Great White bandmembers to go before grand jury. Band members have been subpoenaed, while Kiss has come out in defense of stage pyrotechnics

By Gary Susman
Updated February 26, 2003 at 05:00 AM EST

Finger-pointing continues in the aftermath of Thursday’s nightclub fire in Rhode Island that left 97 dead. At issue is whether or not the owners of West Warwick nightspot The Station knew that ’80s hair-metal band Great White would be using stage pyrotechnics, which are believed to have caused the inferno. According to the Associated Press, the surviving band members have been subpoenaed and will have to testify before a grand jury that convenes on Wednesday. (Guitarist Ty Longley, who went missing after the fire, has now been confirmed dead.)

Ed McPherson, the band’s attorney, told the Fox News Channel that Station co-owner Michael Derderian had given verbal approval for the stage fireworks. That contention was denied in a statement issued by the lawyer for Michael Derderian and his brother Jeffrey, the other co-owner, saying that the brothers had no prior knowledge of the pyrotechnics. Several owners of East Coast clubs have said that Great White used the fireworks without informing them, though other club owners have said that the musicians did ask permission to use them, were denied, and complied with the owners’ wishes.

At least one musician — David Vaccaro, frontman of the defunct local band Lovin’ Kry — has come forward to tell AP that his group used pyrotechnics at the club on numerous occasions. Paul Vanner, who described himself as the Station’s stage manager and sound engineer, told the Boston Globe and Boston Herald newspapers that he had warned Derderian three months ago that bands were using dangerous stage fireworks at the club.

The disaster has led some venues and municipalities to consider stronger rules on pyrotechnics, but their use was defended Tuesday by one band that’s been known for its stage fireworks for decades: Kiss. ”People want a thrill, people love spectacle and people love to be entertained,” Paul Stanley told AP. ”That’s why people go to horror movies, why they go on roller coasters, and why a band like us has been able to be around as long as we have. But you have to be extremely careful with anything that has to do with fire.” Gene Simmons agreed, saying he ”would no more ban pyrotechnics at rock concerts than I would on the Fourth of July.” (This from a guy who has set his hair on fire half a dozen times while breathing fire on stage.) ”It’s all about full disclosure. The venue has to know what it’s buying.”