On the morning of Sunday, Jan. 24, Tennessee-based roots rockers the Black Lillies were finishing up their final day in Texas. They sent out a message on their Facebook page to let folks know that, in the afternoon, they'd be doing an in-store appearance and playing a set at Cactus Music in Houston. That night, they woud be playing at Conroe's Dosey Doe Music Cafe. After the gig at the Dosey Doe, they went back to the Quality Inn near the airport, parked their van and trailer under the lights out in front, locked it all down, and went to sleep. At six the next morning, as the band got ready to roll out, they discovered an empty space on the blacktop.
When the Houston police pulled the video from the security cameras, they discovered that sometime around 2:30 a.m., a black SUV pulled up, someone jumped out, and in about two minutes the van and trailer were driven off. The band's manager, Chyna Brackeen, wrote about the damage done:
Instruments - many vintage and irreplaceable, like Cruz Contreras' iconic guitar - were in the trailer. Most of the band's merchandise stock was in the trailer. Boxes of CDs and vinyl records ... personal items ... clothing. So far we estimate that there was around $70k worth of stuff (besides the van and trailer) taken.
The band does have insurance on the van, and an instrument policy. The band's policy does not cover their merchandise, members' personal items and clothing, and certain gear. There's a big gap between what was lost and what will be covered.
The staff at the Quality Inn has been extremely helpful. Houston-area media is responding in droves and helping us get the word out. And you guys have been a tremendous help by sharing our posts and of course by contributing here.
This is every band's worst nightmare. The one silver lining is that the Black Lillies have one of the best groups of fans and support systems in the world.
That's an understatement.
Quickly establishing a place where friends and fans could help, they chose Rally.org. When I first checked at that link on Monday afternoon, there was $12,000 pledged. Six hours later, they had more than doubled that amount. And today as I write this (it's Tuesday afternoon, the 26th) there is $36,896 committed from fans, friends and strangers. I'll let the narrative continue with another update from Chyna:
It appears at this point that we will likely be able to pay off what is owed on the van (which isn't the same thing as replacing it, but at least it's a good start). As for the instruments, the policy - if paid in full - will likely only cover about 60% of the losses there. One major issue is that a vintage instrument doesn't have the same value to an insurance adjustor as it does to a musician. The insurance adjustor wants to replace things at the lowest cost - so if your Dremel cordless drill is stolen, they'll find the best price for a new Dremel cordless drill and give you that amount (adjusted, of course, for depreciation).
But when you have a 1952 guitar that's one of a kind, that has a soul and a sound that you can't just go out and buy, that sounds the way it does because of how it has been played over the years and how it has worn through and cracked and been put back together again ... well, you can't just find the cheapest price and replace it.
So, we both had more gear in the trailer than was insured (a couple of instruments had just been purchased), AND we had a lot of vintage stuff that the insurance company doesn't understand how to value.
Plus, there's other stuff - the merchandise, the personal clothing items, the stage banners/backdrops - that aren't covered at all.
Anyway, all of that is to say that the gap is big. BUT, we are feeling so much more prepared to handle things because of your tremendous support.
On Monday night the band posted this to their Facebook page:
It has been a long, hard day. But in the midst of the stress and uncertainty, we've been shown so much love and support. From venues who are calling to offer us gigs, to musicians calling to offer us gear, to people literally offering us the clothes off of their backs, to members of the media from all over the country who are calling to ask what more they can do to spread the word, to friends, fans, strangers donating money to help with the gap between what the insurance will cover and what was lost ... every email, tweet, call, post, smoke signal is showing us the beauty that is out there. We will never be able to tell you what it means to us. Just know that you're getting us through this, and we love you for it. Thank you.
And on Tuesday afternoon:
Update! The van has been retrieved by a towing company in Houston after being abandoned by the side of the road. Trailer and instruments still missing.
For any bands who are slugging it out day after day, going from gig to gig and trying hard to just eke out a living, this loss is a devastating blow. It has been perhaps softened by so many people willing to contribute something so that this talented, beloved band can quickly get back on their feet.
While the Black Lillies have suffered a terrible loss, I suspect that they've also got something in return that will feel very special over time. To have met people along the way who've been touched by your music -- who will extend a helping hand in time of need -- is something nobody can ever take from them.
Lets hope that in the days ahead their trailer or contents are found. Here's a link to a list of their stolen instruments with serial numbers. And if you'd like to make a contribution, here's the link to their Rally page.
You can follow me here at No Depression and always get notified when I've added something new, or just keep an eye on my Twitter feed: @therealeasyed and Facebook page: The Real Easy Ed: Roots Music and Random Thoughts.