The US rock band Eagles of Death Metal were midway through their set when Islamist militants sprayed the Bataclan concert hall in Paris with gunfire, cutting down revellers, frontman Jesse Hughes recounted before a French court on Tuesday.
Guitar technician Eden Galindo’s first thought had been that the sound system was exploding, but Hughes said he knew instantly the venue was under attack.
“Being from a desert community in California, I know the sound of gun shots,” Hughes told the trial of Salah Abdeslam, the only suspected surviving member of the squad that killed 130 people at several locations on November 13, 2015.
“I knew that death was coming,” he said.
The assailants burst through the music hall’s main entrance and blasted automatic gunfire into the crowd as the band played.
“We were thinking that it was going to stop but it just kept coming,” Galindo told the court. “After a while they reloaded and a technician told us, ‘next time they stop, we run’.”
The band escaped through a side door but their tour manager was killed.
The attackers took hostages inside the music hall during an hours-long assault that claimed 90 lives and ended after police shot dead one militant and the two others detonated their suicide vests.
Survivors have recounted playing dead for hours, or hiding in cupboards, not knowing if their friends or relatives were still alive. They spoke of the bullets in their bodies and of having to walk over bodies when they finally escaped.
Abdeslam, 32, is the only one among 20 defendants who is directly accused of murder, attempted murder and hostage taking. He has denied the charges and is standing trial before a panel of judges.
He told the court in February he had backed out of detonating his explosive vest during the attack.
Six years on, Hughes said he still got nervous looking into crowds, but that he drew courage from France’s ability to move on.
“Evil did not win,” he said. “You can’t kill rock and roll.”