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Backstage With Elias: Eagles of Death Metal, a Retrospective

In light of the events happening in Paris, I am compelled to share my thoughts on a previous experience, and how personal, and close to home yesterday’s brutal and bloody massacre hit for me. I had the opportunity to work with California based Eagles of Death Metal (EoDM) in September 2006. The venue was the Showplace Theatre on Grant Street, and the gig was booked by ESI.

I was in the theatre in the afternoon getting gear ready for the load in and set up. The band shows up, and the first person I meet was Jesse Hughes, vocalist and co-founder of the group. With him was former bassist Brian ‘Big Hands’ O’Connor. His nickname was no joke either, the guy had massive hands. Guitarist Dave Catching followed, he is still with the group, and their session drummer, whose name I cannot recall showed up some time after. Co-founder Josh Homme was not with the group on this tour. With them was their head engineer, I cannot recall his name either, but we worked together closely and collectively – we put on a great show to a packed house.

Working in the live music field, we understand that this is a people business, and we are not working with ‘rock stars’. They were such a pleasure to work with, totally professional, incredibly friendly, and yes, after the work was done, we did party like rock stars with this bunch of regular guys. One of the things that stuck with me was when Dave the guitarist returned after sound check, he walks in to the group with a speaker device, mp3 player friendly, and says “Look at this, I just picked it up at Target.” So I’m thinking, rock star dudes shop at Target also, I can dig that… It was an evening I’ve often thought about fondly many times since.

Yesterday ended up being a busy day for me. I had to set up a PA and then hurry to set up and run lights for another show. In between, I heard about the stadium attacks, and that it was a developing story. By the time we were ready to start, the sound man brought up what was happening, and I mentioned the stadium situation, and he says “No, it’s in the hundreds.” So once I was settled, just before showtime, I check my Twitter feed and see things like coordinated attacks, restaurants, and also a concert hall, Le Bataclan to be exact. Then I see a report that it was EoDM that was performing, and that there were 100 hostages taken. That’s when my heart really sank. I’ve never cried just before a show, but I had to do my best to keep it together. The show went on, it was very peaceful, and afterwards, we all felt we collectively put on a great show. Ironically, it was held in a Catholic church. The truth is there was no other place I would have rather been, at that moment. The only thing that would have made it better is if my wife and children were with me also.

Music is Art ran a campaign a number of months back called “Music is_____”. I never put up a picture with the blank filled in, but I always believed that the answer is love. Anytime anyone gathers for a performance, it is because they love it. We work in this crazy field because we love it. What we witnessed yesterday was a massacre of innocent people who gathered together in the name of love. Though all the loss of life yesterday are equally heartbreaking, it was incredibly hard hitting to the music community. Believed killed are a merchandising representative of the band, and the head sound engineer, who would have been stationed out on the floor. I am not sure if it was the same guy they brought with them in 2006. The band was about an hour into their performance when the love was shattered by people with evil in their hearts.

My experience in being a part of a show, the energy within is uniting. We do become one. From the stage, to the production crew, to the audience, to the venue workers and everyone associated with a given event. We do become a family when we plug in to that energy. EoDM lost many family members last night. By extension, the worldwide music community lost many family members too. We will mourn, we will heal, and we will be better and stronger. That is the beauty of life. You can take out the body, but you cannot kill the spirit of love and music, it will always be there. The show will go on…

Written by Elias Benavides

Elias Benavides

A goofy kid from Buffalo's lower west side who loved to play the guitar and loved live music. Has moved on to sound engineering, stage lighting, anything live music. Now he's writing about musicians on BR too. Why am I talking in the third person?

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