The gunshots that rang out during Jason Aldean's appearance on Sunday night at the 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas were mistaken by some in the audience as show-closing fireworks. The headlining performer and hunting enthusiast, knowing otherwise, beat a hasty retreat off the stage.
Aldean was reportedly singing the last song of his set, When She Says Baby, when the murderous calamity began opposite the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino on the Las Vegas strip. The Georgia-born country was the final performer scheduled to perform at the three-day country festival. He later posted a message on Instagram:
"Tonight has been beyond horrific. I still dont know what to say but wanted to let everyone know that me and my crew are safe. My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone involved tonight. It hurts my heart that this would happen to anyone who was just coming out to enjoy what should have been a fun night. #heartbroken #stopthehate"
Other country music stars also responded to the massacre online. Canada's Shania Twain, who performed at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas from 2012 to 2014, posted a tweet: "Heartbroken over the news of Vegas. My thoughts with all the innocent victims and their families."
Aldean, 40, has recorded seven studio albums and has racked up more than a dozen No.1 singles on the country charts. He is one of the leading figures in the subgenre known as "bro country," a somewhat disparaged stylistic grouping characterized by upbeat party songs and carefree anthems with macho lyrical themes, sung by Stetson-wearing white males.
In 2015, Aldean pushed back against the bro country association. "It bothers me because I don't feel like it's a compliment," he told PennLive.com. "We've got songs that definitely have some meat on them and tell a great story. It's not all about trucks and girls and beer and whatever else they think it is."
Aldean's latest album (2016's They Don't Know) includes the songs Whiskey'd Up, All Out of Beer and the single Any Ol' Barstool. Previous hits include Dirt Road Anthem, Take a Little Ride and Burnin' it Down.
Along with fellow country star Luke Bryan (and former professional baseball players Adam LaRoche, Ryan Langerhans and Tombo Martin), Aldean is a featured player of Buck Commander, a cable television show starring Willie (Boss Hog) Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame. The show involves deer hunting and jocular male camaraderie.
Jake Owen, a Florida-born country singer who had performed earlier in the evening, spoke to CNN on Monday. "It's like shooting fish in a barrel from where he was," Owen said, referring to the lone gunman, who carried out the attack from a hotel room at the Mandalay Bay according to police.
Owen said he was onstage with Aldean when the attack took place. "This shooting was going on for at least 10 minutes," he said. "It was nonstop."
On Oct. 20, in Louisville, Ky., Aldean will hold his annual Concert for the Cure fundraiser for the treatment and awareness of breast cancer. In November, he is scheduled to perform at Country Rising, a benefit concert to support those in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands who have been impacted by recent hurricanes.