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Rock Star Robbery

The band Chevelle tells Unfair Park it isn't likely to play Dallas any time soon. Apparently, we have a rep as the city in which gear gets gone.

Dallas doesn’t have a crime problem. Dallas has a music problem. That is, we relieve the piper of his pipe. We loot the lutes from minstrels. You lean more towards a-pickin’ and a-grinnin’? We’ll pinch your pick and fence your grin. And so forth.

Which brings us to the Dallas drama last week involving the Chicago-based band Chevelle. Chevelle’s music can be described as heavy on the gritty kilowatts, or, as their Web site says, “bruising and propelled by angry, stomping grooves.” That’s why, when their equipment trailer was swiped from the parking lot of the Clarion Dallas Park Central hotel at roughly 11 a.m. last Wednesday, their what-the-fucks were barely audible. But that’s Dallas, it seems.

“Being robbed is part of touring,” says drummer Sam Loeffler from a recording studio in Chicago. But the sting goes deeper this time: The thiefs made off with more than $220,000 worth of gear, including two custom Paul Reed Smith guitars, one made especially for Chevelle guitarist Pete Loeffler (Sam’s brother). “We literally had nothing. We didn’t have a drum stick, a guitar or a pick.”

The poaching came after Chevelle did a show at Fort Worth’s Ridglea Theater. The band had a day off before they rolled on to Lubbock, and they decided to stop off in Dallas and get their motor coach engine repaired. The driver unhooked the trailer from the bus and left it in the parking lot. From then on it was attended -- until about 10:45 p.m., when someone took their eye off the hitch ball. Within that 15-minute window, the trailer vanished.

Loeffler says they expected the police to put out an all-points bulletin (like Hawaii Five-O maybe?) to intercept the KZ Cargo trailer. After all, it weighed more than five tons, and whoever had it wouldn’t be moving very fast. The police didn’t. Instead they spent an hour in the Clarion parking lot filling out a report.

“I’m a little frustrated with the police,” Loeffler says. “I understand that they’re busy. But are you telling me that people get over $200,000 worth of stuff stolen here every single day? This isn’t a priority? It’s a little frightening that there’s that much crime there.” Even more frustrating: two days later, says Loeffler, a DPD detective called to inform him that their trailer was never entered into the police database as stolen property because the Illinois DMV told DPD that it had expired license plates (it didn’t, Loeffler says). Oops. Maybe its time to modernize crime fighting here.

Since then the band has had to deal with a backlash. Two Texas radio stations pulled Chevelle music from their playlists because the band didn’t show up for their shows. Loeffler wouldn’t say which stations -- don’t want to piss off the program directors -- but they were due to play Lubbock, Amarillo, Odessa and Austin just after Fort Worth.

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Chevelle is taking flak from fans too. “People are writing to us saying things like, ‘You guys are a bunch of pussies for complaining about this…you’re just a bunch of whining millionaire rock stars,’” he says. “`Why don’t you just buy new gear?’ First of all, I’m not a millionaire. Second of all, when you get ripped off, what are you supposed to do -- just let people take it?”

Formed in 1995, Chevelle has sold close to 3 million CDS through six releases. They’ll resume their tour promoting their latest album Vena Sera in Urbana, Illinois on Thursday.

Is Dallas among the tour dates? Maybe next time.

“As of right now, we know of 10 bands in the last six months that have been robbed just in Dallas alone,” Loeffler says. “I mean, while we were standing in the stinking parking lot for the five hours that we were there at the Clarion, two cars got broken into.” I smell another bruising, stomping groove. --Mark Stuertz'

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