Gayngs sue CJ Star Buses over tour bus fiasco

Photo by Stacy Schwartz

Nine days ago, Gayngs were forced to cancel their Austin City Limits performance because their

bus driver took off with their tour bus and gear

in the middle of the night, leaving them stranded. And today, further details about that bizarre chain of events are starting to unfold, as the band have revealed that they are suing bus company owner CJ Curtsinger and CJ Star Buses for "tortious conduct and a breach of contract," and intend to collect damages.

What exactly happened on that fateful night?

According to legal documents filed by Gayngs and a phone conversation I had with Curtsinger, there was a dispute over the terms of the tour bus contract leading up to the Austin City Limits festival, and Gayngs had yet to sign their contract.

"They never signed their contract, but I let 'em go," Curtsinger told me last week.

According to the lawsuit filed by Gayngs, the initial contract drafted by CJ Star Buses tacked on an additional seven days of bus rental, which at $350 per day jacked up the cost of their tour bus by almost $2,500. Tour manager Nate Vernon tried several times to get Curtsinger to fix the contract and provide them with an accurate invoice, but Curtsinger failed to do so, so Gayngs did not sign it.

Curtsinger sent me copies of the contract and invoice, and I can confirm that the ending date on his contract was incorrectly listed as October 19, when Gayngs actually would have wrapped up their tour on October 10 and returned to Minneapolis by October 12.

The dispute over the contract continued to build until the band reached Austin, and that's when the situation started to spin out of control.

According to the lawsuit, on the evening of Saturday, October 9, Curtsinger called Vernon and left him a voicemail demanding further payment (the band had already paid him an initial installment of almost $3,000 before leaving on tour).

In a voicemail to Vernon that was recorded and transcribed in the legal documents, he said, "Hey Nate, I'm getting a little worried about my money, buddy... I don't know man--I don't feel comfortable no more, you know. So, let's address this issue tonight, I don't care what time you get off the stage, call me."

The documents claim that Vernon called Curtsinger back and again stressed that they needed an accurate contract and that Curtsinger had invoiced their expenses incorrectly. All the while, the band had been providing their bus driver with "several thousand dollars" in cash to cover the expenses of gas, food, and his hotel rooms, including a $500 cash payment to the driver that night which would end up funding his drive to Nashville with all of their gear.

That appears not to jibe with Curtsinger's allegations that the band "had not paid," although they were behind on their payments due to the contract dispute.

Again according to the lawsuit, Vernon texted his bus driver at 3 a.m. on Sunday morning to inform him that he was going back to his hotel to go to sleep. A half-hour later, Curtsinger left Vernon the following voicemail message:

Buddy, I'm taking possession of my bus. I told Radar to go ahead and bring the coach back to Nashville. [Inaudible] and I'm tired of being jacked around. You can find somebody new to jack off. Your bus is on its way back to Nashville. Call me tomorrow so you can wire me my money or you can come on to Nashville and pick up your sh*t, whichever you want. See ya. Have a great day.

"I just wanted them out of my life and gone," Curtsinger told me. "You boys are getting off my bus, you're not cussing me, not trashing it, you're not doing all this stuff that you've done, and then play another day." It's unclear what caused Curtsinger to become so angry that particular night.

"They figured they could get that bus driver to go do what they wanted, because he was their guy," Curtsinger said, scoffing. "But it didn't work."

I asked Curtsinger if he knew that his actions would cost the band their gig at the ACL festival. "Yeah, oh yeah," he said. "I knew they had that show that morning... I knew it was the big Austin City show, I knew that too."

So why would he do such a thing?

"In my contract, it says I can take it, and even hold their stuff in lieu of fare," Curtsinger told me.

Well, sort of. In the contract Curtsinger drafted for Gayngs (and Gayngs never agreed with or signed), it states: "If the lease payments for any week remains unpaid for 15 days or more, LESSOR shall have the right to forthwith retake possession of the coach without notice to LESSEE, provided LESSOR has first given LESSEE notice by First Class U.S. Mail that the lease payment is ten days or more past due."

The lawsuit states that the only exchanges Curtsinger had with Vernon and the rest of Gayngs about payments were over the phone and via email; it appears he violated the terms of his own contract, which was never signed by the band in the first place.

Curtsinger also sent me photos of the tour bus, and says that the 12-member touring entourage "trashed his bus" and that he believes they had no intentions of getting back on the bus after their show in Austin. I'll let readers draw their own conclusions about the photos he provided (story continues below the photos):

Gayngs sue CJ Star Buses over tour bus fiasco
Gayngs sue CJ Star Buses over tour bus fiasco
Gayngs sue CJ Star Buses over tour bus fiasco
Gayngs sue CJ Star Buses over tour bus fiasco

In a statement issued today, Gayngs say that they intend to make this matter public as a lesson to other touring bands.

"To be deprived of our biggest performance, at the culmination of a nationwide tour was emotionally devastating," the statement says. "The band was left with no choice but to pursue legal action to recover all damages and to ensure this kind of conduct does not affect other artists in the future."

As for Curtsinger, he says this isn't the first time he's pulled this kind of stunt.  "I've done it. In 30 years, I've done it four times," he says.


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