Killer Show: The Station Nightclub Fire, America's Deadliest Rock Concert. By John Barylik. (Lebanon, NH: University Press of New England, 2012. Pp. 304. $27.95.)
Version of Record online: 4 MAR 2014
© 2014 Phi Alpha Theta
Volume 76, Issue 1, pages 108–109, Spring 2014
How to Cite
Aguirre, B. E. (2014), Killer Show: The Station Nightclub Fire, America's Deadliest Rock Concert. By John Barylik. (Lebanon, NH: University Press of New England, 2012. Pp. 304. $27.95.). Historian, 76: 108–109. doi: 10.1111/hisn.12030_10
- Issue online: 4 MAR 2014
- Version of Record online: 4 MAR 2014
The aptly entitled Killer Show is an excellent, even if horrific, story of the fire at the Station Nightclub, the fourth-deadliest fire in American history. Reading this work brings to life individuals and groups that underwent an ordeal totally outside their normal sets of expectations and perceptions of what would be in place for them as they waited for a memorable performance by the heavy-metal band Great White. In a matter of seconds, many of them died or suffered terrible burns, their lives transformed forever by the fire.
Killer Show is based on multiple sources of information, including video of the evacuation; official and unofficial documents; newspaper coverage of the fire; and interviews with survivors, relatives of those who perished in the fire, and officials from various law-enforcement and fire-fighting departments.
The monograph has a number of chapters, among them one discussing the history of the Station as an iconic setting for the local population. The author analyzes dates and reasons for the club's increasing dangerousness, including changes in the certification that allowed it to operate without building-code requisites and the illegal uses of foam and other materials. The book includes detailed information about the people who were present, including their names and with whom they attended, where they were at the start of the fire, and the routes they took as they tried to exit from the building, as well as extensive information about the firefighters and law-enforcement officers who responded to the fire. It also considers the continued trauma and suffering of the survivors and their families, as well as their neighbors who lost members of their own families to the fire.
In its concern with the cultural and surprisingly close-knit social organization of the local community this work is more than a summary of the experience. Killer Show is truly exceptional, reminding readers how risks are accumulated over time by multiple social actors pursuing their own individual pecuniary interests, how tentative and elusive the chain of causation was that made their behaviors eventually produce the disaster, and how those who paid the consequence were innocent bystanders to a tragic, risk-magnifying process.
The Station fire has attracted attention from scientists interested in the dynamics of fire and smoke propagation and from computer scientists who have created simulation models of the behavior of the people during the evacuation from the building. This monograph helps to round up the details of the disaster and should be a must-read for anyone interested in disaster science and the study of crisis evacuation from buildings.