- The Vampirates
Tens of thousands descended on St. Petersburg’s Grand Central District Sunday afternoon for the city’s annual LGBT Pride street festival. Despite the celebratory vibe, St. Pete police had something more nefarious on their radar: Pride-bombin’, hate-mongerin’, bushy beard-growin’ Middle Eastern terrorists.
Or so they thought.
At around 1 p.m. on June 29, St. Pete police responded to a complaint about four suspicious individuals at the apartment of local promoter Kat Lynes, who lives on the 800 block of 16th Avenue South and books bands at venues like Fubar and The Local 662.
According to the police report, neighbor Keith Coleman noticed two male and two female 20somethings he’d never seen in the neighborhood before at Lynes’ apartment. They were packing up a blue and grey van with Nevada license plates. One of the men, he told police, had a “full bushy beard,” and both had “Middle Eastern appearances.” They were carrying heavy black and red backpacks, and cardboard boxes marked with red X’s that had the word “explosives” on them, according to Coleman.
And when Coleman tried to chat with them as they loaded their van, they simply smiled at him without saying a word, says the police report.
That’s when Coleman began thinking about the Boston Marathon bombers and worrying about the safety of those attending the Pride festival, said Yolanda Fernandez, police spokesperson. So he called the cops.
Police spoke with Lynes and searched her apartment, leaving her with a mess that took hours to clean up.
As for those so-called “Middle Eastern” terrorists, Reno-based punk band The Vampirates had played a gig at Fubar the night before and crashed at Lynes’ apartment afterwards. Police arrived at the apartment on Sunday not long after they'd left for their next gig in Gainesville that night. The responding officers looked “confused” when she told them she wasn’t harboring terrorists, just musicians.
The backpacks they carried were crammed with clothing and other essentials for living on the road during a tour, Lynes explained to them.
Also, the boxes didn’t say explosives. They had “phonographic records” written on them and contained the band’s latest 7” vinyl release, “Pizza, Beer,” said David Masud, The Vampirates’ drummer. And he knows they weren’t very chatty with Coleman, but they’d had a long night and were focused on getting back on the road.
“Apparently he’s never talked to a person with a hangover before,” he said.
Coleman’s suspicions and the police search were “pretty ridiculous,” Masud added. “We’re pretty alternative-looking people, but we’re not terrorists.”
But police were right to respond the way they did, said department spokesperson Fernandez. “It’s better to be safe than sorry in these circumstances.” CL could not reach Coleman for comment.
Musad said many of the attendees at their Fubar gig had gone to the Saturday evening St. Pete Pride Parade first. And one of the girls helping the band pack up their van as Coleman looked on wore rainbow-colored bracelets in support of gay pride.
Still, a long-running joke in the band has been that one day bassist Pat Mayfield would be mistaken for a terrorist because of his beard.
“I guess that day was Sunday,” Masud said.
Masud, whose father is Pakistani, said he looks “more like a white guy” than Middle Eastern. But the van is registered in his name. So when police looked up the plate number and saw his name, he assumes that set off red flags for them.
“This is just about people being more scared of each other than they should be,” he said.
- The Vampirates posted this picture of their merch table at their June 29 Gainesville gig to Facebook with the caption: "Contrary to popular belief, this merch is not actually a pipe bomb."
The Vampirates had another incident with St. Petersburg police when they last played at Fubar in March 2013, Musad said.
A fan they met at the show offered to let them crash at his place. Police surrounded them, guns out and pointed at them, while they stood outside the apartment smoking, he said.
“They thought we were trying to steal our own tour van,” he said, and didn’t believe them until Masud unlocked the door with his key.
“It’s that age-old dilemma of security versus privacy,” he added.
And despite these run-ins with police, the band has no hard feelings against the city.
“It’s really cool,” Masud said. “We really like that area. And Kat put on a great show for us.”