The Last Show: The Ballroom Thieves at Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco

Photo Credit: Shervin Lainez

Editor’s Note: Welcome to The Last Show, a new Vanyaland series where we talk to performers about their last traditional live appearance before the pandemic hit. As we slowly make our way out of this mess, and a return to stages appears to be coming (eventually), here are the stories of bands, artists, comedians and others who performed their last live gig in front of an audience around this time last year. These are their shows, their stories, their memories.

The Ballroom Thieves [Portland, ME]

Vanyaland: When and where was your last show before the pandemic?

Calin “Callie” Peters of The Ballroom Thieves: Our last pre-quarantine show was in San Francisco on March 13… but first! A long backstory. 

About two weeks before the pandemic took over we left on our most exciting tour in years. We had finally released our third album, after finishing it up a whole year prior, which clocked us in at four years since the last full length release. We were itchy for a busy tour where we could actually promote something, and this one just kept getting better, with most rooms selling out before we arrived to each new city. The first leg started in Colorado, and was supposed to take us to Idaho, and then Washington, which would then run us down the West Coast. The morning after our Denver show, well rested and fed by my cousin and her family, we jumped in the van on time, maybe even early (what?!) and began our drive to Boise. A few hours into Wyoming it started to snow, and we suddenly found ourselves sliding across I-80 and crashing into the median along with well over 100 vehicles.

Our trailer was hit by a semi, which saved us and our van from the crashes that continued behind us for the next 5 or ten horrifying minutes. Many hours after the accident once we could finally leave the scene, we made the decision to split our crew up, and send some of us driving to Seattle after waiting at a nearby gas station all night, while the rest of us waited out the three-day highway closures in a hotel in Rawlins, Wyoming to eventually fly to Seattle and reunite. We were forced to cancel Boise, but still made a few more fully attended West Coast shows before the final one at Bottom of the Hill in SF, where we ended up playing to only 30 percent of our expected turnout. We then canceled our LA show and made plans to get back home to Maine. 

Who else was on the bill? 

Harlequin Gold was supposed to be with us from Colorado to LA. They’re a great sister duo, and we felt like we were just getting to know each other when everything had to end. 

What was notable about the show?

We knew it had to be our last show, and it was bittersweet to wrap the tour up so unexpectedly without the bulk of the audience. The crowd vibe was bittersweet, too; no one knew very much about the virus and what kind of year it was about to be, but we all felt the shift and we were all in it together for one of the last times. 

What do you remember the most about the show?

The show felt like a free-for-all. We could play whatever for however long because it was already crisis time. 

If someone told you live music would be going away for at least the next year, what would you have thought?

I would have thought everyone is about to realize how important live music and nightlife is to our collective sanity, and I highly doubt we have a system willing to keep artists, crew, and venues afloat while everything is shut down. 

If someone told you live music would be going away for at least the next year, what would you have done differently?

We may have rethought the release timing of our album so it didn’t drop a month before everything stopped. Then again the title is pretty fitting. 

What do you have coming up or coming out?

We have single or two in the dugout, and we’ve demoed out a new album which we hope to start recording in the summer. 

Listen to The Ballroom Thieves’ most recent album, 2020’s ‘Unlovely’, released one year ago this past Valentine’s Day.