One Hundred Million Reasons to Go See Great White

"Once Bitten Twice Shy" ain't one of 'em

I guess that all of that just makes sense. Why would a bunch of cool rockers -- or even Bon Jovi -- spend any hipster chits on fans of a band like Great White? After all, since they were Great White fans, they deserve only having the likes of the remnants of Foreigner, Starship, Quiet Riot, Poison and Iron Maiden to champion them, not to mention tribute bands without number. If you insist on being behind the times, don't expect Aerosmith, Sting or the Boss to play your tribute, no matter how many of your friends die with you, much less have your ilk mentioned at the Grammys.

And according to Potvin, you really shouldn't get caught in a disaster in a state like tiny heavily Democratic Rhode Island, a state with only four electoral votes, especially not when there's a Republican in the White House. The Rolling Stone article also makes that case, and at first it seems laughable. After all, you can't blame Dubya for everything, can you? He wouldn't be so cold-blooded as to assess the tragedy in terms of potential votes, would he?

Potvin thinks he would. "If we had more electoral votes up here, the state of Rhode Island would have had federal assistance," she flatly states. "There was a fire three years ago in Worcester, Massachusetts, that took the lives of six firefighters, and they received federal aid for their families. Not that they didn't deserve it, because after all, six people perished, and I completely understand that. But we have a hundred people dead, and 180 people injured, 64 children without one or both parents, and the entire government on both the state and federal level have basically thumbed their noses at this entire tragedy and brushed it under the rug as if it never happened."

Wait a minute -- even the state government has forsaken them? "Rhode Island has done nothing," Potvin says bitterly. "It's all over the newspapers -- we're winning Pulitzer Prizes for these journalists off of our backs, but that's it. The only people that have stepped in and really reached out and helped these people are grassroots efforts like the Station Family Fund. And the sad thing is we're all survivors ourselves. We're not professionals. We shouldn't have had to do this on our own."

No, they've got more important things to do, like undergo skin graft operations, deal with having one of their ears melted off, the aftereffects of fourth-degree burns that seared even their skulls, the depression, the nightmares, the parents that you'll never see again… Stuff like that. True, over $3 million has been raised by private donations, and that sounds like a lot, until you consider that one of the 180 survivors is facing $2 million in medical bills and another estimates his debt at $5 million. Rhode Island governor Donald Carcieri estimates the disaster's total price tag -- once you factor in all the long-term physical and mental rehab -- at a staggering $100 million.

Think about that sum for a while. Now consider this. If you made $35,000 a year, and saved every penny, it would take you only a little over 2,857 years to raise it.

Which is what Great White is trying to do. No, they don't think they can come up with it all, but they're doing their part. "We've been very grateful from the very beginning," says Potvin of the band's decision to start touring again. "Controversial or not, this is a band that could have gone and hung their heads and disappeared and had every excuse to do so. But they decided that the only thing they knew how to do was to pull themselves up and go out and tour and perform, because that's what they are -- performers. And so far they've been able to raise $70,000 for us, and they continue. Every show they do, they give us a portion. And they will probably continue to do that for a very long time."

Hey, at that rate, they'll only have to tour until about the year 3400. But at least someone is doing something for the Great White survivors, these people who committed the mortal sin of having questionable taste.

This disaster and our nation's reaction to it damn us all -- the government, the rock and music industry, the insurance industry, the media and everyone who thinks they're superior to Great White fans. You can take it to the bank: Had the hypothetical Stokes fire occurred, total strangers would have wept for all the lost beauty and talent, much as they did for Lady Diana. Well, the Great White fire did occur, and our compassion-fatigued, hipper-than-thou response was to crack sickly wise about singed mullets.

Shame on us. Shame on us all.

Great White appears Saturday, March 6, at Cardiís 2000, 9301 Bissonnet. Militia (Metallica tribute) and Unchained (í80s tribute) are also on the bill. For information, call 713-270-0053.

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