LAS VEGAS (AP) — American country music duo Big & Rich will be as concerned about security as they are about their lyrics and guitar chords as they return to the stage in Las Vegas Thursday — just weeks after the mass shooting at an outdoor country music festival.
“It’s definitely going to be on your mind. You’re going to look at your surroundings through a different lens,” John Rich said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I mean, how could you not?”
Big & Rich will headline the benefit concert for shooting victims at the indoor Orleans Arena, about two miles (3 kilometers) away from the outdoor site of the Oct. 1 country music festival on the Las Vegas Strip where shooter Stephen Paddock rained bullets on concertgoers, killing 58 people and wounding hundreds.
Thursday’s concert is expected to attract 8,000 people, including 2,000 police and other emergency workers.
Big & Rich performed about 90 minutes before Paddock opened fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay casino-hotel tower, shooting more than 1,000 bullets into the crowd. Country music star Jason Aldean was on stage at the time.
Rich said he would expect “drastic” security measures going forward for live concerts, suggesting police snipers should be on hand at outdoor events and not only for those featuring major public speakers.
“You almost have to treat this event as if the president of the United States was attending the event. That level of security might be it. If that’s what it takes then that’s what it takes,” Rich said.
He added: “I would like for a bad guy to look up and see snipers.”
Rich, a gun rights advocate, said he had never heard of “bump stocks,” which Paddock used to make his semi-automatic guns mimic the more rapid fire of automatic weapons.
“To take a semi-automatic weapon and make it fully automatic, it’s not good,” Rich said.
Big & Rich, whose hits include “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)” and “Lost In This Moment,” had left the festival grounds after their performance the night of the shooting but have taken the tragedy personally.
“Those are our people. That’s who we identify with. That’s who we make music for, so to see them suffering like that, it’s really painful to watch,” Rich said.
Security at the benefit concert will be “really robust,” said David Strow, spokesman for Boyd Gaming Corp., the concert’s host. Guns won’t be allowed.
The tickets for the concert were free and all have been taken. Organizers are accepting donations and profit from food and beverage sales will go to a victims’ fund.
Thursday’s show will also feature remarks from Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo and Fox News host Sean Hannity, a friend of Rich.