The excitement was palpable at The Station: Great White, a heavy-metal band popular in the 1980s, would soon take the stage for a “monster show.” Packed shoulder-to-shoulder into the rundown roadhouse in West Warwick, Rhode Island, frenzied concertgoers eagerly greeted Great White’s front man, Jack Russell, and screamed with excitement as Great White’s road manager ignited illegal fireworks intended to enhance the set.
Excitement soon turned to horror once patrons realized that sparks from the fireworks had ignited the highly flammable foam surrounding the stage. As burning plastic rained down and thick blinding smoke obscured their vision, terrified patrons made their way to the only exit most of them knew about: the front door. Here, instead of freedom, was a deathtrap; designed to slow people down to a “pinch point” for ticket-taking, the entranceway became clogged with people and soon the door was blocked with a floor to ceiling pileup. This ghastly “human pyramid” had no chance: without a sprinkler system installed, patrons had a mere ninety seconds after ignition to make it out alive, after that there was very little chance of survival. 100 people lost their lives at The Station on that cold February night in 2003.
In Killer Show, author John Barylick describes the horror of that night and chillingly details how negligence and greed led to the disaster. Certainly no one intended for anyone to get hurt, but many people, including the nightclub owners, Great White’s leader and road manager, and the city’s fire marshal, all played a role in the dreadful loss of life. At times horrifying, tragic, and infuriating, Killer Show is a complete and compelling account of America’s deadliest rock concert.