Last week, the live music scene was shaken to its very core on a world stage following the horrific terrorist attack in Manchester, U.K.
We caught up with both bands on Slam Dunk Festival’s middle date, in England’s northern city of Leeds, to talk about playing that show, the bravery of their fans, and how terror won’t ever bring live music to its knees.
Cody Carson from Set It Off
“We were laying down in our beds in Bristol and we saw the news, then the threat level was raised,” Set It Off’s Cody Carson recalls. “It was a critical condition and military was being sent onto the streets. We were playing in Manchester in two days.
“Our song ‘Life Afraid’ was written about the attacks in Paris the day it happened,” he continues, “because our first-ever European tour ended with Yellowcard at Le Bataclan. So, I felt like it would have been cowardly, deceitful and fake of us to not play. How am I going to write a song about not living my life afraid and then cancel the show? I refuse to do that. We decided to play—the only way it wouldn’t have happened was if the venue cancelled on us.
“We were fully prepared for people to not feel safe and not go,” he says, “but it was quite the contrary. People were lined up out there at 9 a.m. I went to the promoter and asked what the security was like that day; I wanted them to check every bag, and he assured me that everyone was getting patted down.
“I want people to feel like music is a safe place,” Carson continues, “because it’s such an outlet for so many kids and that could be taken away. That might happen to some kids—because of that one show, they might not get to go to a live show because their parents are afraid of it, and that sucks.
“For us, it was very emotional.”
“I’m a huge worrier, but for some reason I was calm,” Carson says. “I thought: We’re here, we did the show and if anything were to happen, I would be so happy that I was doing what I loved doing. That went through my head, I won’t lie. For us, it was very emotional. I wanted to give the fans a show where they’d feel united and strong, and they were. They were brave.
“I’ve seen police with heavy artillery machine-guns here at Slam Dunk,” Carson says.. “It’s interesting to see that out here; I’m glad, it makes me feel safe. But at the same time, after something like that happens, it’s always going to be in your head. You can’t let it affect you, you can’t let it affect the show, you can’t let it affect your job—otherwise you might as well quit, and we’re not in the business of quitting.”
Keaton Pierce from Too Close To Touch
For Too Close To Touch, it was the band’s first time ever performing in the U.K.—two days after the attacks in Manchester.
“We were in a hotel just south of London,” vocalist Keaton Pierce recalls. “It was late at night and we started seeing things about the attack. It was shocking and surreal. It’s really hard to wrap your head around, especially knowing that we were going there and when it happened at an event that is also your career.”
The band played Bristol the next day and weren’t sure what the turnout would be like for their show in Manchester—especially after noticing their fans were tweeting that their parents weren’t allowing them to attend.
“We showed up and there was a line of kids,” Pierce says. “It was really beautiful to see. It was inspirational.
“The show was almost sold out and there was this feeling of love in the air and everyone was more united; it was a very special show. I’ve been making a point of thanking everyone for not being afraid before we play ‘Nerve Endings’ in our set—which is a pretty emotional song—because this is a place where you’re supposed to feel safe and you’re supposed get lost in the music. You shouldn’t have to worry about anyone trying to take that away from you.
“There was a slight feeling of fear, but the whole point of terrorism to strike fear in people,” Pierce continues. “At the end of the day, if you let yourself be afraid, then they’ve won and you can’t let fear keep you from doing the things that you love.
“We knew what we had to do; those kids look up to us and to play and show them our strength was only going to help fortify theirs and bring everyone together for an incredible experience, and that’s what it was.”