Dierks Bentley was not on the bill for this year’s Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas, but he knows the event very well. He’s played it before, and he’s good friends with Jason Aldean, who was onstage at the time a gunman opened fire on the crowd.

Dierks tells Rare Country, “Those fans. I know what it’s like to be on that stage looking from that perspective, ’cause I’ve played there. Las Vegas is special to us [in country music with] the ACM Awards.”

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The mass shooting at the festival left 58 country fans dead and more than 500 wounded. The massacre sent shockwaves through the nation, but it affected Dierks that much more since he knows that festival and so many people who were on-site at the time of the attack.

Dierks says, “For a week [afterwards], I couldn’t move. Man, I’ve just been so lethargic emotionally and physically.”

Earlier this week, Dierks decided he had to go out to Las Vegas to connect with victims and first responders. He just had to start moving forward in some way and try to aid in the healing process. You can see photos from Dierks’ visit to University Medical Center in Las Vegas in this Instagram post.

Dierks compares the visit to listening to sad country songs. Everyone in those rooms was still reeling from the massacre, and they all found hope in being with each other and knowing they aren’t alone in their grief.

Dierks explains, “I feel that’s what’s important about music in general. It’s like hearing a George Jones song. A sad song can sometimes make you feel better, ’cause it makes you know the voice coming through your dash can relate to what you’re feeling. The same way being around people and having conversations and hearing some stories and just being an ear to listen [can help]. It was helpful for me to sing some songs and let them know that, as a representative of Nashville, we’re all thinking about [them].”

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The Las Vegas massacre is the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, and Dierks thinks it’s important that the country community not try to rush past this tragedy. There are a lot of folks who will be dealing with the effects of this event for the rest of their lives.

“I think for us back here in Nashville, we need to honor the moment,” he says. “We need to pause.”

That being said, Dierks wants to shine a big spotlight on the first responders he met in Vegas.

Says Dierks, “You have all these regular, common folks doing uncommon things. They’re so brave. They’re working two jobs. They’re around trauma. You think you’re tired. You go around these people. You’re like, ‘Wow, they will not stop no matter how tired they are. No matter how much trauma they’ve seen,’ which is exhausting, I imagine. They just keep going. So, I think that is what gives me hope —that those folks who are out amongst us in our community [are] going to keep on doing their thing.”

Of note, we caught up with Dierks at the Nashville screening of the new movie, “Only the Brave,” which tells the story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots firefighters of Prescott, Arizona, many of whom were killed in a deadly wildfire in 2013. Dierks wrote and performed a new song for the film, titled “Hold the Light.” The song works as a prayer for Las Vegas as well.

You can see “Only the Brave” in theaters starting Oct. 20.

Hunter Kelly is a senior correspondent for Rare Country. Follow him on Twitter @Hunterkelly.
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