I own a chair that I’ve been writing on for about eleven years now. Most of my best writing has been done on sitting in that chair, and it’s followed me from New York to Austin because I consider it a tool as much as my brain or keyboard. So when I heard that Portland-based Portugal. The Man’s van and 97 pieces of equipment had been stolen during their set at Lollapalooza in Chicago, I had to shake my head. Here is a band on the cusp of breaking out, and now they’re without a lot of their gear—something that could have been easily prevented. Portugal. The Man will be writing without their favorite chair for the foreseeable future.
This isn’t the first time, thieves has jammed off with stolen pieces. Most famously, it happened to Sonic Youth in ’99. Their van, which was broken into in Los Angeles, had several pieces of irreplaceable equipment, one-of-a-kinds and instruments that were so perfectly tuned that the band had to re-write and rehearse songs because their new guitars and drum kits had to be broken in (although it did lead to new album for them, so there’s that). My question is, if your van is stocked with your precious tools, why leave it unattended at any point? When I was driving down to Austin with my wife, we would always be with our stuff. Sure, it probably had to do more with our dogs in the car rather than the “stuff,” but we were there.
As for what can be done about it, here are two ideas: why don’t bands bring at least one snotty cousin or extra roadie to sit in the van during gigs where more than 50% of your stuff’s in the truck? A lot of bands have had their vans broken in to after retiring for the night (in sometimes shady neighborhoods). I know amps and kits are heavy, but 30 minutes of grunt work to bring the stuff inside wouldn’t kill them. And it’s a lot less maddening than getting your brand new Fender Jazzmaster perfectly tuned to E. I would throw in some type of renter’s insurance-type solution, but this is about the music, maaaan.
There are silver linings to situations like this. Portugal. The Man’s Van has been returned, alas sans equipment. Bands and companies have been sending their support, both moral and with instruments. Hopefully, this won’t happen to another touring band in the near future, although the price of Keytars on the black market could go up soon. Then, all bets are off.
Here is a collection of snippets from Portugal. The Man’s set at Lolla, as their stuff is getting stolen! At least they got groovy alibis… groovy, groovy alibis.