The leader and guitarist of American rock band Eagles of Death Metal told a Paris court how they watched from the stage in confusion and horror as terrorists opened fire on the crowd during their sold-out concert at the Bataclan in 2015.
Jesse Hughes, the band’s lead singer, and Eden Galindo, a guitarist, both said the attack, which left 90 people dead, changed their lives forever.
They had traveled to Paris to testify in the largest criminal trial in France, on the attacks claimed by the Islamic State on November 13, 2015. A total of 130 people were killed and more than 400 injured in suicide attacks synchronized and mass shootings across the French. capital, from the national stadium to bars and restaurants, not forgetting the Bataclan rock concert.
Hughes, 49, said the gig should have been the best of their tour and he was “really excited” to perform in Paris.
He said he instantly recognized the sound of gunfire when three men armed with suicide vests burst in mid-show and opened fire. “Being from a desert community in California, I know the sound of gunfire,” he said.
As other band members hesitated and wondered what was going on, Hughes said he “knew death was upon us”. He said the group “ran for their lives” while “nearly 90 of my friends [the fans] were murdered in front of us”.
The band escaped through a side door after Hughes reunited with his girlfriend in the concert hall.
Arthur Dénouveaux, a rock fan who is now president of the survivor group Life for Paris, was among the fans who managed to escape at the same time. He led the band members on a run through the streets of Paris, handed them €50 and put them in a taxi to the nearest police station, where they found other fans covered in blood.
While waiting there, they learned that Nick Alexander, who had worked on the band’s merchandise at the gig, had been killed.
Hughes said six years later he was still nervous watching in crowds and had been anxious about giving evidence, with rising emotions he thought he had overcome. But he said, “Evil didn’t win… You can’t kill rock ‘n’ roll.”
Galindo, 52, said it was a big show, with everyone dancing, and he didn’t catch the sound of gunfire at first, thinking it was the PA system. He said there were so many people in front of the stage they couldn’t move and he recalled the faces of the fans looking at the band and the stage in confusion as the terrorists opened fire.
“We thought it was going to stop, but it just kept happening,” Galindo told the court. “After a while they reloaded and a technician said to us, ‘Next time they stop, we run.’ .
He eventually left the group. “I will never be the same after that night,” he said, adding that he thought of the families of the victims every day.
Hughes, who arrived at the courthouse earlier on Tuesday, had been asked by the media about how he felt about being in court facing Salah Abdeslam, believed to be the last survivor of the 10-man cell that punched through Paris that night, along with several others accused of planning or aiding the attacks.
Hughes said: “I’m a Christian and everyone can be lost and everyone has to find the way and most of the gentlemen out there do so I forgive them and hope they find the way themselves. peace of God.”