It was an unusually tumultuous summer all around for Theory of a Deadman, but that August night at First Avenue in particular stuck with the band members.
“I think we were into our third song, and our house engineer got on the talk-back mic and basically told us, ‘Guys, get the hell offstage right now.’ ”
That’s how Dean Back, bassist of the British Columbia-reared hard rock band, recounted the moment he knew things had gone amok in their Minneapolis show.
Theory of a Deadman is the group whose Aug. 12 performance was cut short when pieces of First Ave’s ceiling came crashing to the floor midconcert. The accident — which became international news — injured three fans and forced Minneapolis’ legendary rock club to close for three weeks of repairs.
Three months later, the club has long since recovered, and the band is already returning for a makeup gig Tuesday. TOAD’s members are even making an extra conciliatory gesture by charging a mere $10 per ticket (a discount that mostly comes off their end).
“They’ve been very cool about all of this from Day 1,” First Ave talent booker Sonia Grover said. “Some of the first calls I got the next morning were from their agent and management, because the band was very adamant about making it up to everyone.”
Talking by phone two weeks ago from a tour stop in Flint, Mich., the TOAD bassist recalled, “As soon as we heard the plug was pulled on the show, the first comment was, ‘When can we come back?’ ”
In the interim, though, it was chaos. Back said for at least a few minutes he and his three bandmates “feared the worst.”
“We really didn’t know if somebody had gotten seriously hurt,” he said, recounting the incident in full.
“I basically just dropped my stuff right there onstage and ran into the dressing room. And from the dressing room, I heard one of the [sprinkler] pipes burst and the sound of running water. I poked my head out and saw what I guess was the second part of the ceiling collapse. That’s when the building was evacuated, and we went straight to the bus.”
“It was pretty somber” on the bus, he continued. “As soon as you hear that fans of your band have been injured at a show, however badly, you take that pretty seriously.”
That’s why, he said, the band has refrained from making any jokes about “tearing the roof” off the club. Of lesser note, he said, they were also disappointed because “the kickoff to the show was pretty awesome.
“The crowd was really into it. We were really feeling it, having a great time. We had friends at the show, too, so it was supposed to be a celebratory night for us. It didn’t work out that way, though.”
Theory of a Deadman first came to light via 93X-FM and other hard-rock stations in the early 2000s partly by riding the success of fellow Vancouverites Nickelback, whose frontman, Chad Kroeger, had signed the group to his record label. But the band has outlasted the many comparisons to Kroeger’s group it initially endured.
“It was too easy to lump us in with them at first,” Back said. “We made a conscious decision to try to get away from that for a while, and worked with different producers. Howard Benson, in particular, really played a big role in shaping our sound.”
While it’s not exactly as precarious as performing under rotting ceiling materials, TOAD’s summer tour followed another daring venture: The quartet released its first-ever acoustic EP, “Angel,” named after a ballad that became a single off last year’s full-length album “Savages.”
“It was kind of thrilling,” Back said of the musical challenge, which was a reverse way for singer Tyler Connolly to operate.
“When Tyler writes a song, that’s usually how it starts, with a bare-bones acoustic guitar. So we thought fans might like to hear and sort of see how the songs sound that way.”
The First Ave show wasn’t the only problematic gig on their summer tour. One of their Canadian shows a week or two earlier was temporarily stopped when their smoke machines tripped off fire alarms. Then a week later in Reno, Nev., Back noticed from the stage that “a bunch of the crowd were coughing and looking really uncomfortable.
“Somebody lit off tear gas for some stupid reason,” Back marveled. “In 13 years, that was by far our weirdest tour.”
Still, First Ave is the one show the band members made a point of doing over.
“It was a shame what happened, especially at such a legendary place,” he said. “We don’t want any dark clouds hanging over the place, so we’ll try to spin something positive out of it.”
Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658