Of Cowardice and Courage: Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité
By Rich Henrich
Paris, 2015. A black, unassuming Seat sedan hides between cars and streets lights and passersby on a lively French street. Inside a cache of AK-47 assault rifles await. It’s a Friday like any other except for the date. It’s the 13th, Friday the 13th and Parisians, ex-pats, tourists, students, artists, workers, locals and refugees gather on this November night. Cozy cafes, restaurants, neighborhood bars and homes dot the bustling street. Conversations and music fill the air of this evening as a couple dines at Le Petit Cambodge. A waiter pours a celebratory glass of wine for a woman happy to be enjoying the company of friends at Le Carillon Bar. Little do these beautiful faces know this will be their last night, together with friends or strangers. Fifteen lives will be stolen. A lover’s quarrel will save two lives tonight as the man walks away from an outside table and the woman walks inside to settle the bill only to take refuge behind a couch. Another 19 will end at La Belle Equipe. Five more will join them while enjoying a meal at La Casa Nostra. Moments from now, the ordinary night of life in the 10th and 11th districts of Paris will be forever transfixed in the mind of the world as one of the greatest assaults on humanity.
Down the road a few blocks on Boulevard Voltaire, a concert is well underway at Le Bataclan. Eagles of Death Metal, American rockers from Palm Desert, CA entertain a sold out crowd of nearly 1500 lovers of Rock and Roll. A concert hall. A band. Screaming fans in a foreign land…indeed a vision of liberty actualized. The guitars crank as frontman (and Eagle Scout) Jesse Hughes captivates the crowd. The drums thunder as the audience dances. Fans jump up and down with the rockin’ rhythm. An odd beat is heard firing off-stage, echoing like a special effect, perhaps fireworks. A man in a black jump suit pulls out an AK-47. A fan notices a couple young men calmly firing at the crowd and runs for his life! A couple friends from Ireland enjoying the show recognize the reality- they are under attack. They run for cover finding a cellar to hide in. A father with his son realizes the danger too late. The drummer ducks. Guitarists take cover. The band runs for their lives out the back of the concert hall. Others are not so lucky.
The terrorists send round after round into the crowd. Bodies fall to the floor. Blood is everywhere, as they demand compliance. Everyone down on the ground. One by one, the terrorist check the bodies for signs of life and then kill those still moving. A father covers his son as a terrorist comes by and pushes on his prosthetic leg. Without a reaction, he leaves the man for dead. Nick Alexander, the merch man for the band, is not as fortunate; he’s taken a bullet and lies bleeding, as a friend comforts him until his last breath. Hundreds of bodies on the floor, some alive, some dead but still protecting the innocent as those still breathing take shelter beneath the dead bodies.
Police raced to the scenes of slaughter across the district as more terrorists entered the soccer stadium and surrounding neighborhood during the France- Germany match. Their attack would not go as planned, averting an even larger tragedy. The first officer arrived at the concert hall at 10pm and shot one of the terrorists, who died after his suicide vest exploded. It would be several minutes before reinforcements showed up. As police gathered around the Bataclan, the terrorist exchanged fire before attempting to negotiate for the hostages, threatening to behead one every five minutes and throw bodies out the windows if police didn’t retreat. It would take a couple hours before police would finally be able to secure the venue and free the hostages; many used as human shields for the terrorists.
Then the gunshots ripped through the crowd. Innocent bodies collapsed. The band escaped. Police stormed in. The terrorist fell dead but the moment will live forever in our conscience. Welcome to the new age, the new normal. Geopolitics and rock and roll intertwined. Terrorist targeting civilians- the new standard for this global warfare. Rock and Roll can never die. Now is the time for the voices to be raised, the amps to be turned up, and a time to unite the world against such international cowardice through the courage of music, the commitment to the ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity. We’ve come far as a human race but have yet to realize why others do not share in this vision for humanity and seek to destroy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The answers are not easy, nor is the fight being fought on a clear battlefield. In our own battle for independence, blood was shed. It appears we continue to be at war with the human race, a battle of ideals and ideologies. But now, we must stand with France as they have stood with us, our oldest ally. As President John F. Kennedy stated:
I come from America, “the daughter of Europe,” to France, which is America’s oldest friend. But long before my country was born, French influence, French philosophy, French culture led the Western World to such a degree that the first American Ambassador to Paris, Benjamin Franklin, could say, “Every man has two countries: France and his own. But I come today not merely because of past ties and past friendship, but because the present relationship between France and the United States is essential for the preservation of freedom around the globe.
Friday, November 13, 2015 will forever be etched into our modern minds as media around the world continues to focus on the Paris terrorist attacks. However, Paris is not alone as attacks continue to terrorize thousands in Lebanon and all across northern Africa and around the world. The question of why did these terrorists attack innocent civilians in Paris will long remain unanswered unless we see this as a broader war, not a battle of Muslim extremists against the West. In fact, according to a recent study by the University of North Carolina, the majority of terrorist attacks, are not, committed by Muslims. This is not a faith war. We live in a complex geopolitical world and the answers are no longer immediately available nor are they easy to understand. What is apparent is that every citizen of the world is now a potential target in a war few understand. Borders cannot contain this war.
