Saturday, November 14, 2015

With Paris and my mother on my mind, music offers comfort, hope

Yesterday's massacre at a concert in Paris brought terrorism into the world of live entertainment in a way we have never quite seen before, especially in rock 'n roll and popular music. Imagine a sold out club the size of Amos' or The Fillmore. That's the size of Le Bataclan where over 100 people were murdered all because they went to a public event to experience shared escapism, joy, and yes, fellowship with strangers - the same sort of experience sports fans at the Stade de France France-Germany soccer match were after when they were also targeted.

For me this attack came at the end of probably the most harrowing week of my life. On Tuesday my mother went in for somewhat routine open heart surgery - if you can call open heart surgery routine. As I was walking down the hall of ICU to see her for the first time since that morning when she left for the OR, the blue light above her room began flashing. I watched as practically the entire staff sprinted for her room. She had gone into cardiac arrest and was immediately taken back into surgery. The rest of my day was spent wondering if my mother would survive. She is currently in surgery again this morning to see if they can remove the machine that has been supporting her heart since.

When I was finally able to see her the next day, her chances still seemed grim. Her heart had to be shocked repeatedly the night before. What could I, a mere writer, do to help her?  Then I realized, I could bring her joy. Joy in the form of Prince, Rick Springfield, Lady Antebellum, Miranda Lambert, Morris Day, Foo Fighters and Fitz & the Tantrums. Music is life, I thought. Who could sleep through the horn intro to "A Glamorous Life" or what brain wave wouldn't skip for the familiar refrain of "When Doves Cry?" I felt so much more useful compiling a 270-some song mix on my iPod that could get her through the next night. I rested my earbuds on her pillow and let Beyonce and Pink, the Temptations and the Supremes comfort her through the night. She has since improved daily.

Music is comfort. It's joy. It's inspiration. It's emotion. It's healing. For that source of such good to be targeted is infuriating. It's not only a threat to freedom, life, and all those other things that terrorists target, it's also an assault on our livelihood for those of us that work in the music industry. While the band got out safely, as of a few hours ago crew members for Eagles of Death Metal were still unaccounted for. (Update: Nick Alexander, EODM's merch manager was killed, read about him here). These crew members could certainly be sound engineers and lighting technicians that are posted away from the stage, out in the crowd at the sound and light board depending on lay out. My husband is a sound engineer and like, I'm sure, many in his line of work he's wondering if those people are safe and if he knows or has ever worked with any of them before.

On a larger scale, smaller mom and pop venues are already struggling and the Foo Fighters, U2, and Coldplay have all announced concert cancellations. If that trend continues it means the people these bands employ aren't able to work.

Ever since Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell Abbott and members of Damageplan's crew were gunned down on stage at a club in Columbus, Ohio in 2004, safety and security at concerts has been in the back of my mind. Because I know the layout, I have theoretical plans if such a situation were to occur at Tremont or Amos'. Yes. I think about these things. I could probably do the same at Visulite, Neighborhood, and the Fillmore if I set my mind to it. But it's a shame that such thoughts cross our minds when we attend a public event.

Music, theater, and sporting events are meant to help us escape the stress and complications of our daily lives, not add to them. Music should be catharsis. On the way to the hospital this morning before my mother's current surgery the Mighty Mighty Bosstones' "The Impression That I Get" came on the radio. I found myself singing along with Dickey Barrett, smiling, feeling the power of mood altering music surging through me. By the chorus of Stone Temple Pilots' "Big Empty" - always my favorite STP song - I was full-on belting it out with Scott Weiland. I hadn't heard either of those songs in years, but thanks to some DJ or program director they were perfect to start my day of waiting.

On Tuesday as I was practically vibrating from anxiety waiting for news from Mom's second surgery, I was soothed by the Stone Foxes as I was writing the story about their show at Visulite last night. Later I listened to Charlotte's own Jon Lindsay, who texted me links to his new record, and a very `90s K Records-sounding artist named Hazel English who I discovered after listening to Jon's Soundcloud link. I will forever associate those songs with that wait, that drive to the hospital, that mix that helped rouse my mom's heart to pump on its own.

Unfortunately Eagles of Death Metal - a band that prides itself on bringing humor and joy and monster riffs to the people - will forever be associated with this unfathomable violence. Julian Dorio, drummer for the Whigs, a band that has had a strong Charlotte following dating back to its days as a college band in Athens, was drumming with Eagles of Death Metal when the shooting broke out. Having interviewed him before and having the impression through our conversation that he's a good guy, and having watched his incredible drumming for years (I videoed him for my son the last time I saw the Whigs play), brings the whole ordeal even closer to home. But even without that connection we're talking about music fans just like you and me struck down violently while simply enjoying this thing that bonds us all.

Hopefully music can offer some sense of healing for those involved at such a grim time as it has for me and my mother (who came through her third surgery as I was finishing this). Music is peace - why else are so many hundreds, thousands of people able to get together every night in America and Europe and Japan and Australia and enjoy this  mass experience with only the occasional alcohol-fueled scuffle or full-on bar fight? Music. Peace.

(Image by Jean Jullien @jean_jullien)