As some might have already read, Lamb of God recently decided to cancel their remaining European tour dates amidst safety concerns culminating from the Paris attacks. Here is front man Randy Blythe’s lengthy statement on the matter, posted originally on his personal blog Randonesia.
At the request of management, I have agreed to write a post concerning our recently cancelled tour of Europe. I wouldn’t have bothered to do this on my own, since a rather self-explanatory general statement has already been made explaining our reasons for leaving and that seems more than sufficient to me- the basic gist of the post was that something specific occurred that made some of us in the band feel that it was unwise to continue on with the tour, potentially putting ourselves, our crew, and large numbers of defenseless people in harm’s way. Simple enough. And I won’t elaborate on the details of that occurrence here, since I have no wish to add to the atmosphere of speculation and fear that currently surrounds terrorist activities in Europe- there are way too many ill-informed running mouths across the globe making an already tense, highly complex, and extremely fluid situation on that continent even worse. I feel pretty ridiculous even writing this (who knew deciding to cancel a tour after venues you have played start getting blown up would require any sort of explanation to anyone?), but since I have been asked nicely to do so by the people I employ to manage my band, I will.
And as one of the band members who said “I am done here,” I will speak solely for myself, not my band as a whole. I have no problem with this because, well, because frankly I don’t give a rat’s ass what most people think of me in general- historically, other people’s opinions of what I should or shouldn’t do or say hasn’t made much of an impact on my decision making process, and it’s not about to start now. Besides, I’m already more than used to being the bad guy, so I won’t lose any sleep over the inevitable pissy internet comments. That kind of stuff just isn’t significant enough to keep me up at night, and I don’t pay much attention to it anyway- I’ll leave that to the hand-wringers and gossipmongers who have nothing better to do. So here is what I have to say, and it’s all I’m going to say on this matter, PERIOD- those with just half of a functional brain in their heads will easily understand, the rest… well, who really gives a fuck what you (don’t) think anyway? Certainly not me.
Obviously, no working band wants to cancel a tour, especially once it is underway- fans get disappointed, a lot of money gets lost by several different groups of people, a massive amount of time is wasted by all parties involved, it’s generally an all-around bad business move, and (trust me) it’s just a huge pain in the ass. My band is not in the habit of cancelling tours, so unless there is a family emergency, we carry on regardless of almost anything. And lots of “interesting” things have occurred in our 21 years of existence as a band. We have taken the stage five minutes after martial law has been declared (Bangkok, Thailand), we have been stuck in airports for multiple days unable to enter a country because the armed forces and the police force of that country have decided to go to war with each other (Ecuador), we have narrowly missed, driven through, or managed to maneuver around deadly natural catastrophes (earthquakes in China, floods in Poland, hurricanes here in America, and more). Personally, I’ve gone onstage with a broken arm, broken ribs, various broken toes, a broken nose, staples in my forehead due to a stage dive gone wrong- hell, I’ve even been to prison in a foreign country, gotten out after a month, and played massive gigs a little over a week later. In fact, before the first night of this very tour had even gotten underway, I met a group of particularly unpleasant young people on a dark street and consequently played the first few shows with a banging headache.
My band and I aren’t even strangers to touring in an environment of terror- just over a month after September 11, 2001 we played in Times Square, downtown Manhattan, New York City (a lot of bands, especially European bands, cancelled tours of the States around that time, and I didn’t blame them- it was a seriously heavy time to be in America). But such is the life of a touring musician, so something really, really serious has to occur to make us cancel.
And something really, really serious (and utterly heartbreaking) did occur in Paris, prompting several bands to go home early or cancel upcoming tours- I couldn’t blame them. But my band didn’t leave- we paid attention to what was going on, evaluated the situation the best we could, and decided to continue on with the tour. Despite some obvious concerns, it felt like the right thing to do.
