In the wake of the deadly mass shooting in Las Vegas on Sunday night that left at least 59 people dead and more than 500 injured, the Josh Abbott Band – like many country acts – posted a message that sent thoughts and prayers to the victims. The Texas-based group performed at the Route 91 Harvest festival Sunday afternoon, several hours before a gunman fired into the crowd during Jason Aldean’s set.
I'll never unhear those gunshots; and our band & crew will never forget how that moment made them feel. Our hearts are with all the victims
— Josh Abbott (@joshabbottband) October 2, 2017
However, one member of the band went even further, posting a lengthy message on Twitter about his personal response to the attack. After spending the night fearing for his life, Caleb Keeter, the group’s lead guitarist, spoke up about gun control.
“I’ve been a proponent of the 2nd amendment my entire life. Until the events of last night. I cannot express how wrong I was. We actually have members of our crew with [Concealed Handgun Licenses], and legal firearms on the bus,” Keeter wrote. “They were useless.” He continued:
“We couldn’t touch them for fear police might think we were part of the massacre and shoot us. A small group (or one man) laid waste to a city with dedicated, fearless police officers desperately trying to help, because of access to an insane amount of fire power.
“Enough is enough.
“Writing my parents and the love of my life a goodbye last night and a living will because I felt like I wasn’t going to live through the night was enough for me to realize that this is completely and totally out of hand. These rounds were just powerful enough that my crew guys just standing in close proximity of a victim shot by this f-ing coward received shrapnel wounds.
“We need gun control RIGHT. NOW. My biggest regret is that I stubbornly didn’t realize it until my brothers on the road and myself were threatened by it. We are unbelievably fortunate to not be among the number of victims killed or seriously wounded by this maniac.”
— Caleb Keeter (@Calebkeeter) October 2, 2017
Speaking up about any remotely political issue is rare in country music, particularly about gun culture, given the genre’s close ties with the National Rifle Association. While many singers are often hesitant to get political for fear of being blacklisted from radio, the Josh Abbott Band has found plenty of success in their native Texas and as a touring band – their last charting single in 2016, called “Wasn’t That Drunk,” landed in the mid-40s. So in terms of mainstream radio, they don’t have much to lose.
Later, as his message started to get retweeted thousands of times, Keeter added another tweet:
“That being said, I’ll not live in fear of anyone,” he wrote. “We will regroup, we’ll come back, and we’ll rock your … faces off. Bet on it.”
A publicist for the Josh Abbott Band said the band declined to comment further and pointed toward a statement that the group posted on Facebook.
“Everyone in our band and crew are safe,” Abbott, the lead singer, wrote. “The band & crew were on the concert grounds and saw people get shot. Some of my crew members were hit with shrapnel, but not injured. We are deeply disturbed by this horrific act of violence and send our thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families. It was a long awful night but we are blessed to be alive and healthy. Hug your loved ones tight.”