Editorials

Op-Ed: Why the Terrorist Attacks in Paris are So Important to the Metal Community

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Paris Bataclan candlelight vigil
Photo Credit: Simon Dawson for Bloomberg

If you’re like us, you’re still incredibly hungry for information about the terrorist attacks in Paris, particularly the one at the Eagles of Death Metal show at the Bataclan.

No, it isn’t senseless gawking, and it isn’t clickbait designed to rake in traffic on the back of a disaster. It’s genuine concern, curiosity and horror, because it could’ve been ANY ONE OF US at any of the shows we go to week in and week out.

That’s what’s so completely scary about all of this, and why we keep posting about a story with a borderline connection to metal; as fans of live music who sometimes attend multiple shows in a single week, the thought of something like this happening to us or our friends — and the knowledge that it happened to people just like us in Paris — is impossible to shake.

I remember feeling the same way about the Great White fire in 2003, when 100 people were killed and 230 injured after pyro ignited at the beginning of the band’s set engulfed a Rhode Island venue in flames. Panic, horror, disbelief, confusion — it could’ve been me. SO easily. How many times have you been inside a small, crowded club with questionable ventilation and a narrow, claustrophobic entryway? For years after that fire I always made sure I checked to see where the emergency exits were any time I was in a small club, and even to this day I sometimes feel uncomfortable in those situations. Certain NYC venues give me borderline panic attacks if I think about it too much. And you can’t imagine that anyone inside the Bataclan on Friday night was thinking about what they’d do if several men armed with machine guns came into the show and started shooting indiscriminately. It happens and then you’re fucking dead. That’s it.

Shit, it happened again just last week in Romania, where 51 people — including four members of the band Goodbye to Gravity — died as a result of fire caused by illegal pyrotechnics. Don’t think it can’t happen to you because you don’t live in Romania, or God loves you, or you’re a generally lucky person, or the odds are just really, really low; it most certainly can.

The murder of Dimebag Darrell in 2004 evoked similar feelings of complete hopelessness. Dimebag’s murder was different in that it was the action of one deranged fan with a very singular mission, not a crowd, but the panic it sent into the audience in Columbus, OH — and the effect it had on the metal world as a whole — were very similar. That one hit the metal community particularly hard, especially the countless metal musicians who could’ve imagined it being them up there, doing what they love, in the zone, completely oblivious to the outside world… only to have it all end in a few seconds.

So what if Eagles of Death Metal aren’t really a metal band? That’s irrelevant. An incident like this impacts all fans of live music (and all human beings, but that’s another topic entirely). More than 100 people went to a show to have a good time and unwind on a Friday night and they were doing exactly that before acts of unspeakable violence — and brief moments of sheer terror, anguish and fear we can only imagine — ended their lives. IT COULD HAVE BEEN YOU. It could have been any fucking one of us. Us metalheads like to think of ourselves as super-passionate fans — more than your average music fan — so an incident like this hits especially close to home.

And just to touch briefly on the human element I mention above: after 9/11 — perhaps the best analogue of all for what happened in Paris, but with no connection to music — everyone had an opinion. And they had the right to share that opinion. As it happened in my own home town, I was especially shaken and looking for comfort somewhere, anywhere. The layman didn’t have the outlet of social media we all do now, so we turned to public figures to hear what they had to say and grieve collectively. I remember finding Jon Stewart’s words on his first episode of The Daily Show back on the air after several days off soothing and poignant. Baseball fans everywhere remember Mike Piazza’s towering home run, capping an epic Mets comeback in their first game after a long layoff. It felt like that home run alone was going to smash through every terrorist’s face and restore world order.

This is what we do when a great tragedy strikes. Those of us with public platforms air our opinions. Those of us without them vent on social media. We talk to friends and family. Sometimes those opinions, venting sessions and discussions are productive; other times not so much. But it’s all a part of the process of taking stock of what happened, processing it, and figuring out a way to move forward.

Going to shows is not going to be the same for a while. Much as there were immediate, surface-level changes to the concert experience after the Great White fire and Dimebag murder — fire department crackdowns, more venue security — I’m sure we’ll see a swift reaction to Paris. Those changes will likely be more to make people feel safer than to make them actually safer; “security theater,” as it’s called. But it’ll also just FEEL different, not just for those in Paris (although especially so) but for people attending concerts everywhere. Even just the remote thought of “What if?” fundamentally dampens the experience. How can we truly let loose with the thought that something like that could happen — fuck, it DID happen — in the back of our mind?

The attack on the Bataclan impacts music fans the world over. On both an immediate and fundamental level. This isn’t about arguing, or click-baiting, or name-calling or racist epithets, or even world policy… it’s about your own fucking life. And while it might seem myopic to boil down such a gross event to “but how does it effect meeeeee?”, what is this world if not a collection of the individual moments we all experience?

So stop the bullshit and let’s get on with meaningful discussion. Wishful thinking, I know, but a man can hope.

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