Update: Looks like Driver Friendly finally caught a break: the Austin-based band had their trailer full of missing gear returned to them this morning.
"At 8:30 this morning an Austin Police Officer knocked on Jeremi's door notifying him that they had found our trailer WITH EVERYTHING IN IT!!!" the band says on Facebook. "We cannot believe this turn of events, and feel so blessed to not only have everything back, but to have been supported by, you, our fans, through all of this."
All the funds Driver Friendly raised online to cover their missing gear will be returned to fans.
Original story (March 19): A band that calls Austin home can’t seem to catch a break.
Driver Friendly, which formed in The Woodlands, Texas in 2002, and relocated to Austin two years later, had $15,000 worth of gear and merchandise stolen during South By Southwest.
The band left their trailer at one of the band member’s homes. Tyler Welsh, who provides vocals and keyboards for the band, says he believed their belongings were secure.
“We had unloaded most of our instruments into the van and detached the trailer, and left it in our drummer’s parking lot where it always sits,” Welsh says. “It’s sat there for years and it’s extremely locked up – we have over three sets of unique locks that make it virtually impossible to steal, or so we thought.”
Sometime between early Saturday morning and the afternoon, the entire trailer was stolen.
“When we woke up to do more South By stuff on Saturday, we walked out and it was gone,” Welsh says. “So somewhere in that timeframe of, like, 2 a.m. to 2 p.m., somebody had completely taken the entire trailer.”
This isn’t the first time Driver Friendly has had its belongings stolen from them. Just six weeks ago, after playing a show in El Paso, thieves ransacked the band while they loaded their vehicle.
“We had just finished playing a show, and we had parked our car behind a venue to start loading gear in to go to the next venue, and we left the car unattended for a maximum of five to 10 minutes,” Welsh says. “While we were just getting everything to load out, people broke into our car and stole a bunch of our personal belongings and a couple of our instruments that were inside our van at the time.”
Driver Friendly isn’t the only band to have belongings swiped from them while performing. During SXSW 2013, Atlanta based rockers Pillage & Plunder had $16,000 worth of gear stolen in the middle of the night. At SXSW 2012, English-formed band Alberta Cross had instruments stolen.
And its not just over SXSW, either: Austin bands and musicians Bright Light Social Hour, Quiet Company, Max Frost, Riverboat Gamblers, Sour Bridges, Tungsten Coil, and Will Webster are just a few to have their gear lifted.
According to Austin Police spokesperson Jennifer Herber, cases like these require in-depth information on what was stolen.
“If victims are able to provide us with serial numbers, photos, and descriptions of the stolen property it is more likely that we may find the property,” Herber says. “But cases like this take a long time to investigate.” Often, bands take to scouring through pawn shops and Craigslist posts themselves.
Herber offers a bit of advice to other bands that want to prevent this from happening.
“Keep the property in a secure (locked) location with an alarm if possible and out of sight,” Herber said.
Since relocating stolen equipment can be so difficult, many bands turn to online donations for new equipment. Driver Friendly set up PayPal donations, and Welsh is amazed by the amount of support that they have already seen.
“We are just blown away from the response,” he says. “We knew we would get some people talking about it, but the donations have come in amazingly strong today and so many local press has reached out to us to do interviews. We feel really fortunate that there’s a community that’s actually responding to this.”
Despite the enormous setback, Welsh sounds optimistic.
“If there is some sort of light in all of this situation it’s, you know, we feel the love right now.”