Sitting in a hotel room in London, as I followed along in real-time during the tragic massacre in Paris at Bataclan I could see the layout of the club in my mind, and I thought “That is a terrible spot to be trapped in like that (which of course is exactly why the gunmen chose it)- God help those people inside.” It was sickening to me that people were dying just because they wanted to see a rock show, and what made it worse was that I could clearly envision it happening as it went down- I’d played that club several times before. 89 people died in Bataclan that night, including one individual known to several crew members of our tour. The next day the mood was serious before the gig, but all the bands got up and played their hearts out- it felt like the right thing to do, to try and raise people’s spirits. From the stage, I told the audience to try not to be consumed by hatred or to live in fear- after all, we were still onstage, people had come out, and no one wants to sit around and be overwhelmed by anger, anxiety, and sadness over something they have no control over. It was an emotional show for everyone involved.
The next day the tour played another smaller UK gig in Birmingham. I was forced to stop the show so an injured member of the crowd could be carried out to an ambulance, but overall it still felt good, like we were doing the right thing.
Then the band and crew flew to Stuttgart, Germany. We had originally planned to ride the ferry from Dover, England to Calais, France and from there make our way to Germany, but after the bombings and shootings in Paris the French government shut the borders, and we figured either the ferry wouldn’t be available or it would just be a complete security nightmare, so we spent money on flights. Imagine my surprise when I talked to our bus driver the day of our gig in Stuttgart, asking him how crowded and hectic the ferry ride was- “Oh, no, it was almost empty,” he said “And when we got to France, we were just waved in- there were no cops there at the border or anywhere in sight.” Umm… ok. That seemed just a little loose to me, given that just three days previously men who had traveled from a nearby different country had blown themselves up in Paris after massacring over 100 human beings, but I’m no security expert, so what do I know, right? Right before I walked onstage in Stuttgart, I saw on the news that they evacuated a soccer stadium north of us in Hannover, Germany due to threat of explosives. I didn’t exactly feel relaxed going onstage that night, but it turned out to be a great gig, despite once again me having to stop the show so another injured crowd member could get wheeled out to an ambulance (two gigs in a row of people getting badly hurt was a real bummer for sure though- it really throws things off when you know an audience member is injured). And so we continued on through mainland Europe to Tilburg, Netherlands- once again, it felt like the right thing to do.
I woke up in a great mood around 1 or 2 pm on the day of the Tilburg show (I like Holland, and always enjoy my time there), went into the venue, ate lunch and began looking online to see if there was a camera store nearby. Sometime later that afternoon, soon before the band was scheduled to soundcheck, our tour manager called us together, closed the dressing room door, and said “I’ve got some news, and it’s not good.” He then informed us of a specific occurrence that made me immediately say “Fuck this, I’m not going on that stage tonight.”
At that moment, it no longer felt like the right thing to do anymore, not at all. It did not feel like the right thing to still stand on stage and tell people “Don’t worry about it- come on in and enjoy yourselves. There’s no need for concern.” It did not feel like the right thing- not for myself, not for the people I employ, and not for our fans. Things had quickly changed- it felt foolish, it felt irresponsible, and it felt potentially very, very dangerous.
As I mentioned earlier, I do not wish to add more rumors or speculation to an already tense and constantly shifting situation in Europe, so I won’t go into details. Suffice it to say, this new specific piece of information (not some nebulous news story about the generally pensive atmosphere pervading Europe at the time) gave me enough to pause to think “I am not going to chance endangering the lives of myself, my crew, and the 1,800 or so fans expected to show up this evening by going on with this show. I can’t tell these people they are safe in here. It does not feel right, screw this, I’m out of here.” Furthermore, what I had just been told made me think “Even if it’s nothing tonight, I’m not going to go through this every day. Our job is done here for now- it’s time to go home. It doesn’t feel safe enough to cram ourselves and hundreds of people into venues anymore.”
