The Josh Abbott Band: Thats Caleb Keeter, top row on the right.
The Josh Abbott Band: That's Caleb Keeter, top row on the right. Taylor Crothers/Courtesy Josh Abbott Band

The Josh Abbott Band were the third band to play the main stage at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas yesterday, a few hours before Jason Aldean’s headlining set.

If you’re not aware of them, they’re a reasonably well-respected second tier mainstream country act whose latest album, Until My Voice Goes Out, came out in August. They’re medium big. Not so big that they’ve crossed over into the consciousness of non-country audiences (their last Seattle show was at the Crocodile in May), but big enough to play the main stage at a huge three-day festival that draws about 25,000 people a day.

By now, you know what happened there last night. At last count: 58 people were killed and approximately 500 wounded by what is believed to be one man, firing an assault weapon (or weapons) from the balcony of the nearby Mandalay Bay Hotel.

So all morning, we've all been engaged in looking for some way to think about the horror of what happened—and what keeps happening, and what the people in charge of making laws seem committed to doing absolutely nothing to prevent from happening—without sinking into cynicism and despair.

I found one:


In the flood of emotions, “takes,” and fatuous presidential insults that have followed what is now the biggest gun massacre in U.S. history, the most stirring so far have come from Josh Abbott Band guitarist Caleb Keeter, whose experience of the shooting was as first hand as anyone’s, and whose conclusion in the aftermath, expressed via Twitter, was this:

“We need gun control RIGHT. NOW.”

Not a radical notion for anyone not in the marketing brainwash thrall (or the direct employ) of the N.R.A. But these words take on added resonance in light of the fact that he says he has “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 CHL licenses, and legal firearms on the bus. They were useless.”

The JAB crew couldn’t get to their guns, and might have been mistaken for accomplices of the shooter by cops on the scene, he wrote.

“My biggest regret is that I stubbornly didn’t realize it until my brothers on the road and myself were threatened by it.”

His entire statement is here:

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He followed it up on a more triumphal note:

One would like to think that this world is the kind of place where thoughtful, frank, and reflective words like Keeter’s might prove to be influential in the project of persuading people who have been tricked (by people who profit directly from gun sales) into believing that gun control is a form of tyranny.

And maybe it will be.

Regardless, even if he recants it all tomorrow and pulls an Eagles of Death Metal-guy move, the words in Keeter’s note are powerful for a few reasons. The first is that they are massively, blatantly, ragingly, obviously true.

The second, perhaps even more compelling reason is that they portray the process that seems most dreadful to Americans in 2017: They say I used to believe this, and now, because of what I have learned, I now believe this. You need only scroll down one click to see the first comment asshole scolding and rebuking Keeter for not having believed these things sooner. Once again, as ever, thanks for nothing, internet (not you though, Dan).

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In this country, it’s harder for people to admit they were/are wrong about something than it is to make the simple moral connection between innocent people being killed by bullets and the guns that fire those bullets.

The Josh Abbott Band is scheduled to play Friday, October 6 at the Wolf Pen Creek Amphitheatre in College Station, about 100 miles north of Houston, in their home state of Texas.

Here’s hoping they have a good show.