Yards From Where Omar Mateen Once Stood, Miami Chooses Love and Rejects Fear

Mir Seddique told reporters that his son, Omar Mateen, saw two men kiss at Miami’s Bayside Marketplace, just a few football fields away from Bayfront Park Amphitheater. Outraged at the display of public affection, Mateen would later walk into Pulse nightclub in Orlando on June 11, and, armed with an assault rifle, carry out the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, slaughtering 49 and injuring 53 more in an attack against the LGBT community.

Three days later, Olivia Elmo, 18, is standing by a mobile blood donation truck outside of Bayfront Park, her best friend keeping her company while she waits. Bayside Marketplace is in sight. She’s planning on donating blood to help the victims of the Orlando attack before she goes to see Panic! at the Disco and Weezer’s concert. The blood drive was organized by the two bands and OneBlood. Elmo found out about the drive via Panic! at the Disco’s Instagram.

Security to get into the show is tighter than normal. Metal detector wands are wielded at the door and backpacks are searched thoroughly. Even those with lawn tickets must give their towels a shake before entering Bayfront Park. It’s an understandable measure.

Is Elmo nervous at all about taking part in a large gathering after what she and the rest of the world witnessed days ago?

“I mean, maybe a little bit,” she admits. “But I’d like to believe that humanity is better than that. I don’t want to be afraid for the rest of my life… I don’t want fear to win out.”She’s not alone.

The crowd is young on Tuesday night, at capacity with high school faces. When Panic! frontman Brendon Urie trots onstage draped in a rainbow flag, they scream. They aren’t scared, even though they have more right to be than anyone else.

After all, what generation has ever had a better view for atrocity after atrocity? September 11, Virginia Tech, Newtown — all delivered to their pockets with lightning speed. Nobody in mankind’s history has watched human tragedy in higher definition than millennials. Still, here they are.

Urie addresses the crowd a few songs in.

“Every time this happens, it’s always because someone is a coward and it’s all done out of fear. And I’ve learned that. These motherfuckers are just afraid because they don’t understand. And because of that,” he’s addressing Mateen and others like him now, “I just want to say, I love you even though you’ve done some very evil shit. You motherfuckers just need to stop. You’re fucking cowards. If you really, really want to hurt somebody, fucking come at me. I’m fucking ready, you assholes.”When something like this happens, it seeps into everything we consume. Every performance, award ceremony, concert, etc. will be tainted with its stench for the next few months, so it’s not uncommon to witness celebrity after celebrity add their two cents to the conversation.

This feels different though — closer, somehow.

Yards from where Mateen may or may not have first conceived his plot to slaughter innocent people, Brandon Urie thrusts his crotch in leather pants and a leopard print shirt, as he belts — and oh, lord, can the man sing — “All you sinners stand up, sing hallelujah.” Does that lyric have some subtext on a night like this? You bet your wonderful gay butt it does.It seems unfair to judge this concert as a musical performance. That’s not the important part, and you can probably fill in those blanks yourself: Panic! at the Disco is basically just Brendon Urie, who’s basically just a mad scientist’s mashup of Freddie Mercury and Arthur Fonzarelli. And Rivers Cuomo is still a noodly enigma of a man who will either piss off or inspire legions of hardcore fans depending on which side of the bed they wake up on. You get it.

In actuality, this concert was a form of protest, whether the artists or the crowd fully realized it. With each note, selfie, and backflip (there are two throughout the night, both executed by Urie) comes a response to terror. It’s not working — not how Mateen hoped it would, at least.

It's weird: Never have I been so mad and proud of my country all at once. On one hand, how stupid — incredibly and inconceivably stupid — we are to not vehemently pursue common sense gun laws to prevent tragedies like this from ever happening again, no matter how many times we watch the same narrative unfold.

On the other hand, these people — look at them: unflinching in a storm of confetti as Weezer strums the final chord of "Buddy Holly." I couldn't think of anyone else I'd rather go through this with.
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Ryan Pfeffer is a contributor and former Miami New Times music editor. After earning a BS from Florida State University, Ryan joined the New Times staff in November 2013 as a web editor.
Contact: Ryan Pfeffer