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'Great White' Back On Stage

Singer Jack Russell, left, and guitartist Mark Kendall of the Great White perform an acousitic set during a benefit to honor the memory of their Guitarist Ty Longley at the Key Club in West Hollywood, Calif., Tuesday, April 29, 2003. This is their first public performance since 99 people, including Longley, died in a fire during the group's concert in Rhode Island Feb. 20, 2003. (AP Photo/Jill Connelly)
AP
Great White, the band on stage when a deadly fire erupted in a Rhode Island nightclub, returns to the concert circuit Tuesday.

The Early Show national correspondent Hattie Kauffman spoke to the band's founder, Jack Russell, in an exclusive interview.

"Not a minutes goes by where you don't think about this," said Russell. "Anybody who was there that night can tell you, this is not something you just shrug off and go, 'Wow, glad I made it through.' It was a horrifying experience."

It was an experience that began with the rock band's stage show — a pyrotechnic display that was supposed to impress the fans. According to officials, the fireworks ignited, turning the nightclub, called The Station, into an inferno.

A hundred people died, and twice that many were injured. Fifty-six children lost one or both parents.

"These are our friends, our fans, our family," said Russell. "What is the only thing we can do to help them? Right now, the only thing we know how to do is to play music and to pray for them."

Russell says the benefit tour will raise money for victims. He agreed to an interview accompanied by two founders of The Station Family Fund, Jody King and Victoria Potvin.

Jody King's brother, Tracy, was the bouncer at the door the night he died at The Station.

"I know of four people [Jody] pulled out," she said. "He's a hero to his three boys."

King said she supports the benefit tour because her brother and his family loved music.

Victoria Potvin was at The Station and escaped unharmed. But, she lost a friend in the fire.

"The people that were injured in this fire, and the people that perished in this fire, and the families and the children that have to go on with their lives, that's a lot more important than who is to blame," said Potvin.

Jack Russell said the band lost hundreds of friends on the deadly night.

"This band is heartbroken," he said.

Russell said the support of friends and family members of the victims amazed him.

But, not everybody is supporting the benefit concert.

Michelle Spence was so badly burned that she was in a coma for weeks, and she has been unable to go back to work.

"It just gets me angry every day, that they're doing something, playing a concert," said Spence. "Its just gets me angry.

Spence lives with Tammy St. Hillare. They went to The Station nightclub with seven friends. Four died that night in February 2003.

"This is the only way I know how to help these people, and regardless of what some people may think about me or the band, I have to do this for the people who need the help and want the help," said Russell.

King said Russell is brave for pushing the benefit concert because he believes it is right.

"It takes a lot to come out from what he's underneath," she said. "And to know that there are people out there not liking him, and he still comes forward to help the Station Family Fund."

"We're trying to put food on the table for people and to pay for their mortgage and to pay for their groceries, pay for car payments," said Victoria Potvin. "That's a lot more important than who is to blame."

Currently, 100 crosses mark the site of what was once The Station nightclub. Volunteers who survived the fire and still love Great White tend the memorial. Michael Magee is one of them. He said he will be at the concert in Colorado.

"I want to go out there to show my support," he said.

The band lost a guitarist in the fire and now the tour will include three new band members. Jack Russell said the tour already has 41 dates. For more information about The Station Family Fund, click here.