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Times Are Tough: Band's Gotta Shoplift

In the late aughts -- during my later high school and early college years -- I toured with a slew of bands, who had small but devoted followings. Many of them were composed of my friends. We rolled all over the U.S, and Canada, from VFW halls in backwoods Appalachia to the Key Club in Hollywood. My roles were mainly to sell merch and tour manage.

The guys in the bands were about my age, and none had much in the way of label support - or labels at all. It was a decidedly DIY experience; gas prices were high, promoters couldn't meet guarantees, and merch sales were sometimes just not enough.

And so, we shoplifted. Many of the others were worse than I was, but we all did it. In fact, as has been the case with many road bands since DIY tours were invented, no gas station, truck stop, or convenience store was safe. It didn't matter the of day, how many people were working, or how many cameras were in the store.

We'd take just about anything else that wasn't nailed down - Snickers, fireworks, various knickknacks -- and were almost never caught. Cliff Bars and Power Bars were particularly desirable, because they filled you up and were particularly were easy to steal. (If I were to open my own convenience store, I'd put them behind the counter.)

It wasn't just necessity; sport was involved. One band that shall remain nameless had stealing competitions, attempting to snag the most ridiculous, bulky item. One night, from a Shell station in the south, the winner grabbed a random, glittering, neon dragon statue about a foot tall. He put it inside his shirt and walked right out. Obviously he had no use for the thing; the dragon sat on the dashboard of the van, trophy-like, all the way home.

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