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Great White Play North Dakota Gig With No Social Distancing, Masks

Band at center of deadly 2003 Station nightclub fire “apologise to those who disagree with our decision to fulfill our contractual agreement” with Thursday night concert

Great White, the rock band at the center of one of the deadliest nightclub fires in U.S. history, once again put fans at risk Thursday by performing — amid the COVID-19 pandemic — a well-attended North Dakota concert that practiced no social distancing or masks.

Video from the outdoor gig shows hundreds of fans standing shoulder-to-shoulder alongside the stage — despite health officials’ recommendations of six feet apart — without masks. The concert was held as part of Dickinson, North Dakota’s “First on First: Dickinson Summer Nights” series.

After news of the gig surfaced on social media, Great White issued a statement (via Blabbermouth) where the band apologized for “to those who disagree with our decision to fulfill our contractual agreement” and play the concert.

“We understand that there are some people who are upset that we performed this show, during this trying time. We assure you that we worked with the Promoter. North Dakota’s government recommends masks be worn, however, we are not in a position to enforce the laws,” Great White said in a statement.

“We have had the luxury of hindsight and we would like to apologize to those who disagree with our decision to fulfill our contractual agreement. The Promoter and staff were nothing but professional and assured us of the safety precautions. Our intent was simply to perform our gig, outside, in a welcoming, small town.”

The band added, “We value the health and safety of each and every one of our fans, as well as our American and global community. We are far from perfect.”

First On First: Dickinson Summer Nights event coordinator April Getz told the Dickinson Press (via Blabbermouth) of the city’s plan to hold concerts despite coronavirus, “We do not have restrictions, believe it or not, we don’t have any. I guess it’s one of the first events this year that didn’t get canceled and was approved by the city; we’re all very, very excited about it… It’s one of those things where if people feel comfortable coming down and mixing and mingling, that’s their personal choice. We’re leaving it up to everybody that chooses to attend.”  There has been a total of over 4,200 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state since the pandemic began.

Great White, then performing under the moniker Jack Russell’s Great White, were onstage at the time of the Station nightclub fire in February 2003 in West Warwick, Rhode Island, a blaze that killed 100 people including the band’s guitarist Ty Longley. The fire began when the group’s pyrotechnics ignited the venue’s foam ceiling, quickly spreading throughout the Station. Over 200 people were also injured in the fire.

Following the fire, Great White split into two factions, one led by singer Jack Russell and another by founding guitarist Mark Kendall; the latter is the only member to perform at both the Station concert and Thursday’s North Dakota gig.

Variety notes that Great White’s next show is scheduled for August 7th at Fort Madison, Iowa’s Riverfest FM festival, which is “absolutely happening” despite the pandemic. “With all of the uncertainty, it would have been easy to throw in the towel on this year, but we firmly believe that ‘If we rock it, they will come’ and boy, do we have a line-up that is prepared to do just that,” the fest wrote on Facebook.