'Aftermath' does more than revisit a tragedy
It's hard to believe that five years have passed since the Station nightclub tragedy in West Warwick, R.I. - unless, it seems, you live around West Warwick. That community is still reeling from the pyrotechnic display that ignited the soundproofing at a Great White show, turning a small club into a box full of flames. It left 100 dead, hundreds of others injured, a trail of legal wrangling, a cascade of blame.
In "Aftermath: The Station Fire Five Years Later," a special that premieres tomorrow on VH1 and VH1 Classic, the music network doesn't spend time pointing fingers - except at the music business itself, which is chastised, in vague terms, for doing far too little to help the victims' families and survivors.
"The music industry has to help its fans," Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider bellows, as he emcees a benefit concert for fire survivors and victims' families. "We have to take care of our own."
The VH1 special is mostly footage of that Feb. 25 concert at the Dunkin' Donuts Center in Providence. And while "tasteful" is not a word one usually associates these days with the music-channel-turned-reality-network, it's nice to know that VH1 can rise to the occasion. The show begins with footage of a subdued Bret Michaels, erstwhile star of the mock-dating show "Rock of Love," standing at a makeshift memorial on the nightclub site, talking about how "I lost four good friends at this very spot."
Throughout the concert, music is interspersed with stories from survivors, who seem more shockingly resilient the more you learn what they're going through: lost vision, torn skin, surgeries that number in the dozens. Many are still suffering from injuries, struggling financially, enduring ongoing medical treatment, often with no health insurance.
They offer sobering words, but this is not a sober show - to be expected, where metal bands are concerned. Yes, Aaron Lewis of Staind performs a subdued, acoustic version of "It's Been Awhile," a song that seems especially apropos. But other artists play raucously, including the rock band Tesla, whose former personal assistant perished in the fire. The concert also features country singers such as John Rich and Gretchen Wilson, who sings Heart's "Straight On" with an ending run that would make the "American Idol" judges proud.
"This isn't a heavy metal problem," Snider announces, by way of explaining the range of music. "This isn't a hair metal problem. This isn't an '80s metal problem. . . . This is a people problem."
The audience seems satisfied; it looks like this was a pretty spectacular show, infused with a rocker's sort of spirit. "You guys are strong, man. . . . You are defiant," Snider tells the crowd, before declaring that the survivors' anthem ought to be his own band's hit, "We're Not Gonna Take It."
Self-serving? Nonspecific? Maybe a little. But the people seem more than happy to sing along.