A “Dude, where’s my bus?” moment has ended in justice for mellow indie-rock supergroup Gayngs. A Nashville, TN, jury awarded the band more that $100,000 in compensatory and punitive damages on May 18 in the trial of Gayngs LLC v. C.J. Starbuses, Inc. and C.J. Curtsinger. The news was announced this week by publicity and management company Tell All Your Friends.
The bus debacle began last October after the band arrived in Austin, TX, with plans to play Austin City Limits. According to Nate Vernon, Gayngs’ manager, the band arrived in Austin via the C.J. Starbuses vehicle, played a show at music venue Emo’s and returned to its hotel rooms to catch some sleep. But Vernon tells CMJ that around 3:30 a.m., he received a “call saying the bus was on its way back to Nashville.” Since the bus contained all of the band’s gear, Gayngs was forced to cancel its highly anticipated ACL show, the last on its list of dates promoting the group’s debut LP, Relayted.
The band’s lawyers, Chris Vlahos and Howell O’Rear, filed a formal breach of contract complaint against Curtsinger and his company on October 18, accusing C.J. Starbuses and Curtsinger of engaging in “willful, wanton, malicious and oppressive actions” that led to Gayngs’ members losing money in show fees, paying additional travel costs and having their professional reputations harmed for being forced to break deals with ACL’s promoters.
The document, which identifies Gayngs as a 24-member “critically acclaimed soft-rock musical supergroup,” specifies that Vernon intended to rent the tour bus and trailer for the band from September 27 until October 10 but that Curtsinger made him extend the date range to October 12 to cover post-show drive time to Wisconsin to drop off the band members and then return to Nashville. Gayngs received a price quote from the company in mid-September that incorrectly stated the band’s bus usage as going until October 19 instead of October 12, with the rental cost coming to $8,818.32. Vernon is said to have contacted Curtsinger to amend the agreement the day after receiving the paperwork.
According to the complaint, Vernon and the band “orally agreed to certain material terms” with Curtsinger, who in turn agreed to rent Gayngs a bus and a trailer until the correct date of October 12. The band paid the initial $2,939.44 for the rental, and Curtsinger was then supposed to write up a revised invoice and rental agreement—but he never did.
The bus picked up the band, and its more that $75,000’s worth of equipment, on September 27. Everyone arrived in Austin on October 8, with the Emo’s show on October 9 and the bus driver, Robert “Radar” Orth, planning to move the bus to the ACL grounds early Sunday morning, October 10. But on Saturday night, Curtsinger left Vernon a voicemail asking for the rest of the rental money. Vernon returned the call, telling Curtsinger that money would be paid once Vernon received the promised revised invoice and rental agreement. The band went off to play Emo’s then returned its gear to the bus and trailer. Vernon told the driver around 3 a.m. that he and the band were going back to the hotel and to call if there were any issues moving the bus to the ACL grounds. The driver then allegedly told Curtsinger that Vernon was asleep, and Curtsinger instructed the driver to turn back to Nashville right away.
Curtsinger left a voicemail on Vernon’s phone explaining that the bus was en route to Nashville, he was “tired of being jacked around” and that Vernon could “find somebody new to jack off.” Vernon got the message around 3:40 a.m. and tried to get Curtsinger to turn the bus around but to no avail. Gayngs was scheduled to play ACL at 3 p.m. that Sunday, but despite filing a police report, calling Curtsinger and even attempting to meet the bus in another city, the bus refused to return, forcing Gayngs to cancel the gig and lose its guaranteed $15,000 performance fee.
Through a combination of voicemails, emails and testimony, Vernon says that Gayngs and its lawyers were able to convince the jury that Curtsinger’s actions were malicious and that the band deserved to be awarded damages.
Curtsinger declined to comment on the trial via phone today, other than to say that he and the company are in the appeals stage of the suit.