A hiss of air pierced the night in the dim alleyway behind The Rail Club in Fort Worth. The pair of tires, the victims of a stabbing, were already flat before the white SUV screeched out of the parking lot. Inside the club, Texas Hippie Coalition (THC) had already begun their set when Kevin Dunlap, one of The Rail Club’s owners, told the band’s tour manager what had happened to their van and trailer.
Hailing from Denison, THC has had a fairly successful career. They had an album reach the top 20 on Billboard’s Hard Rock list back in 2010 and they cracked the Top 200 list in 2014. They played a show at The Rail Club last Friday, readying for a national tour that starts next week.
Members of DFW’s metal scene have been scratching their heads while they try to piece together what happened in that alleyway. Since the air left those tires last Friday night, there has been a hefty amount of finger pointing. “Bands will bicker occasionally but nothing like this,” Dunlap says. “Nothing physical happens, much less vandalizing.”
A chunk of the music community has been quick to put the blame on Bryan Mack, the bassist for Dixon Speed, who vehemently defends his innocence. Dixon Speed's singer, B.R.V., is confident that no one in his band is responsible. “I know my crew ain’t like that,” B.R.V. says. “Nobody in my crew carries a frigging knife.”
The night’s problems began when Dixon Speed started their set late and ran over time due to confusion between the sound technician and the band. The stage manager told the band that they needed to wrap it up so that THC could start setting up. Eric “Bubba” Henze was working security at The Rail Club Friday night when he says that Dixon Speed took offense to being told to clear the stage for THC.
The band played one last song and dedicated it to THC in a manner that Henze describes as rude. According to Mack, that’s when THC’s bassist, John Exall, told them to get their stuff off the stage.
Mack was packing up gear and taking it out when he says Exall came down the stairs from the stage and allegedly made threats, telling Mack that he’s lucky not to get his ass kicked.
Dixon Speed’s bass player says that it’s not the first time that he’s had a problem with Exall.
Mack claims that he was playing a show with the band Pimpadelic in Houston a few years back when he had a run in with Exall, who told them they couldn’t be in the green room with THC. “We’ve played with THC twice over the years,” Mack says. “Twice we’ve had a problem with them.”
Henze put a stop to the confrontation between the two bass players before it got out of hand Friday night and told them to deal with it after the show. After this point, accounts of the night’s events begin to steer into wildly different directions.
Somewhere between 10 and 20 people were gathered in the parking lot with THC, apparently in a prayer circle, when some people say that Mack drove by in his Lincoln and nearly ran down THC’s frontman, James Richard “Big Dad Ritch” Anderson.
Mack claims that Anderson tried to jump in front of his car and hit the driver’s side window with his hand as Mack drove by. He says that he didn’t stop because he thought he may be attacked by some of the group.
Afterwards, THC went inside and began their show in front of the crowd of about 250 people. About 20 minutes into the show, another security guard was taking the trash out with his girlfriend when they heard air leaving the slashed tires. The guard shouted at the culprit as he slashed a second tire before fleeing the scene.
The Rail Club employee and his girlfriend gave chase to a man they described to Henze as a shirtless man with a blond or light-brown pony tail. They ran down the block and saw the man turn the corner. A white SUV, or possibly a crossover, that they think was driven by the slasher peeled out of the RaceTrac on the corner of Alta Mere Drive and Arbor Avenue.
Suspicious of a connection to the confrontations between Mack and THC’s lead singer and bassist, Henze says that he showed the witnesses a picture of Mack and they identified him as the tire slasher. The circumstances of the night, leading up to the tire slashing, make Mack appear to be a prime suspect, which may explain why so many people have been satisfied to point the finger at him.
But what sounds like a cut-and-dried case begins to warp when more details come to light. The tire slasher had hair that looked either blonde or light brown, but Mack has grey and dark brown hair and the alleyway was admittedly too dark for a clear description. The perpetrator outran the security guard, but Mack says that he can’t run. “I had disk replacement surgery two years ago,” Mack says. “I can’t run, I can’t work out, I can’t do nothing.”
He also says he has six witnesses that can clear him during the time that the tire slashing happened and that he went to an after party after he left The Rail Club. He also has a screenshot of a Facebook conversation that shows THC’s guitarist, Cord Pool, saying that he’s sorry for blaming Dixon Speed for the tire slashing.
Rail Club has outdoor security cameras but they aren’t likely to provide very many clues. Dunlap says that they don’t cover the area where the crime happened and it would be hard to make an identification of anyone entering the alleyway because of how dimly lit the area is.
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Regardless of guilt or innocence, Dixon Speed has been dealing with fallout from Friday night and it could affect their ability to play future shows in the area. Mike Rios is a booking agent that received a Facebook message from Rail Club’s bartender and booking agent, Warren Garza. The message allegedly holds Dixon Speed accountable for the slashed tires and suggests not working with them in the future. “I forwarded the message to a couple of other promoters,” Rios says. “If that’s how they’re going to be, then I really don’t care to be working with a band like that.”
Dunlap says that he offered to cover the cost of replacement tires and hotel accommodations if THC needed them. Both parties agreed not to involve the police, so there isn’t a police report or a detective working to solve the case. “They didn’t want to press the issue as long as everything was taken care of,” Dunlap says.
Perhaps it isn’t best to brush off a couple of flat tires, though. Without a proper investigation, Mack is currently being held responsible by many people for a crime with murky evidence and spotty witness accounts from a dark alley. “They’ve been coming with pitchforks all weekend,” Mack says.
Texas Hippie Coalition did not respond to multiple requests for comment on this article.