And I wasn’t the only one who thought or spoke that way, but since I’m writing this, I’ll own it here. That was my judgement call, I stand by it, I was at the time (and I remain to this very second) completely and utterly 100% unapologetic about it to anyone anywhere, and if placed in the same situation right this instant the only thing I would do differently would be somehow get the words “Fuck this, I’m done” out of my mouth quicker (which would probably be difficult, but I would damn sure try). Shortly after our tour manager told the club manager we had decided not to play, the venue put a press release saying the gig was cancelled, and our crew began to pack up everything onstage. The doors never opened to the general public, and I feel very, very good about being part of the decision that caused that. Why?
Because aside from some grumpy fans’s feelings, no one got hurt that night. To my knowledge, everyone made it home ok. Sure, if we had done the show, maybe nothing would have happened anyway. Maybe it would have been a great gig, as all our gigs at that club have been before. Maybe cancelling the gig was all for nothing.
But maybe not. And if things had gone badly, afterwards while I sat talking to the cops (because in all probability, once guns started going off, I would have made it out the nearby back exit while the fans and maybe some of my crew got stuck inside and gunned downed or blown to bits like those poor people in Paris), I would have said to myself “You got some specific information. You knew there was something potentially sketchy. You didn’t feel right about this. Why didn’t you just cancel the show, you stupid, selfish, idiot?”
When I said I was done, did I know that some fans would be bummed out about our cancelling the tour? Yes. Did I realize that this was going to cost us a lot of money? Yes. Did I know that some people would be incapable of understanding why we were going home and complain about it? Yes. Did I care? Hell no. And I still don’t- in fact, looking at news about the current situation in Europe, I feel better and better about leaving before something else happened, either at our show or anywhere else over there. I don’t feel like constantly wondering what the security climate in the next country we are scheduled to play in is, playing terror alert hopscotch through Europe right now just to play a few fucking heavy metal concerts- I’m glad I’m home. I feel like I made the right decision, and that’s all that matters to me. I don’t care what anyone else thinks.
Once a few years ago in Europe, I made a poor decision to let a show go on, despite the fact that that show was obviously dangerous and out of control. While the particular circumstances were very different than what was happening in Tilburg, the general problem was the same- there was a possibility that band members and/or fans could get hurt. I ignored that possibility, and as it turned out, a fan did get hurt that night- in fact, he died a month later as a result of his injuries. I went to prison in Europe for a bit over it, got out on bail, then returned to Europe to stand trial and face up to any responsibility I may have had in the matter- that story is pretty well known, so I won’t bother explaining it further. What I will say is that I already have one dead person in Europe forever attached to my name- I won’t add anymore if I can prevent it, no matter who it pisses off or disappoints. I’m not going to play around with my life or the lives of others if I feel there is a dangerous situation I could potentially stop from occurring by simply saying “The show is over.” It’s not worth it to me, and if someone can’t understand or won’t accept my reasoning, then I have nothing for them but a firmly raised middle finger.
I will not be castigated or chastised for making a decision I felt was in the best interest of the safety of a) first and foremost, myself, and b) hundreds of other people. Like it or lump it, that’s the way it fucking is.
I hope that the situation in Europe and everywhere else calms down, posthaste (and yes, I know that an attack could occur in America- obviously, I’d feel better about being at home to help deal with it the best I could, or at the very least die on my native soil). I hope no one else dies anywhere on the planet (and this is a global problem) because some misguided maniacs with suicide vests and Kalashnikovs decide to martyr themselves over their twisted interpretation of divine will. But yesterday at least 21 people died in Mali during a hostage situation at the hands of terrorists, and as I write this, Milan, Italy (where we were booked in three days) is on high alert. And the city of Brussels (where we were scheduled to play next week) has been placed on the highest possible alert, with governmental officials telling people to avoid high concentration areas like sporting events, train depots, airports, and… concerts. Downtown is basically shut down, and I’m more than happy we won’t be filling a concert venue there (or any other place at the moment) for something to potentially go terribly, terribly wrong. The way I feel, to do so at this particular time seems not only risky to myself, but irresponsible to our crew and fans- enormously, cosmically, irresponsible. And as of this second, the venue we were supposed to play in Brussels is closed anyway. I guess they don’t feel safe remaining open at this time, what with their government basically telling everyone to expect something really bad to happen at any moment. Not the best environment for a rock show.
