Montreal, June 3rd, 2019
Two weeks ago, Toronto pop-punk artists, The Penske File, had their tour van stolen from outside the Foufounes Electrique night club where the band were preparing to play as part of the 9th edition of the Pouzza festival.
Montreal is often considered as the place to play in Canada, due largely to the cultural mindset of the city. Music is a strong part of life here, and with so many venues to play, so many great festivals, and a large portion of the populous willing to come out and support live music, it truly has become a North American hot spot for touring musicians. But with the positives come the negatives, and those negatives could possibly have musicians reconsidering stopping in Montreal at all.
Over the years, thieves have been targeting out of town vans parked nearby music venues and have shown to be quite astute and quick at getting in and out of these vehicles with whatever they can grab. What is more disturbing though, is the lack of interest from Montreal police to find the culprits that repeatedly target vehicles in Montreal’s downtown core.
In 2010, Macleans magazine reported that following the theft of an entire truck full of gear owned by Iggy Pop, a police investigation was undertaken, with just a single arrest made. That was in October of 2010, and thought to have been enough to curb the string of thefts, yet nearly a decade later, blatant thefts are still taking place and just as frequently as they were at the time of Maclean’s article.
Montreal Police Service Commander Peter Lambrinakos was quoted in that article as saying “The vehicles were mostly cube vans with out-of-province plates, parked overnight in lots near downtown hotels.” In short, nothing has changed. When you consider the amount of money the city of Montreal and its promoters have poured into the city to make it an even more desirable place to play, you would think artist security issues would have been resolved by now.
The heart of the city was recently remodeled and renamed to La Place Des Spectacles (The Place of spectacles) and Ile Ste-Helene will be unveiling its brand new concrete outdoor amphitheater this summer, but who is going to want to take the risk of playing Montreal when thievery is so common place and very little, if anything, is done to prevent it.
The Penske File are the latest band to fall victim to this plague that is infecting the cultural lifestyle Montrealers adore so much. Among the items stolen, including the van itself, are several guitars and a bass, amps, drums, passports, cash and personal belongings.
“Unfortunately, there has been no news on the van or any of our gear or personal stuff that was inside” said The Penske File’s bassist, James Hall.
“The van was parked on St Dominique, right behind Katacombes, on Sunday, May 19th.” Hall told us, adding “It was parked on the street and we had paid for street parking. The van was unattended between the hours of 3:30pm and 4:30pm (literally one hour). We noticed that the van was gone, went to the outdoor stage to talk to a police officer. They were helpful for sure and we were eventually directed to the downtown police station to do paperwork.”
“On the way to do the paperwork we decided to stop back at where the van was parked to see if there was any sign of forced entry , broken glass and such. There was no sign of anything, however we noticed some guy walking with a bag and case of beer that looked like ours. I called 911 and we followed this random guy. It ended up being a bit of a chase but the police ended up showing up and arrested this guy.”
“In the bags he had a lot of our stuff from the van, however had nothing of true value. He was brought to the station to be questioned. After doing all of the paperwork at the station we ended up going back to the venue we were set to play at 11pm that night (Foufounes Electrique). Montreal definitely has become known for this which is unfortunate.”
James Hall comes across as a man that has learned a life lesson, though as is often the case, through no fault of his own. He also has tips for other touring artists so that they may avoid similar horror stories while on the road. “Have someone stay with the van at all times – never leave anything of value in your vehicle, even if that means loading and unloading the gear multiple times a day. Park in a parking garage or underground parking. It’s simply not worth beating ourselves up, what happened, happened… However we could have likely avoided this happening if we had done one of the things in that list.”
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help lower the blow, and has been going strongly. It currently sits at $12 570 of the $15 000 needed for the group to receive a pay out. “The GoFundMe has defiantly taken off, the insane kindness of others has been overwhelming but very much appreciated.” said Hall. Any amount helps, and donations will help this band get back on the road.
Written by Kieron Yates, for Modern Free Press