XPoNential Artist Spotlight: The Districts get a little help from their friends

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Photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | Jeremy-Zim.com
Photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | Jeremy-Zim.com

There are few things that can be as debilitating for a young band as finding out that your tour van – including all of your gear inside and all of your tour earnings – was stolen right out from under your nose. That was The Districts’ now widely-known story in early June. But the Lititz-bred, Philly-based band was able to get by with a little help from their friends, even when they were nearly 900 miles away from home.

The band was staying overnight in St. Louis while on the road supporting Dr. Dog and spent some time earlier that day seeing the city. When the van was stolen, it was in a paid attendant lot outside the City Museum but it just wasn’t enough, according to bassist Conor Jacobus.

“There were security cameras, and they had it on tape, but they were pretty bad,” he says over the phone just days after playing the Ottawa Blues Fest in Ottawa, Canada. “We couldn’t I.D. a guy, we could just tell it was someone stealing a van. And it was about 12:30 when he did it.”

Broad daylight. As if adding insult to injury, they had only been gone for forty-five minutes after it’d been taken. Their first helping hand from their friends came from tour mates: Dr. Dog and the Hawks shared their gear with the Districts for the rest of the run.

Not long after that, they received more help from their friends by getting a ride to their next gig from the folks they were staying with in St. Louis. They even drove them to their next spot on the tour the next day. From there, The Districts had to ride a Greyhound bus from Minneapolis to Pittsburgh to continue the tour. Jacobus didn’t have too many good things to say about that particular eight-hour bus ride.

Upon arriving in Pittsburgh, the band met up with their next friend that’d pull through for them. Al Smith from Cold Fronts met them and drove them to North Carolina to play the Cat’s Cradle. Meanwhile, The Districts’ online friends and fans were contributing to an Indiegogo campaign to cover the cost of their stolen items. (In fact, there was a second campaign that was started a by a fan that The Districts met on their tour earlier in the year with White Denim.)

“We did an interview in St. Louis during the White Denim tour and he interviewed us for his college radio,” Jacobus says about the good Samaritan that started the other Indiegogo campaign. “And he decided he wanted to help us out, which was really nice. But we didn’t ask him to do it or anything. He really just wanted to do it because he felt bad.”

Jacobson went on to say that the money raised by them in their Indiegogo campaign will be used for repairing their van (which, when we talked, was recovered but still in St. Louis) as well as replacing drums, other gear and a friend’s computer which was in the van when it was stolen. Via their label, Fat Possum, they were able to get in touch with Gibson Guitars, who graciously replaced the band’s stringed instruments.

Most recently, the Districts played a couple “secret” shows under the name, Eight Legged Prawn, one of which at South Philly’s Boot & Saddle.

“Our friend was setting up a show and since we have our own booking agent we didn’t want to conflict with the XPN Festival show later this month,” Jacobson says. “So we had to go under a different moniker, so we just went with that. But after XPN Fest we’re going tour throughout August.”

Another reason to catch The Districts at XPoNential Fest: it will be your last chance to see them (for now) in their original four-piece lineup. Founding guitarist Mark Larson recently announced his plans to amicably part ways with the band following XPoNential to attend college in Central Pa. “We’re bummed to not be playing with him any longer,” the band wrote in a Facebook statement. “But we’re excited to see what the future holds for both him and us. … We wish ya the best Mark, and thank you mucho, mucho for helping us get this far.”

Stepping in to fill Larson’s shoes after XPoNential is Pat Cassidy of local jangle popsters Keepers – another friend helping The Districts get by.

The Districts play Xponential Festival, Sunday, July 27, at 7:15 p.m. More details here.

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