I don’t often wax on the current event side of the fence when it comes to the material I write online. My day job requires me to write news anyway, so usually when I come here looking to discuss something about music the news and political topics of the day are the farthest things from my mind.
But in wake of a suggestion I received recently to talk about the mass shooting in Las Vegas as it relates to music, I can’t help but finally weigh in and wonder why its taken me this long. I mean the first guess is obvious, given that any mass incident of death, heartache and pain is impossible to comprehend as an observer, let alone to try and put it into words. To this point, I’m still not sure if any words I say will even be right.
But despite that, I also can’t pass up the opportunity because in addition to this tragedy taking place at a music festival, it coincided with the sudden passing of rock icon Tom Petty. Now those are vastly different losses that I am by no means trying to equate, but each have hit me together in a way that’s ultimately too hard not to speak up about.
Unfortunately though, I have to start by returning to the most difficult fact of all in this story. Namely, that another shooting has taken place at a venue for live music. I’m not sure when it started that concerts became one of the latest targets for these atrocities, but it hits especially close to home because of how significant a role concerts have played in the shaping of my life.
I mean as many a diehard music fan will tell you, the live show is the musical equivalent of Mass on Sundays. For those who’ve never felt it, just picture your greatest joy and exhilaration gathered in one place, magnified by knowing that feeling is being shared by hundreds to thousands of people all around you. In every theatre, festival and concert hall. Those who are there to relive nostalgia perhaps, eulogize that hard breakup they had that *insert band name’s song here* got them through, or just to come hit the high that comes in on the first guitar note or vocal line.
That’s one of music’s many great qualities as a unifier. I have heard it said that in our world today you have to “always keep your head on a swivel” just in case someone decides to create an atrocity. But going to see live music is the universal, gender-neutral, bilingual, bipartisan, multi-racial opposite of this so-called “mantra”, and it deserves to stay that way.
People deserve a way to escape the world for a few hours, whether thats at a concert or in some other distraction. Whatever country they live in, and no matter how much money they have in the bank. I work in a newsroom five days a week, and with the amount of sadness the world can show you in just that short amount of time…. distractions are necessary just for mental health.
I have to bring Tom Petty back into the conversation at this point. For one thing because he was and shall always be an everyman figure of rock and roll, and we need those figures now more than ever in this increasingly divisive world. I know that in my case, my heart will hurt for a long time knowing his figure isn’t in the same world where I grew up on Wildflowers and Full Moon Fever during trips in the car.
But the other reason is simple: to slightly twist one of Petty’s most famous song lyrics, we can’t back down. And while that might sound a bit like stereotypical cheese for a situation like this, what it really means to me is that we can’t be made to alter our lives in exchange for more fear. No one ever made history or great memory from behind the couch waiting for the knocking at the door to go away.
So to everyone out there, both music fan and otherwise, stay strong. Don’t let a thing in this world stop you from seeing any of the great concert halls and gathering places and areas where humanity can still figure out how to connect with itself regardless of creed or color.
Those are the places of love, and as granola as that may sound to the most cynical in our midst, in a world where divisive hate has had some of its biggest growth in years we need to hold on to all the love and camaraderie we have.
You belong somewhere you feel free.