Photo by Joseph Llanes
The Black Lillies
Tennessee roots-rockers the Black Lillies recently had their van, trailer and all of their gear stolen while touring through Texas. On the morning of Monday, January 25, the members of the band awoke at their Houston-area Quality Inn hotel to find an empty space where their vehicle once sat.
"We travel with eight people so we needed to make sure no one left for breakfast or something," frontman Cruz Contreras told the Houston Chronicle
. "We were wiped out clean."
The Black Lillies had performed an in-store afternoon show at Houston’s Cactus Music record store and a night show at the Dosey Doe the evening prior before returning to their airport-area hotel. Contreras says the band turned in at 11 p.m. Hotel surveillance footage shows a black SUV pulling alongside the van and trailer at about 2:30 a.m. and leaving within two minutes.
The van, a white 2011 Ford E-350, was recovered the following Tuesday morning by a towing company who found it abandoned on the side of the road. The band's trailer, a gray 2016 Larkspur, as well as all of its musical equipment, merchandise and some personal affects, are still missing. A representative of the band puts the total for the contents of the trailer alone at $70,000.
It is an all-too familiar situation for those who have been paying attention to the spate of band van robberies in the city of St. Louis in the last couple of years. The only hitch is, this time it happened some 800 miles away, and more than two months prior to the band's slated show in St. Louis.
See also: Tour Van Break-Ins Have St. Louis in Music-Industry Crosshairs
If you think we're being cheeky, OK, yeah, you nailed it. St. Louis has gotten a bad reputation lately due to the perception that bands are more likely to be the victims of theft here than elsewhere in the country. But, interestingly, Houston is experiencing the same exact problem. On Friday, Houston Press
published a post on its music blog entitled "Houston Fights to Shake 'Stolen Music Gear Capital of the World' Tag."
From that article:
Other victims within the past few years include Ruby Jane, a young Austin fiddler who was carjacked along with her mother in 2011; the L.A. electronic musician known as Nosaj Thing, whose gear was stolen while the band was eating at the House of Pies on Kirby after an April 2015 Fitzgerald's gig; and Texas country singer-songwriter Zane Williams, who was also robbed while his band had stopped to eat on the way to a gig in Galveston around the same time last year.
Houston, it seems, has been contending with the same troubles as St. Louis. Musicians aren't safe to merely watch their gear at the venue. Thieves are striking, in both cities, when the band is parked at a hotel or eating at a restaurant — just as often as outside of the venue itself.
And these thefts aren't just limited to those two cities either. Chicago's RedEye
paper wondered in 2014 if the city was "the Bermuda Triangle of band gear."
San Francisco has seen its fair share as well
. In a twist on a familiar refrain, St. Louis act Foxing had its trailer and all of its gear stolen in Austin last summer
So what's to be done? The fact of the matter is, a band's van is a veritable treasure chest for a thief. And a trailer is the great big bow on top. Music gear is worth money; so too are the iPads, prescription drugs and laptops that often go on tour with their owners. Police are, seemingly, unlikely to be able to help
See also: Band Finds Its Own Stolen Gear For Sale by St. Louis-Based Seller on Ebay
The best suggestion for bands is to keep an eye on your vehicle at all times, and to understand that crime knows no zip code. There are some portable tracking devices you can mount on your vehicle as well — DeWalt's Mobile Lock device
comes highly recommended.
Meanwhile, the Black Lillies will come to Off Broadway in St. Louis on April 2. Perhaps you show up, buy some merch, and show the band some love. If St. Louis is to shake its own "stolen gear capital" tag, it will have to happen one success story at a time.