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The story of the tragic fire at The Station nightclub is an all too familiar one.

  • Nov 17, 2012

This is a story that I have read more times than I care to remember. Back in 1903 a total of 602 people, mostly women and children, perished in a fire at a matinee at the Iroquois Theater in Chicago. Six years later 259 miners were killed in a fire at a coal mine in Cherry, Il. Then in 1911 another 146 young immigrant workers lost their lives at the Triangle Shirtwaist factory in New York City. And history records that 492 people lost their lives at the fabled Cocoanut Grove nightclub in downtown Boston back in 1942. It just breaks your heart to read about the deaths and serious injuries of so many due to the greed, incompetence and irresponsibility of others. Now in 2012 attorney John Barylick presents the definitive book on the 2003 Station nightclub fire in West Warwick, RI that killed 100 people. "Killer Show: The Station Nightclub Fire, America's Deadliest Rock Concert" is the riveting and comprehensive account of a tragedy that really did not have to happen. The tragic tale that John Barylick relates in his book is bound to elicit the full range of emotions from his readers. I was hooked from the outset and could not put this book down.

In "Killer Show" John Barylick paints a very vivid picture of just what was happening inside the walls of The Station on that fateful night. Barylick spends considerable time describing the floor plan of the nightclub. His verbal description is supplemented by a very helpful illustration at the beginning of the book that the reader can refer to as needed. He then introduces us to a number of the people on hand for the show that evening. Some were regulars, others were fans of the band and still others were there by happenstance. They had no inkling of what was about to go down. For most, it was just another night out. What makes the unspeakable tragedy at The Station particularly unique is the fact that a local television crew was at the club that night filming a story on of all things "nightclub safety". The camera was rolling when the Great White concert began and tour manager Dan Biechele set off the pyrotechnics. The blaze would begin in a matter of seconds. When viewing the horrifying video shot by photographer Brian Butler it quickly becomes apparent that there were a number of obstacles confronting patrons as they attempted to escape the toxic smoke, heat and flames. First and foremost due to the foam on the walls of the club the fire completely engulfed the building in a matter of moments. The problem was further exacerbated by the fact that the club had exceeded its "maximum allowed capacity" by close to 100 people. Due to the gross negligence of club owners, Great White and a whole host of others it is abundantly clear that most of those who died or were seriously injured never had a chance.

So just who was responsible for the holocaust at The Station? As you will discover in "Killer Show" there were no shortage of potential candidates. Jeffrey and Michael Derderian had operated this venue for several years. Clearly they were going to be forced to shoulder a large portion of the responsibility for what took place that night. One small but extremely damning piece of evidence against the brothers was a fire extinguisher discovered in the rubble the day after the fire. According to the tag it had not been serviced in 7 years! Many would assign a large portion of the blame to West Warwick's fire code inspector whose job it was to enforce a myriad of safety regulations. Enforcement of these rules, codes and requirements at The Station appeared to be lax to say the least. In the final chapters of "Killer Show" John Barylick writes of the intense seven year long struggle to litigate this tragedy and to obtain well-deserved compensation for the victims. This was a battle the author was intimately involved in as a lead attorney investigating and prosecuting the wrongful-death and personal-injury cases arising from The Station fire. As such, he was uniquely positioned to write this book.

All in all I found "Killer Show: The Station Nightclub Fire, America's Deadliest Rock Concert" to be a terrific read. Being a native Rhode Islander I can still recall the sheer horror of turning on the TV on the morning of February 21, 2003 and learning of the monumental tragedy that had unfolded overnight just a mile or two from where I worked. And it is no coincidence that the circumstances surrounding this fire turn out to be eerily similar to the fires that I mentioned at the beginning of this review. We just never seem to learn. "Killer Show" is compelling and well written book that can be enjoyed by a wide variety of audiences. Very highly recommended!

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November 19, 2012
I've heard of some of these fires. In particular, the Triangle Factory fire in NYC was horrific.
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Paul Tognetti ()
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I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on amazon.com. I never could … more
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On February 20, 2003, the deadliest rock concert in U.S. history took place at a roadhouse called The Station in West Warwick, Rhode Island. That night, in the few minutes it takes to play a hard-rock standard, the fate of many of the unsuspecting nightclub patrons was determined with awful certainty. The blaze was ignited when pyrotechnics set off by Great White, a 1980s heavy-metal band, lit flammable polyurethane "egg crate" foam sound insulation on the club's walls. In less than 10 minutes, 96 people were dead and 200 more were injured, many catastrophically. The final death toll topped out, three months later, at the eerily unlikely round number of 100.

The story of the fire, its causes, and its legal and human aftermath is one of lives put at risk by petty economic decisions--by a band, club owners, promoters, building inspectors, and product manufacturers. Any one of those decisions, made differently, might have averted the tragedy. Together, however, they reached a fatal critical mass.

Killer Show is the first comprehensive exploration of the chain of events leading up to the fire, the conflagration itself, and the painstaking search for evidence to hold the guilty to account and obtain justice for the victims.

Anyone who has entered an entertainment venue and wondered, "Could I get out of here in a hurry?" will identify with concertgoers at The Station. Fans of disaster nonfiction and forensic thrillers will find ample elements of both ...

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