Back in the early days of my band the Grapes of Wrath, whenever we played shows across the border we never went through the proper legal procedures. Once we had a mini-tour booked that took us from Vancouver to Spokane and then Kelowna. Our manager decided to make up a fake contract that showed that on this certain night we were playing in Kelowna and not Spokane (where we really were).
So we drove to the border that afternoon and presented the guard with our fake contract and told him we were just going across the line to go to the mall in Oroville to buy jeans and we were coming back to play in Kelowna that night. He told us to go inside while they searched our van. As we waited inside the border building, the officer came in from searching our van. He was holding a document in his hand and said: “Well look what I found here.” It was the real contract for our show that night in Spokane. Being the geniuses that we were, we left it in the glove compartment. So the border guard points to me and my brother and orders us to go into separate offices. I was 18 and thought I was going to jail.
An officer soon came in and sat in front of a typewriter, a portrait of the president above him, eagle statues and flags everywhere. He asked me to raise my right hand and swear to tell the truth etc. So I did. Since the evidence was so damning, I thought maybe it would spare me a lengthy sentence. After he wrote down my admission of guilt he asked me if I wanted to make a statement and I said yes and went on about how all bands do this sort of thing and we were young and poor. So he let me go out to the waiting room and I saw my brother had been released as well.
The officer asked for the keys to the van and said: “We are confiscating your vehicle. You can take out your instruments and belongings.” So we pulled everything out of the van, including my brother’s full drum kit and carried it back over to the Canadian side, where we were then interrogated some more, by Canadian border officers. They even went so far as thinking my brother’s passport was fake!
Finally they let us go, and after being told we couldn’t hitch hike at the border crossing, we called our grandpa in Kelowna and he drove down to pick us and our gear up in his camper. He stopped at McDonald’s in Penticton to cheer us up. We never did get the van back … bastards.
- Tom Hooper