Tour Van Break-Ins Return to St. Louis After Brief Reprieve

Jun 25, 2015 at 8:00 am
Radio Birds are just one of three bands whose van was broken into last weekend. - Courtesy of Radio Birds
Radio Birds are just one of three bands whose van was broken into last weekend.

Around 8 a.m. on Saturday, June 20, Colin Dean stepped outside of the Crowne Plaza hotel in Clayton. In addition to playing drums in the Atlanta-based rock band Radio Birds, Dean serves as its unofficial mechanic, and on this particular morning he'd planned to look at the van in which he and his bandmates had been living for the last month. On the drive from Bloomington, Indiana, to St. Louis the day before, they had noticed a slight tremble in the steering wheel. Dean figured he would address the problem before it turned into something more serious.

Except that when he stepped into the parking lot of the hotel where they had left the van the night before, it was nowhere to be seen.

See also: Tour Van Break-Ins Have St. Louis in Music-Industry Crosshairs

"We initially called [the police] and were just trying to get somebody out to the scene, but they basically told us it's a stolen vehicle -- its already gone. So there was really nothing they were going to do," says Justin Keller, who sings in the band. "In this situation, the van was worth probably $5,000, so that's one thing, but we had $25,000 to $30,000 worth of stuff in the back."

That afternoon, Keller and his bandmates took a plane back to Georgia. Soon after they landed, one of them received a call from St. Louis Police. They had found a 1997 Dodge 3500 Ram filled with amps and music gear in Florissant. It was their van.

So at 4 a.m. Monday, Keller and Dean hit the road again. The plan was to pick up the van, unload all the equipment into a trailer attached to their car, and drop the van off at a shop. When they finally made it to the tow yard, they found the vehicle with a popped lock, several dents, a busted tire and a broken suspension.

"We made it about three blocks away from the tow lot before we realized that the van was undrivable," Keller says. "I think that is what saved us really -- that whatever happened to the suspension, it was undrivable, and whoever was in it didn't really want to get caught with a broken-down vehicle."

Colin Dean of Radio Birds posing with a shirt they found in their recovered van - Courtesy of Radio Birds
Colin Dean of Radio Birds posing with a shirt they found in their recovered van

Although many of their bags and laptops were gone, all of the music gear was untouched. The thieves even left behind some personal effects of their own.

"When we got to the van it was definitely ransacked, but there was a ton of stuff that wasn't ours as well," Keller says. "There was clothing and a purse and a bunch of weird stuff, like a tool kit. I think that whoever stole it had hit some other cars before they took ours."

In fact, Radio Birds is just one of three touring bands whose vehicle was broken into this past weekend.

The other two groups, Denver's Of Feather and Bone and Dearborn, Michigan's Hollow Earth, have been touring together since June 17. They were parked side-by-side outside the City Museum when their vehicles were hit. According to Hollow Earth's guitarist, Mike Moynihan, the incident took place just before 5 p.m. on Sunday.

"We've been [to the City Museum] probably three or four times before and never had any problems," Moynihan says. "This time we figured, 'Hey it's a Sunday, we don't have to pay to go into a lot, we can just park on the street, we'll be fine, it's the middle of the day.'"

The four members of Hollow Earth parked around 2:30 p.m. and explored the museum on their own for a couple of hours. When Of Feather and Bone arrived around 4:30 p.m., Moynihan met them outside and found the van as he had left it.

"At 4:45 we walked inside, used the bathroom, and showed [the members of Of Feather and Bone] around a little bit, as much as you can show somebody in five to ten minutes at the City Museum," Moynihan says. "Then on our way back out, we get to the van, and I see the lock is popped out of the door. The guy who sings for our band, his girlfriend was with him, and they were still in the museum. And I said to them, 'Hey you guys need to get out here; the van got broken into,' and he just said, 'That's not funny,' and I was like, 'Nope, not a joke."

The two vans had only been left unattended for ten to fifteen minutes. The thieves made off with bags and personal effects from both bands, including cash, laptops and clothes. There was even a bite missing from a muffin that a friend had given the members of Hollow Earth the day before in Milwaukee.

"It sucks because they're going to open up my bag and be like, 'OK, well we have some guy's passport and a dirty Weird Al shirt, like cool.' And they're going to throw it away," Moynihan says. "That's what sucks the most, knowing that all this shit that we had, all of our clean clothes, socks and underwear, are just gone. It's not like they're going to get any use out of it. They're just throwing it away."

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