Don't let their catchy songs fool you--The Mynabirds are more than your basic pop band. The Omaha, Nebraska based "collective," led by singer-songwriter Laura Burhenn, infuse their music with both political and art statements. (After all, their second album, which came out this spring, was called Generals.) So when the band embarked on a cross-country tour, we knew it wouldn't be you average case of sex, drugs, and rock'n'roll--and had to have them document their hijinks with the help of photographer Bliss Braoudakis. Here's how it went down, according to Burhenn--and if you missed them on the road, don't miss The Mynabirds' 7" record out tomorrow on Saddle Creek. REBECCA WILLA DAVIS
You can only plan for so much. Every time we head out on the road for tour, there'll be at least one thing that happens that I couldn't possibly have imagined. Like that time in Chicago my fox headdress got stolen and a police chase ensued. Yeah, that was one of those times.
It was a hot summer Sunday night in Chicago. It was Father's Day. And the Cubs were playing. Not that I'm much into baseball, but I do know that hometown game nights never spell good news for a show turn out. We figured Chicago had a lot of things on their collective to-do list that night and our show at Schubas would be pretty quiet. Well, by the end of the night the club was full. Chicago had proven us wrong. [After the show] I headed to the merch booth, beaming with good vibes from a successful show. As I was mid-conversation with someone, I heard Bliss [our photographer] yell from across the club near the exit door: "He's got your fox!" I'd had a little bit to drink. Okay, I'd had enough whiskey for me and a few other people. And it took me a minute to process what "he's got your fox" really meant. You see, I commissioned this amazing artist from Boston, Erin Shaw, to make me a fox headdress to wear onstage. She hand-dyed the virgin wool, hand-felted the ears and nose and every bit of faux fox fur across the mold she'd made, and hand-stitched the headdress together with painstaking care. It took her weeks. It's the only one in the universe; and it's kind of my power I put on every night before I take the stage. I can understand someone wanting to have it. But seriously--what kind of an asshole would actually steal it!?
I ran outside and found the mumbly kid swaying on the sidewalk. People from the show had spilled out onto the street in the commotion. They pointed at the kid, "That guy! His friend took it!" I charged towards him. "Where's your friend!? Tell him to bring my fox back!" He swayed some more. I could tell his whole world was spinning. He said, "He's an idiot. I don't know. He was just...trying to be funny." "Well it's not funny," I said. "Call him. Tell him to come back. Please." He fumbled with his phone. I could see he'd been trying to get ahold of his friend. I'm not sure if he was too drunk to remember how to make a call, or was just pretending he was to buy his friend more time to get further away with my fox. I snatched his phone out of his hand and pressed the call button. His friend answered immediately; I could hear him panting. He let out a short, "Hey--" between breaths and before he could say anything else, I screamed, "Bring back my fox now, motherfucker!" It wasn't my proudest moment. He hung up. Duh. I immediately thought how terrible I'd be in a hostage negotiation situation, recalling all the cool, calm and collected techniques that actually work in the movies. I'd never make a good mobster or a good spy. And now, because I reacted like an idiot, the thief was never gonna come back and I was never gonna see my fox headdress again.
I turned back to the alleyway and through the darkness I could see two shadows emerging. It looked like one of them had something in his hand. I started towards the figures, wondering if one of them was the thief and if I was going to try a pleading negotiation technique (better than the last one I'd tried) or just kick him in the balls and take my fox back. As a security light flashed on as they strode passed its motion sensor, I could finally make them out. It was my bandmate, Tyler, and his friend, Mike, who was definitely not wearing a shirt. Another step closer and Tyler raised his hand over his head exhaustedly, triumphantly….He had the fox! I squealed with joy from the bottom of my soul, the kind uncontrollable joy that comes out of your mouth in the most embarrassing combination of sounds imaginable. In any other situation, I would've shrunk from embarrassment at that noise. Instead, I jumped up and down and hugged them both.
Tyler told me how they chased the thief down through alleys and across fenced front lawns and, when the police saw them running, they joined the chase, too. Tyler eventually dove after the thief and took a pretty bad tumble--but that dive also made the thief give up the fox. Tyler said the police had caught the guy shortly after that and had him cuffed in the back of a cruiser. As we raced back through the alley towards the cop car, I imagined all the things I would say to the thief. I was searching for the right movie scene in my memory to inspire me. I couldn't pin down the exact words, but I knew they'd come once I saw that punk's face. And I was going to change his life with those words. He was going to cry with guilt and be a changed man. But most importantly, this thief was going to love The Mynabirds; he'd be our number one fan. [But] when I got up to the cop car and saw the thief in the backseat through the open door, his wrists bound behind his back with zip ties, I melted. "Dude!" I squeaked. "That wasn't cool!" So much for my inspirational, life-changing speech. "Really. That was sooo not cool. It took an artist a really long time to make that fox, and it was really expensive." I sounded like an old person. I could see the whole range of his emotions on his face: embarrassment, shock, fear…and pure delight. He knew he was going to get off scott free; and he was already laughing inside at how sweet/hilarious/awesome it was going to be to tell his bros all about it later. He was right. I wasn't going to press charges. He was just a kid doing kid things. He apologized. I thanked the cops. Tyler, Mike and I walked back to the club. I got a first aid kit and cleaned up Tyler's arm. Then the whole band took triumphant photo booth photos with the fox headdress. The ones of Tyler are particularly awesome
All in all, order was restored. I had the fox back and karma was doled out in a swift circle. That kid might've stolen my fox, but he also gave me a pretty incredible story to tell. And it's pretty sweet/hilarious/awesome to get to tell it again.
In Detroit bowling with photographer Bliss Braoudakis.
Post-stolen headdress photoshoot!
Chilling in Cleveland, Ohio.
Onstage in Detroit!
Posing by Lake Michigan.
Stopping along the way.
Our show in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Our trumpet player, Rebecca.