Chaos erupted during Eminem‘s set at the Bonnaroo music festival in Tennessee on June 9, when gunshot-like sound effects were apparently used at the end of his track, “Kill You.” Fans screamed, ducked for cover, and took to social media to express fear as they thought they were caught in yet another mass concert shooting. (It’s been eight months since 59 people were murdered at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas.)
“Being at a festival/concert in these current times brings new concerns [and] fears,” one Bonnaroo concertgoer wrote on Twitter. “[I] had to leave @Eminem’s set after [hearing a] third gunshot [because] panic was setting in my section. [It was] extremely realistic [and] scary! Would have been good to have a warning before [the] show. #irresponsible.”
Another person at the festival tweeted, “Shortly before Bon Iver’s set, Eminem was using fake gunshots throughout the show. After the first shot, no one knew what was going on. Although I quickly realized it was part of his set, there were Parkland students at the festival. I can’t imagine what they felt.”
While Eminem has yet to address the backlash, his rep released a statement to Billboard and denied the use of gunshot sounds on the track. “The effect used by Eminem in his set at Bonnaroo was a pyrotechnic concussion, which creates a loud boom,” the message explained. “He has used this effect — as have hundreds of other artists — in his live show for over 10 years, including previous US festival dates, without complaint.”
Although Eminem might have used these sounds in previous shows, things might need to change. “One of the issues that comes up is that, he’s been doing it for many years and so have others, but it has different meaning now,” Ron Avi Astor, a professor who studies mass shootings at the University of Southern California, told Canada’s CBC News. “Artists need to ask what kind of responsibility they have when the norms of the culture change to the point that people are actually afraid of being shot. They could warn the crowd or they could not do [the song].”
In the era of the Sandy Hook, Las Vegas, and Parkland massacres, the sound of a gunshot is terrifying. And fans of the 45-year-old rapper seem to agree with Ron Avi. These artists must start to be more sensitive.
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