By: Derek Jung
It was bound to happen again.
Last week, Joseph, a few friends, and I saw Mastodon, and the opening act was none other than Eagles of Death Metal, who were performing at the Bataclan during the November 2015 Paris attacks that left 130 people dead, 89 inside the theater alone. Horrific images of bodies strewn about the dance floor flooded the internet, and stories of survivors echoed on news stations around the world. For concertgoers, it was a wake up call that somewhere so sacred and so safe could be violated by such an evil act. I had seen Eagles of Death Metal with my wife less than two months before the attack. To think that something could have happened to us while watching one of my favorite bands chilled me to the bone.
I remember attending my first show post-Bataclan. It was a week after the attack and I was seeing Houndmouth at my second home, Madison Theater. I found myself morbidly aware of the exit signs in case I needed to make a mad dash to escape. The unpleasant mixture of excitement and nervousness made my stomach churn, excited to be back at a show again and nervous that someone would be inspired by events halfway around the world and try to hurt us. But the show went on without a hitch and everything started to feel ok again. Life returned to normal as it always does and I rarely thought about my safety at shows. That is, until last week.
Eagles of Death Metal frontman Jesse Hughes was out front before the show taking pictures with fans and thanking each police officer for their service. It was a simple gesture, but it demonstrated how different life was for him. After staring pure evil in the eyes and watching friends and fans die in front of him, I can't imagine the strength it takes to get on stage every night to perform. There was a noticeable security presence at the show that night and I couldn't help but thinking that, in the back of Jesse's mind, he feared it could happen again. But once again nothing happened and the thought faded from memory.
This past Friday Joseph, my wife, my brother, and a friend saw Red Hot Chili Peppers at US Bank Arena, where another non-terrorist related tragedy happened nearly forty years prior. Eleven fans were trampled while trying to enter to see The Who. Security has been upped in recent years and we even received an email reminder of new security protocols and to arrive early. It wasn't until the conclusion of the show, when we were walking towards the exits did I feel the unnerving sensation that something was wrong. Loud booms echoed through the stadium and for a split second I was afraid. The Friday night fireworks at the Cincinnati Reds game next to the arena had begun. There was no attack. We were completely safe. I didn't think twice about it.
Less than three days later, Manchester England was rocked by a different boom as concertgoers exited an Ariana Grande show. At last count, twenty-two people were killed by a suicide bomber, many of them children and teenagers. Their safe place was shattered in an instant. We live in a different world. Cowardly acts of terrorism are becoming more frequent, and it's increasingly important to be diligent and aware of potential dangers in public. I'm not going to offer any solutions, because frankly I don't have any. Security measures can only go so far. My condolences to all of those affected by both attacks. My condolences to their families, friends, and to Ariana Grande, who will live with this pain for the rest of her life. I hope Jesse reaches out to her. I'm sure she needs some assurance that everything is going to be ok.
I'm not going to stop attending shows. After the Paris attacks I wanted to go to a show that same night in solidarity. They make me happy and I love connecting with and sharing music. It's what I do and nothing is going to end that. I'm sure that Manchester, with such a rich musical history (The Bee Gees, The Smiths, and Oasis to name a few), will continue to be a beacon in the music industry. No coward can take that away. Rock on, Manchester.
Top image source: NPR.org