In 2016, the question about defunct bands reuniting for a show, tour, or new music is less a matter of “if” than “when.” Sure, high profile reunions have been going on for decades, but apart from a few notable holdouts like The Smiths or Hüsker Dü, nearly every finished band with a potential audience finds a way to put aside their differences for another paycheck. Hatchets get buried, coffee shops go under, or restlessness sets in, and bands decide to give it another go.
Given that the paradigm shift over the past decade has all but eliminated record sales as a source of income for recording artists, it’s hard to disparage bands for reuniting and touring to help their livelihood. As streaming makes it easier than ever for fans to discover artists from any era, why shouldn’t those bands be able to capitalize on having an increased audience and earning some profits, however meager they may be, for a renewed interest in their work?
Then again, the frequency of the reunions have been a little ridiculous. It’s easy to get swept up in the nostalgia about seeing great bands from the past, but sometimes that takes away from making new memories with talented young acts of today. Regardless, the fact remains that reunions are everywhere, and if you’re going to a festival or attending a major tour this summer, odds are you’re going to catch at lease one of them. They’re unavoidable.
Because of this, we decided to start keeping tabs on all the reunions taking place this year, measuring how they stack up to one another, from the potentially legendary to the definitively embarrassing. Similar to our festival power rankings, though, there’s plenty of criteria to consider:
01. There’s the amount of time that the band has been broken up, as a band playing their first show in 20 years is clearly more intriguing than one whose last show was in 2011.
02. There’s the length of the reunion, with some bands getting together for just a pair of shows opposed to bands that go on extensive world tours.
03. There’s the prospect of new music. (Although, to be fair, not every reunion should lead to new music.)
04. There’s the type of venue the bands are playing; in other words, do you have to shell out a few hundred bucks for a festival ticket or can you catch the band at a club or theater.
05. There’s the drama surrounding the initial break up. For example, bands who made a big stink about breaking up may get dinged compared to those who simply acknowledged they needed a break.
06. And finally, there’s an excitement factor, as depending on the people or music involved, some reunions are simply more compelling than others.
Based on these factors, we looked al all the major reunions you can catch this summer (some of which have already begun) and ranked them to determine which presents the most grabbing opportunity.
Editor’s Note: The original list actually forgot Ween. We’ve since locked David up for a week.
15. The Dresden Dolls
Who asked for this one again? Over the past few years, Amanda Palmer has been in the news more for her personal controversies than her musical accomplishments, and while she still has plenty of loyal fans, many have grown weary of her antics. Sure, she’s promised that the show will have The Dresden Dolls playing new music, and as tiresome as Palmer has become in recent years, the group did put out some great music during their time together. That said, this is a reunion that few really need.
14. At The Drive-In
Bands get back together all the time without having their complete lineup. It’s not always necessary to have each member present to capture the essence of what made that group great during their prime. However, as we insisted a month ago, having an At The Drive-In reunion without founding member Jim Ward is not the same. Say what you will, but it really is just The Mars Volta playing a bunch of ATDI songs. Even so, it’s only been four years since the band played together with the complete lineup, which makes this latest wave feel even cheaper. Toss in the fact that Ward’s departure happened after tickets were sold should leave a bad taste in every fan’s mouth.
13. Times New Viking
It’s a bit unclear to determine whether this really counts as a reunion, as the Columbus garage rockers never made a firm announcement that they had broken up. They haven’t released an album in five years and haven’t played a show in four, and this summer marks the end of their silence as they take the stage in their hometown for a one-off performance. Some news articles are reporting the show as a “reunion,” so we decided to include it here, but we wouldn’t be surprised if the band didn’t view it through that lens. Since they’ve been dormant for a while, it could count, and hopefully could lead to new music. Either way, it would be a treat to catch this show even if it doesn’t result in anything afterwards.
An indefinite hiatus in 2011 led to a confirmed breakup in 2013, and since then, we’ve heard nothing from the popular emo group. Singer Geoff Rickley has stayed busy in the meantime, releasing albums with the post-punk group No Devotion and the irreverent punk band United Nations. He also was in charge of a record label that folded after controversies around the business practices of a key investor, Martin Skreli, came to light. Recently, the band met for the first time in five years to mend fences, and from that conversation came the opportunity to reunite for a one-off show at Atlanta’s Wrecking Ball. No, they haven’t been gone for that long, but this really does feel like a situation where this may be the band’s only show rather than the start of a second run.
The legendary indie pop band that Dean Wareham founded after the dissolution of Galaxie 500 gained a loyal following throughout the ‘90s before disbanding in 2005. The group reunited last Spring, and has been steadily playing across the world since then, hitting most major cities. They’re about to embark on another seasonal tour to make up for the places they missed last year, and the ensuing novelty of catching them for the first time keeps them in the middle of the ratings.
In early 2012, Aaron Freeman announced that he had retired from Ween, eventually citing personal reasons, which made a pair of New Year’s gigs the group’s unofficial farewell. In the time since, Freeman and Mickey Melchiondo spent the years touring and recording different projects as Ween’s loyal following lamented their absence. Which is why it was such a welcome surprise when they decided to pick things back up again, playing a handful of dates in New York and Colorado alongside some high profile festival slots at Levitation & Bonnaroo. The initial reunions shows have so far been fueled by eclectic, career-spanning setlists, giving even the most devoted fans more than enough reason to catch them again. Granted, their appeal may not extend to everyone, but for those who consider themselves fans, it’s not one to miss.
09. Drive Like Jehu
The legendary noise rock outfit’s reunion began in late 2014 when an opportunity presented itself to use a famed organ for a special one-off set in San Diego. That gig led to a longer reunion that’s lasted two years and included appearances at Riot Fest, Treasure Island, and FFF. With a handful of European and American festivals lined up for the rest of the summer, it doesn’t seem like they have any intention of stopping either. And while the length of the reunion has certainly dampened some of the novelty, Drive Like Jehu remain one of the most influential acts of their genre, which makes them something to the effect of “required witnessing.”
08. Digable Planets
Ishmael Butler’s tremendous work in Shabazz Palaces over the past decade has rightfully renewed interest in Digable Planets, the influential rap trio he was a part of in the ‘90s. They reunited in 2005 and again in 2009, but have been largely dormant since 2011. They played a special one-off date around New Year’s last year and have announced a summer tour including some festival dates. Digable Planets are unparalleled in their signature style and their set is always going to be a great reunion to witness, even if it’s one that comes around on the regular.
07. LCD Soundsystem
Much has been written about LCD Soundsystem’s reunion already. The fact that they’re at a place were they can convert their goodwill into headlining major festivals speaks to their credibility — and let’s be real, it’s an opportunity they would be foolish to pass up. Whether it’s true organic growth from new fans discovering their records or one built around the novelty of getting to see them again, the fact remains that LCD is headlining major festivals around the world, and that’s something they weren’t quite able to do when they called it quits in 2011. What’s more, the first handful of reunion shows have received glowing reviews, and Murphy insists they’re hard at work on a new album, a move that more than “justifies” the reunion.
While their reunion at Coachella was unfortunately set back due to visa issues, last week’s warm-up set in London marked the first show in 20 years of the beloved shoegaze act. To their credit, the group is also putting out a new EP, which will (hopefully) be anchored by a full (and proper) stateside tour this fall. A band that was neither famous nor obscure, the worst reaction their reunion would ever receive was indifference. All in all, Lush offers an enviable catch for mild fans of the genre. They may not warrant the most buzzworthy reunion in the calendar, but it’s hardly one to scoff at.