The rock band Great White came under fire for performing in North Dakota on Thursday, with a crowd of people ignoring social distancing guidelines and not wearing face masks. After a video of the event went viral, the band issued an apology. The concert was part of the First on First Dickinson Summer Nights concert in Dickinson, North Dakota, and the organizer said it was approved by the city.
The group told PEOPLE they understand some are "upset that we performed this show, during this trying time." They added that North Dakota has recommended masks be worn at events during the coronavirus pandemic, but they are "not in a position to enforce the laws." Great White continued, "We have had the luxury of hindsight and we would like to apologize to those who disagree with our decision to fulfill our contractual agreement."
"The Promoter and staff were nothing but professional and assured us of the safety precautions," the group added. "Our intent was simply to perform our gig, outside, in a welcoming, small town. We value the health and safety of each and every one of our fans, as well as our American and global community. We are far from perfect."
First on First is a series of concerts in Dickinson that began on June 18 and is scheduled to continue through Aug. 12, according to the Dickinson Press. Event coordinator April Getz told the paper last month that everyone was "super excited" that the city allowed them to hold this year's event at all. "We do not have restrictions, believe it or not, we don’t have any," she explained. "It’s one of those things where if people feel comfortable coming down and mixing and mingling that’s their personal choice. We’re leaving it up to everybody that chooses to attend."
Just a few days before Great White performed, former lead singer Jack Russell spoke out against people who do not wear face masks during the pandemic. "I don't know what everybody else out there is thinking — they may think I'm full of it — but I take this very seriously," he told the Austrian outlet Mulatschag, reports Blabbermouth. "It's no small wonder that when you open all these places up, 'Gee, the numbers [of coronavirus cases] rose up.' It's, like, what did you think was gonna happen? It's, like, 'I took my mask off and I got COVID.' Well, what a big surprise that is."
Great White was founded in 1982. They are infamous for being the band that performed at The Station nightclub in Rhode Island on Feb. 20, 2003. The group's pyrotechnic display ignited foam soundproofing material, killing 100 people, including Great White guitarist Ty Longley. They are planning to perform again on Aug. 7 at the Riverfest FM Festival in Fort Madison, Iowa.