SCOTTSDALE — Country singer Dierks Bentley met with Las Vegas first responders early this week in the aftermath of the Oct. 1 mass shooting at the Harvest Music Festival that claimed 58 lives including a University of Arizona graduate.
“I had to go to Vegas. I had to shake hands and hear the stories and give hugs to first responders,” said Bentley, an Arizona native and multiplatinum-selling country music artist who now lives in Nashville.
Bentley, accompanied by his mother, met with 250 first responders on Monday and performed a mini concert and posed for photos with fans.
"It was only a few hours, but I had to go, " he said, then reflected on the reaction in Nashville of the shootings, which occurred during Jason Aldean's festival-closing concert in a makeshift festival ground set up in the middle of the bustling Las Vegas strip.
“Nashville’s messed up. We are not equipped for that kind of grief. Nobody is," Bentley said Tuesday during a media event promoting the movie "Only the Brave." Bentley cowrote and sings the theme song "Hold the Light" in the movie, which tells the story of the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots crew members killed in the 2013 Yarnell Hill fire in Prescott.
“For country fans, country musicians, this is not what we do. We write songs, play records, go on the road to spread joy and have a good time. No one’s really equipped for really a combat … situation," Bentley said. "You have a military grade rifle, automatic rifle, firing on people. It’s beyond comprehension. So every one in Nashville is trying to understand how do we move forward for our fans, for our own psyche.”
Bentley said the shooting has prompted artists to think more about their audiences in terms of their safety and not just whether they had a good time.
“When I play a concert, I want it to be the best concert of somebody’s life. I want that concert to change their lives, but at the very minimum I want them to get home safe. That’s what you have to think about now," he said.
"Only the Brave" opens Oct. 20. Read the Oct. 19 Caliente for more about the movie and Bentley's song.