George Thorogood, but that's a story for another day), so planned mainly to wind him up and let him go. We talked about the band, it's history, the big songs and he plugged a new album. Then I went for the closer...my go to question..."What can the fans in Evansville expect to see from you guys on stage?".
At the time his response seemed mundane...nothing more than rock n roll cliche. Russell, in true frontman fashion, said something along the lines of, "We're gonna blow 'em away, melt some faces and leave nothing but a pair of boots in the front row."
17 days later, that quote would be the first thing I thought of when I heard the news of the band's unfortunate concert tragedy. Pyro used during the show would spark a fire at a small club in Rhode Island. 100 people lost their lives, including the bands guitarist rhythm guitarist.
I still think about that night at Oxygen Nightclub and how cool both Jack Russell and Mark Kendall were when I got to meet them face to face before the show. They didn't use pyro at the Oxygen show. The club asked them not to, but for some reason on that night in Rhode Island they did...as a result of that decision their lives, the lives of 100 people, the lives of survivors, family members and countless others will never be the same again.
I imagine almost every interviewer that has talked to the band since that day has asked about that one night...one night and one bad decision.
Ten years later, I am thankful the people at Oxygen chose to opt out of the pyro show.
Hopefully one day the people of West Warwick, Rhode Island can forgive, move on and heal.