Three bands recover after thieves steal thousands in equipment and cash
idway through New Country Rehab’s set at Phog Lounge May 29, bassist Ben Whitely was struck by a bad feeling. He couldn’t finger what it was, but sure enough, as the band headed outside to pack up their gear, they found that their van had been broken into.
Missing were their passports and $200 cash.
“It was right at the end of our two-week tour,” said James Robertson, guitarist for the Toronto-based group. “The van was right beside the building.”
It’s a place where numerous bands park their gear, assuming it to be safe.
The theft of New Country Rehab’s belongings came only a few weeks after local indie darlings Michou made headlines after hundreds of dollars of gear were stolen out of the back of drummer Stefan Cvetkovic’s hatchback parked on Marentette Avenue between Giles and Erie streets. A number of thefts aimed at bands now has musicians questioning the safety of the tools of their trade.
Musicians are in and out of vans as they tour, practice, record albums and play local gigs. Their instruments are essential to their craft and they do not come cheap– the price of a simple acoustic guitar at local music store Long and McQuade, for example, can range from $115 to $1,500. The expense only adds up when you consider more specialized equipment.
“I felt like [Windsor] was pretty safe,” said Cvetkovic.” I hear Montreal is way worse. They tell you to leave your doors unlocked so that people don’t smash in the windows.”
Unlike some bands, Michou was able to recover some of their gear through insurance– but not all bands can afford this. Even with the insurance, Michou still had to put on a fundraiser to cover the costs of the goods.
Mike DiFazio is a member of local pop-punk band Rowley Estate. On June 1, a few days after the theft of New Country Rehab’s passports, he discovered that his trailer parked at Byng Avenue and Walker Road had been broken into. Thieves made off with almost $1,000 worth of musical equipment and $350 of the band’s money.
“This is a safe area,” DiFazio said, “at least I always thought so.”
With three bands thefts in the last month, it’s hard to think that the incidences aren’t connected.
“I can’t say right now if they are being investigated as being connected,” said Sgt. Brett Cory of Windsor Police Service. “But it is entirely possible.”
Car theft remains a citywide issue, with opportunistic thieves on the look out for items of value in any car. The theft of musical equipment is, however, unique.
“It’s a very specific audience when you target this stuff,” said Cory. “We’re looking mostly at pawn shops and other musicians.”
Pawn shops in Windsor are required to issue a receipt that is then forwarded to Windsor police to be crosschecked against stolen goods. But, if the equipment is sold outside the city, the victims are unlikely to recover their gear.
The message is now clear for Windsor bands– don’t leave anything in your car. “You never know who’s around,” said Cvetkovic.
Cory warns people to take further precautions. “Conceal anything of value and try to park vehicles within a structure, like a garage. Don’t give someone an opportunity to break into a car.”
After the thefts, all that’s left for the bands is to try and re-build. “I felt like one of my friends died when I found out [my guitar] was stolen,” said DiFazio. Though he has a back-up guitar, it’s unlikely he’ll be able to replace any of the stolen gear as he has no insurance.
DiFazio remains hopeful that the goods may be returned, especially since he is offering a reward for them. Cvetkovic is at least able to put a positive spin on the situation. “On the bright side,” he laughed, “we got some new gear.”