Dan Auerbach — singer/guitarist for the Black Keys and his side project, the Arcs — was in Paris at the time of the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks. He is now recounting the terrifying experience that has left him with “survivor’s remorse.”
Auerbach was playing a Friday night show with the Arcs at Le Trianon, a venue less than three miles away from Le Bataclan, Rolling Stone reports. While he was onstage, people at Le Bataclan – a place that is eerily similar (in size and history) to the venue he was in — were being held hostage and getting killed. Although several attacks took place around Paris, the death toll at Le Bataclan alone reached 118.
“The Black Keys played the Bataclan almost five years ago to the day … It just really hit home,” he writes in an essay published on Rolling Stone’s website. “I know people that were there last night. I know people who are like, ‘What am I gonna do — see the Arcs or the Eagles of Death Metal?” And I’ve woken up feeling very out of sorts. What do you call it, survivor’s remorse? Why the hell did it happen there and not where we were playing? I’m just so brokenhearted about all those people.”
News of the attack at Le Bataclan began to trickle in after Auerbach and his band got off the stage. He texted Eagles of Death Metal’s Josh Homme to ask if he was all right, and Homme responded that he was fine — but at the time, Auerbach didn’t realize that he wasn’t on tour with the band.
“Then it turned out to be true. It’s just awful. We were playing a club almost the same as the Eagles of Death Metal: a 1,500-seat, 150-year-old theater a mile away from them, an American band. It’s crazy,” he says.
“They locked down the building. We were there for about an hour. We heard there were still gunmen on the loose. We knew there were two separate hostage situations. We were on a balcony. We had a good vantage point. We were hunkered down listening for gunshots. We had people guarding all the doors, which were all locked up. We saw the helicopters flying above us; police cars just screaming by,” he recalls.
Despite the announcement that France’s borders were closed, the Arcs’ tour manager was able to get the band out of town. They rode all the way to Milan.
While they got out of Paris unharmed, Auerbach later got word of the death of Nick Alexander, who he’d worked with for many years. Alexander was acting as the merchandise manager at the Eagles of Death Metal show when he was shot and killed.
“He was part of our family basically,” Auerbach says.
Read his full essay at Rolling Stone.