Eagles of Death Metal onstage at La Bataclan Paris before the attacks
Make no mistake: the terror attack on the Eagles of Death Metal concert at Paris’ Bataclan Theatre is an attack on American culture and values. Granted, the American values embraced by a stoner-rock band from Palm Desert, CA might not exactly line up with the values embraced by some of our readers, but it’s part of our national heritage that no matter how strongly we disagree about the particulars we believe that diversity of political, religious or cultural views is essential to our national identity.
As news about the attacks has emerged over the weekend, it’s become obvious that the concert attracted young men and women from a myriad of nationalities and cultural backgrounds: tourists, exchange students, music lovers from all over the world. That’s what pissed off ISIS. Their post-attack propaganda makes its clear: “The targets included the Bataclan theatre for exhibitions, where hundreds of pagans gathered for a concert of prostitution and vice.”
This has been difficult weekend for me because I have direct personal connections to the attacks through my parallel life in the music community. EoDM touring drummer is a friend here at home in Athens, Georgia. I spoke with him and saw him play a couple of months ago with his regular band The Whigs at Athfest and I’ve worked with his brother Michael’s band Trances Arc (Michael was interviewed on CNN Friday night during the early hours after the attack). I’ve attended shows at the Bataclan and bands I’ve worked with have headlined the room. I’ve worked at merchandise tables at the back of the venue like murdered crew member Nick Alexander and attended shows as a record company representative like slain Mercury/Universal Records international product manger Thomas Ayad. There are reports that two former Universal Music employees were also killed because they were music fans out to see a show. Les Inrockuptibles journalist Guillame Decherf (who liked the new EoDM album in his review). If you’re a rock fan and your favorite bands have been to France, they’ve been covered in or interviewed by Les Inrock.
I didn’t personally know anyone killed at the venue, but my social media feeds confirm that I know dozens of people who knew or worked with people killed in the attacks. The rock music community around the world has been devastated by this incident, in no small part because managers, concert promoters and label executives have always known an attack like this was possible.
It’s not yet clear whether the explosions at the Germany-France soccer match were merely designed to create a distraction for first responders or suicide bombs that were intended to go off inside the stadium. When you consider the expanded security present at large-scale events (and the even greater security in place because French President Hollande was in attendance), you get the sense that the terrorists knew they weren’t likely to succeed in a venue of that size. That same level of security of would exist at a show for artists like U2, Taylor Swift, Bruce Springsteen or Coldplay.
The band celebrates a new documentary about Tower Records by performing in the parking lot of the old Tower Sunset in LA last month. As you can hear, the band sounds nothing like the Eagles or Death Metal.
Eagles of Death Metal (a band many of you had never heard of until this weekend) doesn’t live on that level. They’re famous enough to mount a world tour, but that tour takes them to medium-sized venues that can’t support the stadium-level security. No one on the tour (band, crew or management) is going home with a large wad of cash. No one connected to the band is going to say it, but there are musicians and crew members who face a massive financial crisis now that the rest of their tour has been canceled.
Unlike Hollywood actors who spend time on set surrounded by security or safe behind studio gates, touring musicians are easy targets. Everyone in that world thinks about musicians killed by fans (John Lennon, Selena) and has a keen sense that they’re always at risk. I think that’s part of the reason why working musicians are so fierce in their support of active duty military: because they feel vulnerable, they appreciate a group willing to risk their lives on a scale far greater than the one they experience every day.
We export American values in movies and TV shows via satellite, DVD or VHS: whether it’s Chuck Norris or Sean Penn, actors aren’t really going out and engaging with the world when doing their jobs. American working musicians are much easier targets.
These are just my personal connections. I’m grateful for those I know who survived the attacks, mourn the ones who were killed and recognize that there are thousands of people more directly affected by the events in Paris. The world is facing a genuine threat and leaders have a responsibility to find a way to shut down the terrorist thugs. But here’s a suggestion for you music fans: next time you’re at a gig, be nice to the kid selling t-shirts and thank the crew humping gear and running the sound. While everyone will tell you they’re living the dream, they’ve got a tough life on the road and it’s a life that just got a little tougher and a lot more scary.