I first heard about the attacks in Paris in a message that a friend had sent me late that Friday. We had no idea of the severity, but we were both immediately very shaken up. It was a band that I have known for years, the Eagles of Death Metal – a great group and a really special bunch of guys. We did a festival together in Spain a few months ago. I have also played that very venue, the Bataclan- a room with a lot of great history and character.
I began reaching out to the band and people who knew them, but received no reply. I sat in my apartment with a sick feeling in my stomach. Finally, more news came on that people in the crowd had been shot, some were being held hostage, but the band had made it out. I had a meeting to go to but couldn’t seem to function or focus. Next I heard, French police had stormed the venue and shot one of the assassins, while the others had blown themselves apart. It was clear now that this was a planned attack of terror, and, most likely, ISIS was responsible.
I received another message saying that the merch person had been killed. Their identity was unknown but I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The numbers of casualties were piling up, along with words of other attacks throughout Paris. I couldn’t even imagine the horror of these people were experiencing- to be at a show on a Friday night, enjoying music in the safety of the crowd. As much as I tried to distract my self and watch a movie, but couldn’t get this unidentified merch person out of my mind.
I finally fell asleep and awoke the next morning to an email from a friend in Finland. The person selling merch was Nick Alexander. The words hit me like a knife through my heart. Nick was a bright light, a sweet and upbeat rock & roll soul. We took him on his first tour of Europe when he was starting out, and did at least four very memorable runs together through Europe. He always looked like a star, worked like a pro, and gave all of his heart to everyone he was involved with. As many of you know, the road crew are the first ones in and the last ones out. They are the blood and guts and backbone to every show.
I’ve said many times before that touring gives you a chance to build your own private pirate ship, surround yourself with the people you believe in. You can create a small world of your own on that bus (or van) and travel around the globe. The stage is the place where the songs come alive under the lights and through the speakers. The merch table is a place where fans and artists connect on a personal level. Nick knew how to talk to people and made friends everywhere he went. I would stand next to him on many nights- greeting our fans, asking them what they thought of the gig, what they’re listening to, signing stuff, and toasting to our heroes and our dreams. As much as I like to perform, I’m still a fan at heart and always will be.
Nick Alexander died in the line of duty, at his post, living life on his own terms. He was loved by so many around the world. I last saw Nick at the Roundhouse in London when I was opening for the Replacements. Not only was I a bit nervous that day, but I was also very lost trying to find the back entrance of the venue. I wandered around in circles with my bags and guitar, in a true Spinal Tap moment. Then suddenly I heard, “Hey Jesse,” and out of the five o’clock light popped Nick with a warm smile, as if no time had passed between us. He quickly walked me into the venue and within minutes I was on the stage and ready to check.