At the center of the attacks, an American band with a growing fan base, Eagles of Death Metal, born of the desert scene by Palm Desert locals Jesse Hughes and Josh Homme (Kyuss, Queens of the Stone Age). Thrust into the center stage of the geo-political world after a horrific terrorist attack, the band is now back, safely in the U.S. and Jesse is back home. We have been in communication and realize while the world wants answers and comments, we are just happy to have them home and are here to support them as they adjust to a new reality. What they experienced, the carnage they saw, the loss of their crewmembers, fans and friends while doing what they love and do best- playing rock and roll, is unimaginable. Our deepest sympathies and condolences go out to the entire band and their extended family.
The issue is complex but is still a human problem. I asked a Muslim friend for his reflections on the attacks and he was as lost as anyone, afraid of more backlashes towards Muslims in the U.S. and throughout the world. He said it was like putting pressure on a balloon, the more you push in one area, and the more another area becomes amplified. I asked a Jewish friend for his perspective and he shared his concern that the Bataclan had been owned by Jews and had hosted a number of pro-Israel events and may have been a target as a result. I reached out to my French friend and she said, “More love, less hate” is the answer. I asked another friend, who just returned from being on tour with Judas Priest (has also toured with EODM), how the attacks will impact him. He shared concern over his wife and having a child on the way and having to seriously consider the risks as real rather than hypothetical possibilities. We’ve all had questions since 9/11.
This attack, and others around the globe will continue. Despite the lack of media coverage for global events and a lack of awareness, we must strive to be more informed and more engaged with the event in far reaching corners of Earth. This is the new world; our world and we have choices to make but with choice comes consequence, often unintended. As my fortune cookie read the other day, the road to hell was paved with good intentions. There is a greater need to understand the history of ISIS, the difference between extremists and Muslims, the raise of terrorist attacks across the globe, the tensions rising around the world between groups in constant conflict. We must resist the tendency toward fear and strive to unite artists, diffuse cultural borders and unite humanity. And as the world continues to mourn and debate, rock and roll must never die. Locally, several bands tour Europe on a regular basis as they have such strong fan bases there including bands and musicians: John Garcia, Brant Bjork, Waxy, War Drum, House of Broken Promises and more. The desert rock scene thrives in Europe. It is important lifeblood for touring acts and an important order of diplomacy to share the spirit of our culture and music abroad.
On Thursday, November 19, Mondo Generator (Nick Oliveri, Mike Pygmie, Jeff Bowman) will begin their European tour. We spoke with them to wish them well and understand their hopes and concerns following the Paris attacks.
We talked to 2 of their 3 band members and here’s what they said:
Jeff Bowman: Our hearts go out to our desert brothers, the Eagles of Death Metal, and to the victims of terrorism in Paris and abroad. It’s bizarre how this tragedy, so far from home, hits so painfully close to home. With our tour set to start only a week after these tragic events (at a festival in the Netherlands that had both Mondo Generator and the Eagles of Death Metal on the bill), we had a serious choice to make: to travel to the same place and to do the same thing that EODM were innocently doing, and risk being exposed to future acts of violence…or apologize, cancel, and try again if and when things felt “safe”. It is certainly not without some fear that we made the choice to go, but we ultimately all agree that in no way is that fear, or the hideous people who caused it, going to steal this experience from us or our fans. In the great spirit of rock ‘n’ roll, the show goes on, despite the forces that oppose it. Mondo Generator dedicates this tour to everyone who craves and deserves peace, love and [death metal] music.
Mike Pygmie: I feel blessed to be able to go and never considered cancelling. What happened in Paris makes me feel sick inside and my heartaches for the victims, their loved ones and everyone there. I can’t make any sense out of the situation; to hurt and kill innocent, unsuspecting people is a desperate act of cowards to say the least. We’re gonna give the upcoming shows everything we got and hope that people reply, enjoy it and feel good. Rock and Roll forever.
For those about to rock…we salute you! Godspeed.
Josh Homme, co-founder of Eagles of Death Metal will accept donations to help the family members of their merchandise manager Nick Alexander and other musicians and crew members victimized by the Paris attacks. The Sweet Stuff Foundation, founded in 2013, was established to help musicians during difficult times. The foundation will accept tax deductible donations through their website at: www.thesweetstufffoundation.org or by mail at: P.O. Box 258, Palm Desert, CA 92261 now through December 31, 2015.
The following is a statement from the Eagles Of Death Metal:
While the band is now home safe, we are horrified and still trying to come to terms with what happened in France. Our thoughts and hearts are first and foremost with our brother Nick Alexander, our record company comrades Thomas Ayad, Marie Mosser, and Manu Perez, and all the friends and fans whose lives were taken in Paris, as well as their friends, families, and loved ones.
Although bonded in grief with the victims, the fans, the families, the citizens of Paris, and all those affected by terrorism, we are proud to stand together, with our new family, now united by a common goal of love and compassion.
We would like to thank the French police, the FBI, the U.S. and French State Departments, and especially all those at ground zero with us who helped each other as best they could during this unimaginable ordeal, proving once again that love overshadows evil.
All EODM shows are on hold until further notice.
Vive la musique, vive la liberté, vive la France, and vive EODM.
Because life goes on. Because they cannot win. Because it is awful and because no one can get back to it’s normal life. Because too many friends (know or unknown) died friday evening. Because it’s only Rock & Roll…
I’ll post my pictures from the show.
Every webzine will be able to ask me for the full series for free and post them on their website.
Every fan will be able te request HD files for his own prints.
Because I was there to party and take pictures.
Peace, Love & Death Metal