The owners, however, said the nightclub was properly permitted and had been inspected by the fire marshal.
'Blocked by security'
The band, Gurizada Fandangueira, was a popular attraction at Kiss in part because of its pyrotechnic show, according to Billboard.com. It played at the nightclub about once a month, and was there Sunday to promote a new album.
Martins, the guitarist, told Radio Gaucha the band had been on stage for about 20 minutes, finishing the fifth song of its set, when it set off its "sputnik" pyrotechnics -- sparkler columns that shoot up in the air.
"We used it all the time. ... We never had this problem before," he told the radio station late Sunday.
Martins said he first noticed a small ember, and then he looked up at the ceiling and saw the flames.
A backstage hand attempted to put out the blaze with a fire extinguisher. "But it didn't work," he said.
Martins said as he and the other band members got off the stage, there were 20 to 30 people in front of him who were "being blocked by security."
People started pushing and shoving, and then they tripped over one another trying to get to the door.
Martins said the band's accordion player, 28-year-old Danilo Jacques, died in the fire. "I saw him, and then I lost him in the crowd."
Struggling to help
Esequiel Corte Real and his friends arrived late for the show and ended up with what they thought was one of the worst locations to watch -- by the exit.
The same happened with Norton Basson and his friends, who were at the club to celebrate his 29th birthday.
They are alive, they believe, because of where they were -- making them among the first to make it out alive.
After the fire started, the dark, narrow hallway that led to the nightclub's exit was choked with smoke and people trying to find their way out.
Outside, Corte Real and his friends could hear the screams of people trying to escape.
He told Globo TV that he and his friends ran back into the club to try to help.
They pulled out one body. Then two more.
"Somebody must be alive," he said.
Basson and his friends, meanwhile, grabbed rocks, sticks and an axe they found at a nearby building and began trying to knock a hole in the side of the club to help those trapped inside. Others soon joined them with shovels and more axes.
Firefighters used the hole Basson and his friends created to get inside the club.
There, they were greeted by the eerie sounds of cell phones ringing in the pockets and purses of the dead. Many of the calls were from parents desperate to reach their children.
Later Sunday, family members wept as they searched for information outside a local gymnasium where bodies were taken for identification.
Inside, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff met with relatives as they waited on bleachers for word of their loved ones. She had been attending a regional summit in Chile, but cut short the trip and returned to Brazil early to deal with the aftermath of the tragedy.