A second band's equipment is stolen

Posted: November 13, 2009

Two bands got the same nasty welcome when they passed through Philadelphia over the past week: Members awoke to find the trailers carrying their instruments and equipment had vanished.

The thefts happened in the parking lot of the Holiday Inn at 900 Packer Ave., where bands Kill Hannah and Mae stayed during stops on their respective tours.

Mat Devine, lead singer of the Chicago-based Kill Hannah, said the group's van and 14-foot trailer were parked "five feet from the front door" when they were stolen Wednesday.

"We're devastated and speechless," Devine said. "We've been touring so hard around the world for the past seven years, and this is the most evil thing we've witnessed."

The van and trailer were recovered by police yesterday, said Capt. Laurence Nodiff of the South Detective Division. Nothing was inside.

Economic realities dictate the life of a band crisscrossing the country for one-night stands. Budgets seldom accommodate tour buses, which can cost $1,000 a day, so the vehicle of choice is the 15-passenger Ford E-150 van, driven by a road manager and occasionally pulling a trailer, which is parked outside of lower-cost hotels.

"National bands are an easy target," said Libby Coffey, a publicist for Mae. "It's easy to pawn this stuff and easy to get rid of."

Thefts from parking lots near the airport have been somewhat regular for some time, Nodiff said. In recent years, several bands and a film school have reported thefts of equipment from the area.

Since reports of theft are not typically separated into categories by objects stolen, police could not say how many have occurred this year.

"I wouldn't say I'm aware of a lot of similar [crimes] recently," Nodiff said. "But, historically, between the hotels and the stadium, theft from vehicles has been a problem in that area."

Nodiff said police would increase patrols in the area in light of the thefts.

Dan Fee, a spokesman for the hotel, said it frequently hosts bands and thefts are uncommon.

The hotel has a security guard to watch the parking lot at night, but the guard leaves around 7 a.m., Fee said, which was about the time police said Kill Hannah's equipment was stolen. Mae's equipment vanished between 3:30 and 11 a.m. Nov. 4, according to police.

In light of the recent thefts, Fee said, the hotel will install security cameras.

"Security is a priority," he said. "That's why we pay a guard for extra protection."

Kill Hannah, which was to play the Electric Factory Wednesday and the Nokia Theatre in New York City last night, canceled its remaining tour dates.

The theft comes just over a year after a devastating fire in the United Kingdom destroyed everything on the band's bus.

The band lost $120,000 in gear and merchandise, Devine said, including one-of-a-kind custom guitars and vintage custom effects. Police put the loss at $86,000.

The band has filed insurance claims, but he said the market value of the equipment will not cover what was lost.

"A lot of our gear is very special," he said. "It's not like we can go to a guitar center and get what we need. . . . There's no way to quantify how many hours we're going to have to take redoing everything, rerecording synth tracks. The blue-book value [of our equipment] does not tell the whole story."

After playing two nights in Philadelphia, the Virginia trio Mae lost its van and about $72,000 worth of equipment. The band rented a van to finish the remaining dates of its tour and is accepting fan donations at http://www.whatismae.com/donate

The band has raised $58,841.32, according to the Web site.

Contact staff writer Allison Steele at 215-854-2641 or asteele@phillynews.com.

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