The bass player in a Mötley Crüe tribute band thinks karma may have come in the form of COVID-19 to a saloon they played at the Sturgis motorcycle rally.
Not that Michael Long of Carnival of Sins was fearful of the virus as he and his three bandmates set out from their native Ohio to the South Dakota town where 460,000 people would be gathering largely without masks or social distancing, as if there were no pandemic. Long did not hesitate even though he suffers from COPD.
“If it happens, it happens, it’s going to happen no matter what,” Long told The Daily Beast.
Long’s band played seven shows in the Dayton area to raise the $3,500 needed to cover the van rental and hotel room for what was to be a three-day engagement at One Eyed Jack’s Saloon in Sturgis, from Aug. 13 to Aug. 15.
Their contract was only for $5,000, but a gig was still a gig. They drove 25 hours, the trackers in their smartphone apps becoming part of an electronic map that showed people heading for the annual rally from all across America.
One Eyed Jack’s proved to be an outsized establishment on Main Street with four bars on the ground floor staffed by scantily clad young women. One was topless save for a bra made out of candy that she announced on YouTube to be edible. Other videos show bartenders hopping onto the counter and twerking as patrons responded with tips.
The contract called for Carnival of Sins to get a free meal, but Long says that was not forthcoming. They were also supposed to get non-alcoholic drinks gratis. Long asked for a bottle of water.
“[They] wanted $6,” Long reported.
As a warm-up band played, the sound system proved to be what Long terms “iffy.” The lead singer was a tenor and his voice became, in Long’s words, “ear screeching.”
But when Carnival of Sins got its turn, it was nonetheless able to deliver what Long says was one of its best sets ever. Patrons crowded around the stage as if COVID-19 were nothing to worry about.
“The energy and the hype was all there,” Long later said. “Everybody was into it. You can hear people singing.”
Long again experienced a joy such as he never gets on his day job as a truck driver delivering pet supplies.
“I’m 45 years old, I got to do something,” Long said. “I’m not going to pay a psychiatrist when I can get paid to play.”
He added, “There’s something about being a musician. Honestly, it seems to melt your troubles away.”
The next morning, the band members woke up to a call from their agent, who relayed what he said was a message from the owner of the saloon.
“Saying we weren’t welcome any longer to play there and don’t come back,” Long reported.
The two other performances were canceled. And the band would not be paid for the one they had played.
“His words to the agent were, ‘Fuck them, I’m not paying them a dime,” Long told The Daily Beast.
Long was mystified. He wondered if the saloon had stiffed them because business was down as a result of the pandemic. But rally attendance was nearly the same as the year before, and he was told that two of the waitresses at One Eyed Jack’s made $70,000 in six days.
Carnival of Sins could do nothing but pack up and drive the 25 hours back to Ohio.
“Luckily, we had gas money to get there, or we would have been stuck,” Long said.
Long was still angry over being stiffed when the South Dakota Department of Health issued a press release.
Potential COVID-19 Exposure in Sturgis, SD
PIERRE, S.D. – State Health officials announced Tuesday, August 18, that a patron of the One-Eyed Jack’s Saloon at 1304 Main St. in Sturgis, SD has tested positive for COVID-19.
The individual visited the business while able to transmit the virus to others on these dates and times:
- August 11, from 12:00 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.
Due to the risk of exposure, individuals that visited the business during the specified dates and times should monitor for symptoms for 14 days after they visited.
That was two days before Carnival of Sins played, and Long remained unworried for himself. But the owner of One-Eyed Jack’s was sure to be having a worrisome day, both personally and in terms of his business. Any staff who worked during those hours on Aug. 11 would have to be quarantined, perhaps along with the owner himself. And One-Eyed Jack’s had become known as the first establishment where COVID-19 appeared during the Sturgis rally.
“I do believe in karma,” Long said.
Nobody answered the phone at One Eyed Jack’s yesterday. And no response came after The Daily Beast made requests via email and Facebook for comment on the Carnival of Sins contract as well the COVID-19 case.
Meanwhile, the city of Sturgis says it will begin mass testing of city workers, first responders, and others there on Friday, likely to be continued through Tuesday.
There remains the question of infection among the hundreds of thousands that the electronic map showed converging on Sturgis and have since returned home.
“People were here, and then they left,” a city spokesperson said. “We probably won’t get a report of that.”
Long reported during a lunch break in Ohio that he was feeling no ill effects from his journey.
But whatever worries might arise in these tense times, he has his music.
“I don’t know what it is, there’s just something about it,” he said. “It makes you not worry about things so much.”
And when it comes to that saloon in Sturgis, Long remains a believer in karma.
Let’s hope the karma does not extend to the near half-million people who defied all sense to attend the rally and now are scattered all across America.