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Nightclub Disasters

No, this topic doesnt refer to a club that closes in three weeks, or immediately fills with guidage! There have been two major nightclub disasters in four days, including last night's horrific Rhode Island pyrotechnic disaster. Both resulted in massive loss of life, and the two combined will spell a new era of enforcement probably not seen since the Happyland debacle.

I don't think any club lifer could watch the footage of last night's instant carnage without feeling that it could have been them. Here was a club that had four fire exits, had passed all inspections, and probably was in its own way a gathering place for a community, or several communities, not unlike the clubs we have worked in, or owned.

I kept remembering all of the arguments that we had during MOTHER, where we had banned all fire performances onstage, for a number of reasons including the sprinkler pipe that ran the length of the stage, which could be triggered by even heavy smoke. A month didn't go by where some performer or producer, very well intentioned, had argued "But everyone lets me do this performance but you!" like it was some personal fetish of ours rather than a regard for the safety of the patrons as well as the club.

My gut feeling is that the band never mentioned the extent of those pyro effects, which were obviously meant for a much larger venue, because I've seen so many instances (especially at certain gothic/industrial parties that shall remain nameless, because they are not going on now) where performances almost burned down venues that I was in, and sometimes even performing in. The worst of these was at The Bank, where the evening's promotor had booked a grinder act with heavy PT without even having a stage manager! (And if you were there you will remember it too, absolutely terrifying.)

There are fire performers and producers that use PT in the most safe and careful way, that always have their own fire marshalls and safe areas for prep and extinguishers, etc. Certainly Arena/Blaze, Bindlestiffs and many others come to mind. This rant is not directed at them in any way. However, the selfishness of many performers and ensembles who put their own "art" before the safety, or even lives of their audience, is an issue that has run ramapnt for a long time. Though the motive is more lofty, it can be as damaging as the pure greed that led the Chicago clubowner to padlock a back exit door rather than pay someone a decent wage (100 dollars?) to stand at it all night..
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