There’s a story in Please Kill Me about when someone, I think Johnny Thunders, died and during his funeral, Steven Tyler kept telling people, “that could have been me!” That selfishness of trying to steal the moment from a body a few feet away left a really poor impression on the mourners in earshot who were there to pay their last respects to a loved one, and not to celebrate the guy who would create future sonic catastrophes on the back of a mediocre film decades later somehow not killing himself.
I bring this up because, in recent years, I’m reminded of it every time some sort of tragedy befalls a concert. Scores of bands (and people who like to tell their coworkers they’re in a rock band) take to social media to post some long-winded rant about how they’re shaken up because it could have been them.
It shows this disgusting need to try to place ourselves in narratives that don’t belong to us. It’s an exercise in vanity where we’re saying, “Look at me, I’m both a musician and sensitive,” which is redundant since most musicians (myself included) take every other chance we have to remind you about it. And being sensitive? It’s about as sensitive a move as an inch-thick condom you use while watching footage from a child’s funeral.
It’s definitely lower on the scale of things for which you should slam your hand in a car door before posting than arguments for why we need personal assault cannons or people jerking off to Alex Jones, but it’s still fucking gross. It’s along the same lines of the 700 punk or grind or whatever bands who just wrote a “fuck Trump!” song while I was typing this so they could put it on a shirt or sticker or a fucking beer koozie to help move product in the capitalistic manner they probably have numerous songs decrying. And that sentiment is fine unless said bands are doing it because it’s fashionable and they hope to court controversy or cling to relevancy. I guess this is straying a bit, but at least there are some bands who’ve taken on the burden of having that stupid asshole on something with their name on it and used the money they’ve made for something other than their own gain.
Could it have been you? Technically, it could have been. It could have been anyone. But it wasn’t you. You’re still alive and able to make asinine statements, thus taking you out of the equation. It’s not your moment, it never was. Our society has created this incessant need to make everything about us rather than just standing back and keeping these kinds of thoughts to ourselves.
And if you’re sincerely having anxiety because you are actually afraid this sort of thing could happen when you’re playing or attending a show, then there are a few things you can do. No, changing your fucking profile picture isn’t one of them. You can donate money to charities helping the victims. If you’re broke, you can donate blood. They even give you orange juice! If your blood is no good or you’re anti-American and hate citrus, you can write your congressional leaders and bitch to them. Holy shit, you can actually vote in elections that aren’t presidential, too!
Most importantly, if you’re feeling like this could be the precipice of quitting your involvement in music: don’t. I know that seems counter-intuitive to what I’ve said for years about your bands sucking and needing to get a real job, but I never listened when you told me the same thing. Giving up your passion because you’re afraid someone might land a plane into the Battle of the Bands is stupid. There’s countless ways you could (and will!) die. Better there than a rest stop bathroom.
Back to my original point: If something like Las Vegas (or Paris, etc.) happens again, show some fucking decorum and keep your trap shut. Process it internally or talk to your friends. But the internet is already a big enough pissing contest of stunted adults vying for attention that you could make a difference and shut the fuck up for once. The silence is bliss.
Semi-related: if donating to Las Vegas charities isn’t your bag, the people of Puerto Rico are still beyond fucked and the news shifted because most of the country doesn’t realize Puerto Rico is also a part of the United States. They’re going to need help rebuilding for a long time.