Austin, Texas, blues

When Jackpot’s equipment was ripped off in alt-country’s capital city, the band’s hometown fans rallied in support

Jackpot is Sheldon Cooney, Lee Bob Watson, Rusty Miller and Mike Curry, and it takes a long-ass time to get out of Texas.

Jackpot is Sheldon Cooney, Lee Bob Watson, Rusty Miller and Mike Curry, and it takes a long-ass time to get out of Texas.

Live! Benefit concert 10 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 6 at Harlow’s, 2708 J St., $10 advance/$12 day of show. With John McCrea (solo) and Las Pesadillas (acoustic).

Aside from rolling the van or getting jacked up by some redneck sheriff just outside of Burning Cross, Texas, it’s every traveling band’s worst-case scenario: You wake up in a motel in some strange town after a gig the night before, you head down to your vehicle to make sure things are hunky-dory before you attempt breakfast, and you find that most of your equipment has been stolen.

It’s a tragedy that’s befallen more than a few bands, and on September 16, it happened to Jackpot in the supposedly musician-friendly city of Austin, Texas.

Sheldon Cooney, the local roots-rock quartet’s bassist, said the culprits most likely observed him, frontman Rusty Miller, guitarist Lee Bob Watson and drummer Mike Curry loading out after they played a set at the Continental Club, a renowned blues and rock dive on Austin’s South Congress Avenue, and then the culprits followed the band back to its motel.

“We just did what we normally do,” Cooney says. “We normally back our trailer up against a wall, so no one can get into it. And they actually cut the lock off the trailer hitch and took that assembly off, got the trailer up off the band somehow, and then towed the trailer away and took it to some apartment complex, got into the trailer and took all of our amps, five guitars, all of our cords and pedals, probably $2,000 in drum equipment. They took 10 or 12 dozen T-shirts and 400 CDs.” His voice trails off.

“They took our ice chest?”

Cooney starts laughing, incredulously. It’s a little before noon a week and a half later; he’s driving around Los Angeles looking for some chow before heading to the University of Southern California, where Jackpot is slated to play an on-campus radio show. The band has managed to borrow enough equipment to finish the end of the interrupted Southwestern leg of its tour: Anaheim, USC and San Luis Obispo.

“They left some of the bigger drums and stuff,” Cooney says. “But all the stuff that they could get rid of quickly, they took.” To the tune of around $10,000, he estimates.

Apparently, Austin is a tour stop where local bands might want to post someone on all-night watch. “I talked to Mel in Luckie Strike, and she said the same thing happened to them in Austin, as well,” Cooney says.

Jackpot had just begun touring behind its recently released Surfdog Records CD, Shiny Things, starting in Salt Lake City before hitting Boulder, Colo.; Denver, Dallas and then Austin. “We were planning on going out to Mississippi and Tennessee,” Cooney says, “but, after the theft happened, we cut those shows and came home.” The band scratched about four gigs so it could return to Sacramento, get some new equipment—courtesy of custom amp builder Ben Fargen and luthier Michael Caron—before heading back out to the Pacific Northwest.

“We’re pretty much gonna be out on the road for the next two or three months,” Cooney explains.

If there’s a silver lining, it’s that Jackpot’s local support system has come together to help the band get back on its feet. Music promoter Jerry Perry quickly organized a benefit show for this Sunday night at Harlow’s, where Jackpot, John McCrea and Las Pesadillas will play.

“Just when you’re all down and out and depressed about humanity,” Cooney says, “everyone’s been coming out of the woodwork. At our Web site, people have e-mailing us with equipment we can borrow and donations. We’ve really been embraced by our fan base and friends. It’s been pretty amazing.”

Kindnesses aside, the loss hurts. “A lot of the stuff had sentimental value,” Cooney explains—“guitars and amps that we’d had since we were teenagers, our first instruments we’d bought that weren’t Christmas presents. We’d actually worked a summer to buy them.”

Nevertheless, the circumstance of these working musicians demands that they move through their losses quickly. “We just gotta get back on the road,” Cooney concludes. “I mean, it sucks, but it’s like we have a record that just came out, and we have to tour.”