‘It was pretty crazy’

Brandon Wrinn

Musician & Tullahoma native Brandon Wrinn recalls Las Vegas shooting


Kelly Lapczynski


On Monday morning, Oct. 2, Tullahoma native Brandon Wrinn woke to a flurry of phone calls.

Wrinn had gone to bed early Sunday night. It had been a long weekend.

On Saturday, the bass player for rising country star Lauren Alaina had performed with the band in front of a large festival crowd in Las Vegas. Following their 40-minute set, the group had mingled with fans in the crowd and, after the long flight home Sunday, Wrinn was tired. He couldn’t know that while he slept, thousands of festivalgoers still enjoying the three-day event would be under fire as a gunman released hundreds of rounds of ammunition into the crowd on the Vegas Strip.

Brandon Wrinn

But it was that knowledge that would wake him.

“I was getting phone calls really early Monday morning from people asking if I was still there and what was going on,” he said. “It was pretty crazy.”

From that point on, Wrinn’s day was filled with questions as he made calls of his own to friends and fellow performers, making sure they were not among the 58 killed and more than 500 injured during the final performance of the Route 91 Harvest music festival.

Thankfully, none of them were.

As he pieced the story of the night’s events together little by little, he learned just how close some had come. “Friends of friends,” he said, could not be reached. Some would check in after a few days. Some would not.

As he speaks, memories of how nearly he and his bandmates missed the scene wash over him. Multiple times over the weekend, they’d been in and out of the Mandalay Bay hotel, where the shooter took his position on the 32nd floor. They stayed next door at the Luxor, where Wrinn’s room faced the shooter’s.

They’d played that stage. They’d been in that crowd. They’d met those fans.

“So many things go through your head,” he said. “Why did he pick that particular night? Could it have been the night before? You hear reports that he was watching, gathering intel. Did he watch us perform? What was he thinking? What made him do it at that particular moment?”

“It’s just been a crazy, crazy thing,” Wrinn said. “Even though we weren’t there, it’s hit us all pretty hard.”

For the last two and a half years, Wrinn – a 2000 Tullahoma High School graduate – has been playing bass for Universal Nashville recording artist Lauren Alaina, who came to fame as a runner-up on the 10th season of “American Idol” in 2011. Her song “Road Less Traveled” hit number one in April, not quite a year after 22-year-old Christiana Grimmie, the third place finisher on season six of “The Voice” was shot and killed in Orlando, Florida.

Grimmie’s death at the hands of a seeming fan in line to meet her after a 2016 performance, Wrinn said, put the band on alert. “It got to where me and a couple other guys were coming out with Lauren and just really watching people. You hate to do that, but it’s just kinda where we’ve gotten to, that these things tend to keep happening.”

After the near miss in Vegas, though, what seemed an unlikely threat has taken on new significance.

As Alaina’s music grows in popularity, the band tours more and more. This year, they’ve toured with other major label country artists like Luke Bryan and Martina McBride. For Wrinn, some of the stops on those tours have been “bucket list” venues like the Opry and the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado and the Gorge Amphitheatre in Washington.

“You try not to let it impact everything good that’s happened the rest of the year and moving forward, but when things like this happen – the Orlando shooter, Aurora, Sandy Hook – you go through a lot of emotions. This was just a little closer to home, having been there and been on that stage, in that crowd and having friends that were there and experienced this and hearing the stories. It’s definitely a cloud.”

“We’ve seen things like this happen a few times here in the U.S., but as far as concerts being targeted, we haven’t really seen that here,” he said, recalling both a concert shooting in Paris and an attack outside an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England.

The Vegas shooting, two weeks ago now, began shortly after the Sunday night headliner, Jason Aldean, had taken the stage.

“We all know Jason and his crew and it’s just…” Wrinn pauses, but the right words won’t come. “Seeing how they were affected…”

“The country music industry is a big family. Everybody knows everybody. Even the fans. We really take the time to get to know them,” he said. “We love our fans and our fans love us. And so to see something like that happen and not even know why, it’s just unlike anything I’ve ever gone through.”

Still, he says, he’s not sure knowing why the shooter did what he did would help.

“Whatever the motive was, this was an evil person,” he said. “I don’t know if we’ll ever have the answers to a lot of it.”

“In a way, I’m still kind of processing it,” he said. “You go back to the old cliché of living life to its fullest and living life with no regrets and limiting hate as much as possible, but I think that those people – there are so many that are not coming home because they aren’t here anymore – I think they were living life and having a good time and it’s just sad that somebody else had a different plan and took that away from people.”

Alaina is still processing it, too, Wrinn said. “We had a couple of shows this past week where it was all Lauren could do to pull herself together to go out on stage just worrying about ‘what if it happens again’ and what if some of her fans get hurt. But I keep trying to tell her and everybody else – and myself – that you can’t let people like that control you.  You can’t just not live life. Because, in essence, they kind of win a little bit if you allow that. But it’s been hard on everybody. You think about it. What if it happens again? You never know.”

“It’ll definitely stay with me,” said Wrinn.

Wrinn will appear with Lauren Alaina in Ottawa, Ontario Wednesday night at TD Arena as part of the Dallas Smith “Side Effects Tour.” The appearance kicks off a month of performances in Canada.

Kelly Lapczynski may be reached by email at tnrept01@lcs.net.

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