Things were pretty damn close to turning ugly at the Granada Theater last Tuesday night. (Well, as ugly as a crowd of gussied-up hipsters dressed in their American Apparel finest can get, anyway.)
At 10 o'clock, some three hours after the doors were supposed to open to a performance from the long-buzzing, Toronto-based, electro-dance outfit Crystal Castles, some 1,200 people were still lined up outside the venue in a queue that stretched around the building. Sick of standing still for so long, the people were becoming a little restless. What could possibly be taking so long?
Eventually, just outside the doors, a chant began to rise: "VEGA! VEGA! VEGA!" a small crowd yelled. Earlier in the day, the once-Dallas-based electro-dance project VEGA (which now calls Austin home) had been unceremoniously pulled from its scheduled opening set on the evening's bill after being accused of stealing an effects pedal and some beer from Crystal Castles at the show the two acts shared in Austin the previous night.
Within seconds, those unhip to VEGA's plight replied with a chant of their own: "Crystal Castles! Crystal Castles! Crystal Castles!"
That response only triggered a third, larger display: "USA! USA! USA!" the now-annoyed would-be audience shouted, mocking the Canadians who were keeping everyone stuck outside, waiting.
But a few minutes later, when it was revealed that show wouldn't, in fact, go on (so much for old clichés), the crowd simply disintegrated into the night, off to find another home for Tuesday night dancing. (For many, this meant heading off to the Fallout Lounge where VEGA set up a make-shift make-up performance. A good 150-plus people showed to the tiny Exposition Park room.)
Hipsters, it seems, aren't an easily angered lot. In the end, no one rioted. At least not physically.
In the days following Crystal Castles' bailout, the blogosphere practically exploded over what had transpired at the Granada. By Wednesday morning, news of the cancellation had already spread through the local music blog circuit—Gorilla vs. Bear, We Shot JR, our own DC-9 at Night—and, by the next day, the story had become well-worn territory on national must-reads like Pitchfork, Stereogum and Brooklyn Vegan.
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Thing is, no one really knew anything about what had happened—it was all speculation, other than the fact that Crystal Castles had canceled, that Dallas music fans were upset and that Granada owner Mike Schoder had released a statement (in which, among other things, he called Crystal Castles prima donnas and detailed his day of unsuccessfully trying to meet the band's demands). On Friday, after a surprisingly grueling wait for so trivial a matter, Crystal Castles finally released a statement about what happened:
"The Dallas show was canceled as the venue was unable to deliver the level of audio production required for a CC show. [Crystal Castles members] Ethan [Kath] and Alice [Glass] did handle the situation professionally and Ethan spoke to the majority of kids outside to apologize in person. VEGA were removed from the bill as they stole an effects pedal from Crystal Castles at the previous show."
Schoder and VEGA frontman Alan Palomo say that statement couldn't be further from the truth.
"It's completely flipped," Palomo says. "It's like they're trying to wash their hands entirely of this."
Basically, he's just miffed by the whole ordeal. At the previous night's performance, VEGA had loaned Glass a guitar to use during her performance—and that, Palomo says, is where the misunderstanding began. He claims that a member of Crystal Castles' crew packed up the band's gear at the end of the night and accidentally packed Glass' effects pedal in with VEGA's belongings.
"It wasn't until we got back to our apartment that we saw it there," Palomo says. "We immediately called their sound engineer and told him, 'Hey, we have this pedal, do you want us to bring it back now?' and, essentially, he just told us to bring it to Dallas. So that's what we did. We showed up to the venue the next day at, like, 5 o'clock, and we're hanging out in the green room. As soon as we got there, the first thing we did is give [the pedal] to one of the stage hands [at the Granada]."
Later, Schoder showed up to tell Palomo and his band some bad news: "Mike walked up to us and was just like...'We just got done with one of the strangest phone calls we've ever received.' Apparently Tom Windish of the Windish Agency [Crystal Castles' booking agency] himself called to say, at the personal request of Crystal Castles, that if VEGA's on the bill, Crystal Castles will not perform and that it's non-negotiable."
Schoder picks up the story from there: "As much as rock 'n' roll seems like it's so renegade and stuff, it's a business," he says. "It's about working with people and being professional. There's nothing professional about showing up and just being a total prima donna and saying you won't play. I mean, they've played rooms with way less sound than this."
Justin Collins, sound engineer at Hailey's Club in Denton, confirms as much. Last year, the band played Hailey's, and there were no problems, Collins says: "There was nothing eventful about it. And the system at the Granada is huge."
Quite huge, actually. In recent months, the Granada has hosted plenty of similar-sounding acts to Crystal Castles—Ratatat, Cut Copy, The Presets—each of which played packed houses and had no complaints about the sound system. And, actually, Schoder doesn't even mind that more sound was requested. He's just annoyed at when it was requested—which is to say, far too late in the game.
"Had they been in the room when they were supposed to sound check, [that] would have been three or four in the afternoon, maybe," Schoder says. "But they started sound-checking between 5 and 6 o'clock... Even their sound guy was like, 'This system's good enough for 5,000 to 7,000 people outdoors. I mean, it's a huge system; you can use it for festivals. But their sound guy couldn't get them onstage. Their manager couldn't get them onstage."
And then there's this: Maybe Kath was outside talking to a few fans after the show (for the record: I didn't see him), but Schoder now confirms that, shortly after arriving at 6 o'clock for a 15-minute sound check, Glass left the venue and never returned throughout the rest of the evening. Worse, Schoder explains, is that the band was only scheduled to perform a 45-minute set.
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As for another response from the band? A message to the Windish Agency went unreturned, and requests for further statement from Crystal Castles went unfulfilled.
"It's another one for the record books, I guess," Schoder says. "It all just comes down to theory in the end, and trying to figure out why humans do what humans do...I would like to see them play, just to see what the talent is there."
Just don't expect him to see them booked to play the Granada anytime soon.
"Are you kidding?" Schoder says. "No."