Plastic-Wrapped Tour Vans Can't Slow Tejon Street Corner Thieves' Drive

Tejon Street Corner Thieves
Tejon Street Corner Thieves Photo by Mountain Trout Photography, courtesy of Kerosene Media
It’s not uncommon for bands to experience tour van troubles on the road, but Tejon Street Corner Thieves’ long-awaited return to live shows recently was marked by an unusual van problem.

The Colorado-based “trashgrass” band is touring the country in support of “murderfolk” icon Amigo the Devil and both acts play the Secret Group on Monday, November 15. The bands are veterans of the road, and even though the pandemic’s forced hiatus kept them homebound for a while, it wasn’t long before they were turning to pranks to kill the monotony of miles of driving and nightly shows. According to the Thieves’ Shawn D’Amario, that’s when their tour van troubles occurred.

"It started off with some little pranks, not anything really worth mentioning but yeah, (Amigo the Devil) got us real good one night when he and his merch guy, they wrapped our entire van in cellophane. The entire thing. It was a shock. It was impressive," D’Amario laughed. "Apparently the merch guy was sitting on top of Danny's shoulders to get the high spots. So that was the first one. It really escalated from there.”

The Thieves would strike back, of course, even though it meant retribution against the owner of Liars Club Records, the label founded by Amigo the Devil’s Danny Kiranos. Tejon Street Corner Thieves recently released “Love’s Pilot,” the first single from their upcoming album Thick as Thieves. It’ll be their debut for Liars Club and is set to release in 2022.

The Thieves are D’Amario and bandmate Connor O’Neal. They met in Colorado Springs in 2013 and bonded over drinking beer and playing music. They got their name from the spot they’d busk at in those days. We asked O’Neal for one line that might describe the act for the uninitiated.

"Hmm. One line? Well, I'd say it would probably be the best show you won't remember. We encourage drinking. Pretty heavily,” O’Neal offered. “It's a good time."

Fun as it sounds, O’Neal said when he and D’Amario met they could never have imagined they’d one day be on a label or touring with an act with Amigo the Devil’s upside.

“No way. Never in my wildest dreams. Really up until last year I didn't think that we’d be anywhere near where we are right now. It's all happening so fast," said O’Neal. "Going from a busking band when we started, we were just trying to get some money to have some beers to go fishing and have a good time. And now making it an actual nationally-touring band as, like, adults with goals and dreams. It really is a dream come true."

Every promising band’s “dream come true” is really the result of a lot of hard work and talent. The Thieves’ success begins with a blend of folk, bluegrass and punk music and songs dedicated to the subjects D’Amario and O’Neal know best. They built an audience over the years by playing lots of shows. When the pandemic struck, they equipped a school bus with a PA and did curbside shows for fans.

While the band is a two-man jam, they’ve leaned on friends like Lightnin’ Luke and King Strang from Bridge City Sinners in recording sessions. The upcoming album features 12 tracks, all originals “and it's all songs we're really proud of," O'Neal said.

The Thieves are an acoustic act like Amigo the Devil, but decidedly much lighter than murderfolk. Check out their choreography in the video “Never Meant to Be,” for example. While it might impress a drill squad captain, it’s nowhere near as dark as Amigo the Devil’s act. We asked O’Neal what drew Kiranos to their brand.

"Honestly, it's kind of a mystery to me," O'Neal said. "I think we just got along, really. I like to think he saw us working hard and our humble approach on the whole thing. But I can't really say. He just believed in us and obviously liked our music."

It's a good fit for the Thieves, especially since Amigo the Devil — featured here a few years ago — is an upwards trending act by its own right. Besides the current, lengthy U.S. run, which has seen many sold out shows, and a 27-date European tour set for 2022, ATD is set for Voragos Festival in Belize next year with headliners Rob Zombie and Mastodon. He played Shaky Knees and Riot Fest recently. O’Neal said their proximity to Amigo the Devil means they’re playing a bigger Houston venue than in years past.

click to enlarge D'Amario (L) and O'Neal met in 2013 and bonded over beer, fishing and music. - PHOTO BY MOUNTAIN TROUT PHOTOGRAPHY, COURTESY OF KEROSENE MEDIA
D'Amario (L) and O'Neal met in 2013 and bonded over beer, fishing and music.
Photo by Mountain Trout Photography, courtesy of Kerosene Media
"Up until the beginning of the pandemic I was handling all the booking and stuff. So, we've played a couple of small dive bars and house shows around the (Houston) area. Since Amigo the Devil signed us to his new label we got hooked up with a booking agent and managers and all that. I'm excited to play an actual venue, something of this caliber," O'Neal said.

"It's just amazing. This tour has been really fun, the crowds have been absolutely phenomenal," D'Amario added. "It's nice to finally be back out and not sitting at home. A lot of driving, which is exhausting but yeah, it's been a really good time. Danny and his crew have really been great to us and so have the fans.”

As great as Amigo the Devil has been to the Thieves, it doesn’t mean they didn’t exact revenge for their cellophane-wrapped tour van. D’Amario said the Thieves returned the favor with some wrapping of their own.

"I had bought a hundred pack of condoms. We thought it would be really funny to go into the green room before they got there and open each pack of White Claw or beer and wrap each individual drink in a condom,” D’Amario said. “So yeah, we did that and put ‘em back in the boxes."

Tejon Street Corner Thieves open for Amigo the Devil, Monday, November 15 at The Secret Group, 2101 Polk. Doors at 7 p.m., all ages, $20-$25.
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Jesse’s been writing for the Houston Press since 2013. His work has appeared elsewhere, notably on the desk of the English teacher of his high school girlfriend, Tish. The teacher recognized Jesse’s writing and gave Tish a failing grade for the essay. Tish and Jesse celebrated their 33rd anniversary as a couple in October.