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Thursday, June 25, 2015

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

Posted By on Thu, Jun 25, 2015 at 8:00 AM

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Last weekend's incidents are just the latest in a long line of similar crimes. Over the past year, St. Louis has become notoriously dangerous for touring musicians driving vans with out-of-state plates. In November of last year, the Riverfront Times ran a story about the issue. Between May and November, at least twelve bands had their vehicles broken into while passing through the Gateway City.

The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department did not respond to repeated requests for comment via email and phone, but according to Mike Cracchiolo, who owns the Firebird and the Ready Room and works closely with touring musicians, this weekend's thefts mark the end of a sharp decrease in such crimes.

"Obviously there was a larger trend at play before," Cracchiolo says. "There was a wave of these incidents that the police and the mayor's office and all the various venues kind of came together and helped to solve. But unfortunately one or two isolated incidents happen and you have to wonder if it's going to happen all over again."

Thieves punch the locks to gain access to the vehicles, as with the Districts' van which was hit in October, shown here. - COURTESY OF THE DISTRICTS
  • Courtesy of the Districts
  • Thieves punch the locks to gain access to the vehicles, as with the Districts' van which was hit in October, shown here.

Like many club owners, Cracchiolo has gone to great lengths to prevent theft on his property. He has worked to streamline communication with neighboring venues as to help monitor suspicious behavior in the area. He has reworked artist parking and installed lockers in the Firebird, so that musicians can bring all of their valuables inside.

Perhaps most importantly, he is vigilant about warning the bands of this ongoing problem so that they can act with caution. While all of these measures have made the Firebird itself fairly safe, Cracchiolo says there is little he can do to protect artists when they are not at the venue.

Coincidentally, all three of the artists whose vans were broken into last weekend were in town to perform at the Firebird.

"We really make a strong effort to impress upon the bands how serious this issue is and to be as accommodating as possible, and find places to put their stuff while they're here," Cracchiolo says. "We tell them what has gone on, but at the end of the day, bands don't expect to get hit in broad daylight. They don't expect to get hit at the hotel, and If they go somewhere and get robbed before they get to the venue, then they don't have the benefit of hearing that speech."

Cracchiolo says that these incidents can take place almost anywhere, and have occurred at several businesses that he patronizes himself. In fact, the Firebird has a standing discount deal with the Crowne Plaza Hotel, and Cracchiolo regularly recommends the hotel to artists, in large part because of the relative safety of its parking lot.

This latest wave of thefts has left Cracchiolo feeling frustrated and angry. He has heard from booking agents that some touring musicians have requested to be routed around St. Louis, and he is afraid that St. Louis is developing a bad reputation.

"St. Louis isn't the only place where this happens," Cracchiolo says. "If you follow the issue on a national scale, you'll see that it happens in San Francisco all the time, it happens in Chicago pretty constantly. The difference is that nobody is going to skip those markets. You can't really do a full U.S. tour and not play those markets, because they're major markets. St. Louis is not. It's something where you can maybe make that decision and say, 'We can't avoid San Francisco, but maybe we can avoid St. Louis this time around.'"

Radio Birds is scheduled to play at Off Broadway on July 30. Keller says the band has no interest in canceling the show.

"This doesn't only happen in St. Louis by any means," he says. "Seeing as it has happened like nine times very recently is a little concerning and we'll definitely take precautions, but I don't think we'll take any more precautions than we would anywhere else from here on out."

On the other hand, Moynihan says that on Hollow Earth's next tour, the band will likely be steering past St. Louis.

"It has gotten to the point now where we're like, 'Fuck.' [St. Louis] is a stop that makes sense for getting somewhere else, but the shows are never good, everybody gets their gear stolen. So why are we fucking coming here?" Moynihan says. "And then we remember the City Museum."

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