When terrorists stormed an Eagles of Death Metal show at Bataclan theatre in December of last year, killing 89 attendees, the events understandably left the band shaken and distraught.
There was an outpouring of support from the music community to singer Jesse Hughes and the band. In a famous gesture, an artist placed a piano right outside the riddled theater and began playing Jon Lennon’s “Imagine” to an emotional crowd of Onlookers. The message was that music and peace would prevail over terror and fear.
When U2 took the stage in Paris this past December to make up for their cancelled show in the wake of the attack, lead singer Bono invited Eagles of Death Metal out onto stage for the show’s encore finale. It was a stirring moment that reverberated throughout the arena.
But that was then and this is now, and today Eagles of Death Metal find themselves embroiled in controversy regarding speech and artistic expression in the same country that rallied around them after the Bataclan massacre.
Slated to appear at the upcoming French music festivals Rock en Seine and Cabaret Vert, the band has reportedly been pulled from both festival line ups. The reason cited by festival officials?
Disagree with the recent statements made by Jesse Hughes, Eagles of Death Metal singer, an American media, Cabaret Vert and festivals Rock en Seine have decided today to cancel the concerts of the group that were scheduled this summer. Thank you for your understanding.
Translation: Event organizers are canceling appearances by Eagles of Death Metal due to recent statements by members of the band, specifically Hughes.
The “statements” the festival organizers are referring to were made by Hughes to Takimag.com:
I saw Muslims celebrating in the street during the attack. I saw it with my own eyes. In real time. How did they know what was going on? There must have been coordination.
Hughes, no stranger to controversy concerning Muslims and free speech, apologized, and chalked the interview up to a traumatic reaction to the shooting. This is understandable. Members of the band’s own road crew were among the dead and Hughes and band members have struggled to recount the episode in interviews for Vice and others.
The obvious question, then, is this: Was there an expiration date on Je Suis Eagles of Death Metal? What happened to all those artists and musicians who sang anthems to free expression and embraced the survivors with open arms?
Apparently, they didn’t mean it. Last year, the people of France marched arm-in-arm declaring that they would not cower in fear, that they would not bow to terror, and that they would not punish people for speaking out. Last year, musicians and artists across France stood up for Eagles of Death Metal’s right to free expression, among others.
Now would be the time to show that they meant it.