Like everyone in the wake of last night’s mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas, I am trying to comprehend the incomprehensible today. In the days ahead, there will be debates about gun control and mental health care and what should and shouldn’t considered terrorism — all are important and necessary conversations, even if in the absence of tangible action they’ve come to feel a little rote.
As a person who attends dozens of concerts per year and values the live music experience as a sacred ritual, my immediate reaction is to ponder a different, numbingly familiar question.
Why do these attackers keep targeting my fellow music fans?
Let’s go over the senseless tragedies that have occurred just in the past two years. In 2015, there was the massacre during an Eagles Of Death Metal show at La Bataclan in Paris, where three armed men murdered 130 people. In 2016, there was the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, previously the worst mass shooting in modern US history, in which 49 people were killed. In May, a bomb went off at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, killing 22 and injuring 59 people, many of whom were adolescent and teenaged girls. In July, 28 people were injured when gunfire broke out during a concert in Little Rock, Arkansas by rapper Finesse 2Tymes, an incident that was relatively under-reported, perhaps because our standards for what constitutes notable carnage in these situations has exponentially increased. And now there’s the horror of Las Vegas, which has already replaced Orlando as the new worst mass shooting, even as we wait to learn the exact number of casualties.
It’s true that people have died at concerts before now. But the difference is that these disasters used to be caused by gross negligence or incompetence. The havoc wreaked by biker “security guards” during a Rolling Stones concert at Altamont Speedway in 1969, the deadly stampede at a concert by The Who in 1979, the malfunctioning pyrotechnics that burned down a Rhode Island bar during a Great White show in 2003 — these were all terrible accidents. They were preventable, but they weren’t deliberate acts of murder and mayhem. They were essentially freak occurrences that happened so rarely that they came to mark different generations.
But this recent wave of mass homicide feels malicious as it has rapidly become the new normal at music venues. It doesn’t matter if you listen to rock, pop, country, rap, or dance music. It doesn’t matter where you live, or how old you are, or whether you’re a man, woman, white, black, brown, gay, or straight. Everyone has been impacted.