Last Friday night after eating a mellow dinner together in the kitchen, instead of going to a local rock show like we did in our twenties, my husband and both went upstairs—I to the bedroom with my laptop to work on an essay, he to his studio to work on his new record. Forty-something party animals on a weekend night.
When I settled in, I saw that I had an urgent text from my coworker. I manage a number of social media accounts for work and had a bunch of stuff scheduled to go out automatically promoting a conference, and she wrote, with all going on in Paris prob not a big priority right now.
Like millions of people who were online at the time I imagine, I Googled the question in my head, What’s happening in Paris? CNN had brief statements set up with bullet points of what they thought they knew, but it was all very sketchy, all still developing, and all very alarming. A few seconds later, my coworker wrote again: Think we should not tweet anything else conf-related tonight? Paris everywhere.
Agreed. Done. I wrote back. I spent the next 15 minutes deleting Facebook and Twitter posts. Then my attention went immediately to researching the situation unfolding in France. I saw a headline that made me yell to my husband in the room next door, “Baby? Do you know what’s going on in Paris? Come here!! Did you ever play the Bataclan?”
My guitarist husband, Peyton, spent the first 15 years of our relationship touring nationally and internationally, with his band and a handful of others. Some years, he was gone half the time. I never worried about him cheating on me like some of my girlfriends did. I worried about the vans he traveled in, overloaded with amps and guitars and too many people driving dead-tired or buzzed after a show, crashing. But I never worried about guns or bombs.
Peyton and I spent the next two hours watching TV coverage of the newest most alarming terrorist act together with banners running across the bottom of the screen reading unreal things like, “They were shooting at us like we were birds.” It was just the most recent occurrence of tremendous violence that we heard about, special only because it took place in one of the most metropolitan places in the world, not because lots of innocent people were killed and throngs more were terrified and scrambling.
But it felt much worse to me somehow. It felt really personal and close.
I’ve been a fan of the Eagles of Death Metal for a long time because I’ve been a fan of Queens of the Stone Age and Crooked Vultures and anything Josh Homme-related ever since I saw QOTSA headline a show in Boston years ago when I’d really gone to see And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead… and they were subsequently blown out of the water by this band that my friend who took me to the show said I absolutely had to see. It’s been a love affair ever since.
So, like any fan, I was sad. As a concertgoer, I was freaked. Like anyone who likes to travel internationlly, I was stunned. But as the wife of a traveling musician, I was horrified in a very personal way.
While I knew we didn’t actually know those guys, they are just like so many people that we do know who could have been playing there. When I got really honest with myself, I realized that it could have easily been not just a friend, but my own husband in that club.
“What’s going to happen to these guys?” Peyton and I pondered from the safety of our sofa.
When I checked the Eagles of Death Metal Facebook page, I found the post: We are still currently trying to determine the safety and whereabouts of all our band and crew. Someone had made a comment that the wife of the drummer had heard from him and the band members were safe. I imagined exactly what she must be feeling, considering that it could just as easily have been me having to tell the Washington Post that the band was OK. Peyton had flown to the UK for a European tour on 9-11 and I’ll never forget the panic I felt.
The next day, like millions of other people, I decided to buy the new album, only to find it sold out. And every other Eagles of Death Metal album I looked at was sold out too. It was a rock and roll form of solidarity.
Two days later, Peyton told me that all wasn’t actually well with the band. Their merch guy had been killed. It was someone that he didn’t know well, but had met a couple of times, a good guy. Too close to home.
I read many reports in the couple of days following in which journalists had to explain that the band’s name is a joke, that they aren’t really death metal or about death at all. I sighed, exasperated for them. They never asked for this kind of exposure, where everyone’s grandma and her dog knows their name, and only in a way that will forever be tainted with bloodshed and fear.
I am so grateful in my selfish way that, despite never having the fame he deserved, my husband is at home on the couch not experiencing this kind of recognition. That I can hold him close and know he is safe in my arms, at least for this moment. That there aren’t media outlets all over the world writing pieces trying to parse why his band was targeted. That politicians and strategists aren’t talking about a project he came up over a beer with some friends in someone’s studio one night that was a helluva lot of fun for years until suddenly any mention of it was to talk about one of the worst things that ever happened.