MISSOULA - The highlight of this year for a Missoula band — an out-of-town show in Washington — quickly turned into the setback of their careers.
The heavy metal band I Imagine Murder, which was born in Missoula, had their tour van — filled with over $25,000 of equipment — stolen after their live show on April 4, 2023.
The band released its first single, "Serpent" in September of 2022 and produce all their own songs and music videos.
After their first releases, I Imagine Murder quickly gained popularity, which, according to lead vocalist Jamal Greely, is due to their commitment to honest marketing and music.
"A lot of the work that we did was definitely in effort to kind of show that with the right promotion and stuff, that bands in Montana can be noticed by other places, especially like Washington or Oregon," Greely says.
When they booked their show at The Plaid Pig in Tacoma, the band members were ecstatic. It would be their first out-of-town show.
"It was cool to know we have that pull, that we can go that far already," I Imagine Murder guitarist Coleman Allen says. "And we're definitely looking to go farther and go back someday."
They played the venue with another metal band out of Arizona called Vacant Skies. After dropping their gear off at their hotel, they went back to The Plaid Pig to watch the rest of the other band's performance.
They crashed after midnight and ate a Taco Bell meal, not knowing what the next day would bring.
"Woke up the next morning, everybody got ready to go, all set up, and we walked outside, and I thought we walked into the wrong parking lot at first," Greely says.
The parking lot where they parked their van and all their gear was empty. They hoped someone was pulling a prank, or that the hotel's towing company confiscated the van. Unfortunately, their fate was much worse.
"I don't think we knew what to say at that point so I just, I walked over there, and we started the whole process of getting a hold of the police and hung out in the lobby for a couple hours just waiting for a police officer to show up," Dan Miller, drummer for I Imagine Murder, says.
The police investigated, finding shattered glass in the parking lot, and concluded that someone must have hot-wired the van and took off with the gear. According to Allen, they weren't offered much help from law enforcement.
"Other than a little bit, we just got met with little to no help," he says. "They were kind of just like 'figure it out, go home.' Which I kind of figured that would happen. You know, big city, they have a lot to deal with."
The band had brought in some of their guitars into the hotel that night, but other than that, all of the equipment they need to perform, or even practice, is gone.
"Not just knowing what I had lost with everything, but just knowing what everybody else had lost and the years of work and saving and grinding away to make sure that you have the stuff that you want in a band," Greely says. "It was heartbreak."
More than the loss of equipment, the members mourn their loss of personal items.
"The sentiment, that’s the big thing," Miller says. "Because like even the van, like that's been my whole life I've had that van. I was watching movies in it when I was like two."
Watch: Band members discuss the impact of having their equipment stolen:
Miller was given the van by his father after he decided to go into music. Not the only heirloom that he lost that night.
"My dad was a drummer, and I had stuff that he handed down to me, that I was using, that I was going to pass down to my kid," Miller says.
Greely says losing all of their merchandise was one of the worst parts of the incident.
"It's an investment that you try to make something back with as a band. It really pays," he says. "Shows is not really how you make the money as a band. It's selling merchandise. And with that gone, that's the biggest hurt to our band."
Even through this setback, the band has been able to lean on each other to look positively into the future.
"We're musicians," Greely says. "It's part of our thing we picked out in life is just to kind of struggle and kind of try to do what we want to do. And it really is a sink-or-swim mentality. And this is one of those testing points in a lot of bands where you're going to either sink or swim. And I think with the group that we picked, and everybody's able to talk to each other and rely on each other. We picked something that's able to swim through these kinds of situations."
Until they are able to regroup, the band will focus on their social media presence and push out unreleased music.
The music community in both Washington and Montana have rallied to help I Imagine Murder back onto its feet. Friends have lent them instruments and practice space, and people have been donating to their GoFundMe.
The team is grateful for the support and hopes they can return the favor one day.
"It definitely shows how tight-knit that everybody in this music scene in Montana really is," Greely says.