Bataclan attack trial: Who are Eagles of Death Metal, the band playing when Isis attacked the Paris music venue?

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Bataclan attack trial: Who are Eagles of Death Metal, the band playing when Isis attacked the Paris music venue?
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Paris is on high alert as the trial of 20 men accused of perpetrating a string of deadly terror attacks in the French capital on the night of 13 November 2015 finally gets underway.

The atrocities carried out by Islamist militants on the Stade de France, at six restaurants and cafes along the 10th and 11th arrondissement and at the Bataclan concert hall led to the deaths of 130 people and left another 500 injured and the nation in a state of shock.

The attacks were subsequently claimed by Isis as a retaliation against France for “insulting” the Prophet Muhammad by carrying out airstrikes against its militia in Syria and Iraq.

At the Bataclan, the American rock band Eagles of Death Metal were on stage, midway through their set and performing “Kiss the Devil”, when the jihadists burst into a venue filled with 1,500 fans and started firing randomly into the crowd with automatic rifles, eventually detonating their suicide vests when French special forces stormed the theatre.

Ninety people lost their lives amid the melee as spectators scrambled for the exits during intervals in the shooting when the killers reloaded their weapons, while others died refusing to leave the side of wounded friends.

The band’s frontman Jesse Hughes, guitarist Eden Galindo and drummer Julian Doria managed to escape into a sidestreet via a backstage door, eventually finding sanctuary inside a local police station with the help of bystanders.

Bassist Matt McJunkins hid with fans inside a dressing room, the group armed only with a champagne bottle to defend itself, while another guitarist, Dave Catching, took cover in a bathroom before being rescued by police.

The group’s British merchandise vendor, Nick Alexander, 36, was killed by the attackers.

Perhaps the best-known member of Eagles of Death Metal, co-founder Josh Homme, had not taken part in the band’s European tour and was not there that night due to prior commitments with his other group, Queens of the Stone Age.

Five days after the attack, the band issued a statement thanking “the French police, the FBI, the US and French State Departments, and especially all those at ground zero with us who helped each other as best they could during this unimaginable ordeal, proving once again that love overshadows evil”.

Still shaken, they gave an account of their ordeal to Vice the following week, in which a visibly traumatised and emotional Hughes recalled the moment he first spotted one of the gunmen as he searched for girlfriend, Tuesday Cross: “I saw the shooter. He turned and brought the gun down on me but the barrel hit the doorframe.”

Sound engineer Shawn London gave a similar account of locking eyes with one of the terrorists in the auditorium: “He looked right at me. He shot at me and missed. It hit my console and buttons went flying everywhere.”

Eagles of Death Metal returned to Paris on 7 December to support U2 and performed their song “I Love You All the Time”, which, in the intervening weeks, had been covered by a wide range of artists for charity, including Kings of Leon, Florence + The Machine, Imagine Dragons, My Morning Jacket, Jimmy Eat World and Savages.

A Facebook campaign had also promoted the band’s cover of Duran Duran’s “Save a Prayer” in response to the attacks.

The following day, they returned to the site of the attack to pay their respects to the victims.

Jesse Hughes and Julian Dorio examine tributes to the victims of the attacks outside the Bataclan in December 2015 (AFP/Getty)
Jesse Hughes and Julian Dorio examine tributes to the victims of the attacks outside the Bataclan in December 2015 (AFP/Getty)

Thereafter, the band resumed its tour, renamed the “Nos Amis Tour” (“Our Friends Tour”) and filmed by actor Colin Hanks for HBO, as a show of defiance against jihadism, the concert series including a return appointment at the Bataclan on February 2016 to finish their aborted set.

The gesture was somewhat marred when Hughes later speculated during interviews with the right-wing website Taki’s Magazine and with the Fox Business news channel that Muslim members of the Bataclan security staff might have been involved in the terrorists’ plot.

A survivor of the 13 November attack, Ismael El Iraki, wrote an impassioned letter to him condemning his “stupid and hateful” remarks and the singer subsequently retracted his comments as “unfounded and baseless” in a Facebook post, apologising and saying he had experienced “non-stop nightmares” since the incident.

He was then apparently turned away from the Bataclan’s reopening concert by the venue’s manager, Jules Frutos, a year to the day after the atrocity in response to his comments.

However, the band’s manager, Mark Pollack, denied this event had taken place and called Frutos a “coward” for suggesting otherwise. Nevertheless it was Sting who reopened the hall, not Eagles of Death Metal, with The Libertines also performing at the venue on 16 November.

Before they became frontpage news, the band was formed by Hughes and Homme in Palm Desert, California, in 1998. Their name was apparently taken from an argument with a man in a club in Soho, London, who insisted that the song “Wind of Change” by German rockers The Scorpions qualified as death metal.

“No it’s not. This is like The Eagles of death metal,” Homme told him, citing the soft rock group best known for their 1976 hit single “Hotel California”.

The band has released four original studio albums to date - Peace, Love, Death Metal (2004), Death by Sexy (2006), Heart On (2008) and Zipper Down (2015) - but only a covers record since the Bataclan.

Their music has been compared to everything from rockabilly to garage rock, punk and even funk and bluegrass.

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