(Not So) Great Moments in Gear Theft History

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News has emerged from Canada that legendary rockers The Stooges had all their gear stolen yesterday from in front of their hotel in Montreal. The equipment, including guitars, pedals, amps, and drums, was packed into a rented truck outside the Embassy Suites hotel, and was taken sometime around the rock-stars-are-sleeping hour of 7:00 a.m. Bassist Mike Watt’s original Gibson guitar, which he’s used since playing with the Minutemen in the ’80s, is among the missing. [Update 8/6: Idolator says they have found the truck, but no gear.] The band have appealed for any information leading to the recovery of the instruments, but history isn’t on their side: bands who lose their stuff rarely get it back, although sometimes, the trauma leads to creative breakthroughs. Here’s some recent episodes of gear theft and how it turned out for the artists.

Maria Taylor, San Francisco, July, 2008
Just last month, Saddle Creek singer Maria Taylor’s van was burgled, and the thieves got away with six guitars including one that was hand-painted. The up-and-coming singer continued with the tour. However, there’s a partially happy ending: one week later, with the help of SF’s finest, two of the guitars were recovered, and one more appeared on Craigslist. Who steals guitars and puts them on Craigslist?!

Dinosaur Jr., Long Island, August 2006
Apparently the innovative Massachusetts combo once played a show with Mike Watt, so I wonder if there’s any connection. Hmm. Either way, back in ’06 the band had just finished a performance in Brooklyn when their trailer was stolen from in front of their hotel. None of the gear was ever recovered.

Camper Van Beethoven, Dallas, January 2005 and Montreal, October 2004
What’s up, Montreal? Apparently the Francophones sure like them some hot guitars, since alt-rock heroes Camper Van Beethoven had all their equipment stolen there in 2004, only to have replacement gear stolen in Dallas just months later. Could the culprits have been skinheads, angry at being stereotyped as bowling enthusiasts?

BT, Los Angeles, December 2001
This theft was even more nefarious since the perpetrators went after the dance music producer’s studio, rather than a touring van. Thieves made off with over $150,000 worth of equipment, but perhaps more devastatingly, took hard drives containing much of BT’s latest album, for which the artist had no offsite backups. Tracks stolen included collaborations with Sarah MacLachlan and Peter Gabriel, and none were ever recovered. His previous album, Movement in Still Life, had been a breakout hit, and he seemed on the precipice of mainstream success; one wonders how the loss of the album affected his career.

Sonic Youth, Southern California, July, 1999
In one of the most infamous episodes of gear theft ever, the legendary New York band had all their equipment taken the night before a highly-anticipated performance at the “Ain’t No Picnic” festival outside of Los Angeles. The band are, of course, known for irreplaceable specially-tuned and altered guitars, which made the theft all the more tragic. However, your moronically-named contributor was in attendance at that festival, and what I witnessed is one of my most inspiring concert memories ever: The band borrowed equipment from Sleater-Kinney and played a set of classics, something practically unheard of at that time for the always-innovative combo. The show was transcendent, awe-inspiring, and one could easily make the case that much in the Yoof’s later career seems influenced by this event, at the very least a much more comfortable relationship with their own history. A few pieces of their gear were eventually recovered, and while much remains lost, the band are as vital and exciting to watch as ever.

So, Riffers, ever had your creative gear stolen or lost, and did it depress and paralyze you or free you to try new things?


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