GREAT WHITE guitarist Mark Kendall says that his band was unfairly criticized for playing a concert in Dickinson, North Dakota just a few months after the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
Video footage of GREAT WHITE's July 2020 outdoor performance — which was part of the town's "First On First: Dickinson Summer Nights" series — showed there were no safety restrictions at the event, with attendees standing shoulder to shoulder and not a single person wearing a mask.
Although North Dakota health officials at the time recommended social distancing and wearing masks when possible, there was no legal requirement to do so in the state.
Steven Peterson, a GREAT WHITE fan who attended the Dickinson concert, told CNN that "maybe 5%" of the audience wore masks.
Asked in a new interview with "On The Road To Rock" what the "sentiment from the public" was when GREAT WHITE played the North Dakota show last year, Kendall said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "As far as crowd control and all that, that was up to the mayor and the promoter and the powers. We kept it safe backstage, wore masks and did that number. Onstage, we've gotta sing, and we're not gonna go up there looking like surgeons. But people kind of jumped on the bandwagon and were trying to blame us because people out in the audience, some weren't wearing masks. And that was way out of our control. Plus I don't think that that area — I think it's kind of a conservative area and they really didn't ever close anything. People just did the necessary safety measures and stuff. But it was out in the open in the street. So, people did come after us a little bit, but we couldn't be playing and going out there saying, 'Please put your mask on.' We didn't set the rules for that."
Two weeks after the Dickinson concert, GREAT WHITE singer Mitch Malloy took to his Facebook page to say that he "never apologized" for playing the gig and slammed the "fake news" media for claiming there were no masks and no social distancing at the event.
Kendall and singer Jack Russell founded GREAT WHITE in 1982. Both musicians were present at the 2003 show in Rhode Island where a fire caused by a pyrotechnic display claimed 100 lives. At the time of the incident, the group that was on the road was called JACK RUSSELL'S GREAT WHITE. Kendall said he was asked to join Russell and his solo band on the tour to help boost attendance. Kendall later explained that the name GREAT WHITE was displayed on the marquee outside The Station nightclub because the owner of the venue wanted to "sell more tickets."
The GREAT WHITE lineup that performed in North Dakota consisted of Malloy, Kendall, keyboardist/guitarist Michael Lardie, drummer Audie Desbrow and bassist Scott Snyder.
Malloy joined GREAT WHITE in July 2018 as the replacement for Terry Ilous, who was with the band for eight years.