While we were still on tour, when other bands canceled their tours immediately after the attacks in Paris, one typical and very widespread online reaction I saw (and was completely baffled by) was “ISIS wins! By not playing, they are letting ISIS win!”
“By not playing, they are letting ISIS win”? People, do you have any idea of how colossally stupid this sounds?
Please crawl out of the hive mind echo chamber for a second and try to use your own head for a change- these are ROCK BANDS trying to play a gig without being gunned down onstage, not Navy SEALS assaulting a mountain stronghold in the Hindu Kush. You aren’t going to stop a bullet with a ripping guitar solo- Jimi fucking Hendrix couldn’t do that, even if he resurrected and came back to rock Europe one more time. This isn’t a game of Mortal Kombat or a goddamn G.I Joe cartoon or just some news story- almost 100 people died horrific deaths just over a week ago, screaming with terror as they were gunned down like fish in a barrel simply because they were crammed into a club trying to have a good time at a rock show. These were real human beings, not blips in a Twitter feed. Tragically, more people might die before it’s over. I hope not, but overall the situation in Europe doesn’t look good at this second. I encourage those of you who don’t agree with my assessment of the situation to immediately book a ticket to Belgium, walk around with picket signs in front of Ancienne Belgique (the club we were booked to play in Brussels) and yell at them about how they aren’t properly fighting terrorism by closing their doors. I’m sure your presence there will do the people of Brussels a ton of good. Hell, the Belgian authorities will probably immediately give you a job as a high-ranking officer in their anti-terrorism task force (since you obviously know how to end the current crisis).
Right now, several of my friends remain in Europe on tour. I hope they have good gigs, I hope they stay safe over there, and I hope (most importantly) that they return home safely to their loved ones. It is their decision to stay, and I respect that. When you join a touring band, you aren’t issued some sort of rock-n-roll handbook that reads “Section C: In case the country you are touring in falls under threat of attack by homicidal Jihadists, viable options are: A) play only secret basement shows until the threat passes, B) appeal to the local armed forces for a loan of assault rifles, C) issue body armor to all band, crew, and concert attendees D) roll the dice and hope for the best or E) catch the next thing smoking home.” There is no textbook answer for a situation like this, so I can’t even pretend to say what other people should or shouldn’t do. I can only do what I think is the right thing to do for me and mine, and so I did. I stayed on tour in Europe until something concrete, not a general sense of dread, made me decide to go home. And I don’t regret going home in the slightest- not one tiny shred.
None of this makes me happy- not cancelling a tour, not losing money, not bumming out fans, not people having to worry about being blown up, and especially not people dying. It sucks on a very, very deep level. And I hope nothing else happens. I honestly hope we cancelled a tour for absolutely nothing, so that people can point their fat little fingers at this later and laugh their heads off at my unwarranted concerns. I would rather be ridiculed by the entire online virtual peanut gallery of pinheads than take chances on myself or anyone else getting hurt or killed (and yes, I include even the dummies who are mad and still can’t understand why we cancelled) because I ignored what I felt was the smartest move given our circumstances. I can deal with people disagreeing with me and my actions, no problem. I could not deal with a news story that reads “Hundreds die at lamb of god concert; authorities say potential warning signs were ignored by band.”
Then people would have something of actual consequence to bitch about, not a few cancelled heavy metal concerts- “How could those fucking American morons play a show when they thought something might happen? Why didn’t they cancel? Now there are dead people everywhere- what a bunch of ASSHOLES.” No thanks- better safe than on CNN.
Y’all stay safe, and let’s hope this mess gets sorted out soon.
That is all I have to say.