It’s so hard to say goodbye. Luckily, when it comes to music these days, it seems that there’s no such thing as a permanent break up. In recent weeks, Guns ‘N Roses and At The Drive-In both announced plans to return to the stage. Locally, too, a wealth of area acts have decided to dust off old material and get together again for a variety of reasons. In October, The Response answered the call to say goodbye to Latest Flame Records. Last month, The Promise Ring played a pair of reunion gigs. This month alone, Squish came back, we coaxed Decibully back (sort of) to play our Local Coverage show, The Candliers returned for the sake of FemFest, and Carolina (along with a bunch of other Milwaukee commodities of yore) played Saturday’s Pablove benefit.
As encouraging as the recent wave of reunion shows has been, there’s still an abundance of local acts we’d love to see one more time. We logged into MySpace, did a lap in the CD section of Goodwill, and rounded up 12 Milwaukee bands we want to reunite in 2016.
1. .357 String Band
For a time, there maybe wasn’t a bigger local music draw than the “streetgrass” force that was .357 String Band. The fast, punk-tinged bluegrass outfit was known to pack Linneman’s to the gills every time out, and it frequently toured internationally to respectable responses. After seven years together, .357’s final two shows sold out Turner Hall in 2011, more than four years before GGOOLLDD became the next local act to fill the venue to its 985-person capacity earlier this month. Now, all five members are living in different states and some are playing in solo projects. Rick Ness is currently in Alaska and is part of Discovery Channel series Gold Rush. Despite the distance, they all remain friends. Four members even came together to play a song together in 2014.
Joseph Huber, whose departure initially prompted the split, says a reunion would definitely be in the cards, but not for a few more years at the earliest. “We would need to wait for a time when our current creative and personal lives wound down a bit,” Huber says. “We all have plenty of fond memories from those days where we were all younger, faster, and more out of control, but we’ve all come into our own separately quite well, as far as music goes.”
2. Cougar Den
While Cougar Den was never in the upper crust of Milwaukee music, the young hardcore trio accomplished a great deal for a band that formed when its members were in high school, and it left behind some quality, beyond-its-years material. After ample tours, a SXSW showcase, and the release of its pummeling parting shot keepondrifter, Cougar Den called it quits in 2010 on account of two-thirds of its members residing out of state. Remaining Milwaukeean Kelsey Kaufmann continued playing with Centipedes (another band that should come back), and she now drums with Gallery Night and Youth Crush.
3. Die Kreuzen
With the exception of Violent Femmes and, arguably, BoDeans, Milwaukee hasn’t churned out a more renowned act than Die Kreuzen. From the band’s hardcore origin in 1981 until its 1992 breakup just before the heyday of grunge, the quartet helped put Wisconsin music on the map with four celebrated and deeply influential full-lengths and a pair of EPs, including the somewhat recently reissued Cows And Beer. In 2012 and 2013, Die Kreuzen did reunite (minus one original member), playing a sold-out show at Turner Hall in addition to a festival in Europe and a few Midwestern clubs shows. Sahan Jayasuriya—who is writing a book about Die Kreuzen entitled The Crossing: The Oral History Of Die Kreuzen—says it’s hard to say whether the 1981 lineup will ever take the stage together again. “I feel like if getting all four original members back together again were an option, it would have happened [in 2012 and 2013],” Jayasuriya says. “Maybe. I really don’t know.”
4. Fable & The World Flat
Fable & The World Flat’s 2009 record Ladies & Gentlemen is a 10-song offering rife with sleek and laid back indie rock mastery. When most of the band departed after that great record, singer Steven Look and guitarist-turned-drummer Matt Gorski morphed the band into a two-man recording project that put out two respectable full-lengths in 2013. However, Gorski’s relocation to Los Angeles spelled the end of Fable by year’s end. Look now heads King Eye & The Squirts. The frontman says a Fable reunion is unlikely, especially in full-band form. “Unfortunately, I don’t think a reunion is a realistic option in the immediate future,” Looks says. “I’m not opposed to the idea, but I do feel like it is a logistical impossibility.”
5. Forstella Ford
From 1996 to 2005, Forstella Ford was a southeastern Wisconsin staple with crazy time signatures, raucous build-ups, and incomparable industrial aggression the band routinely put on display in its steady diet of releases and during frequent international tours. A couple years after 2003’s Well Versed In Deception, FoFo unceremoniously bowed out. Members went on to play with Tornavalanche, Red Knife Lottery, and Stock Options. Currently, members play with Cut Teeth and Volunteer, and drummer Whitney Teska co-founded Orchard Street Press with his wife. Tragically, a true blue reunion is now impossible, as original guitarist Jim Sardino passed away last month after a long bout with cancer.
6. Hero Of A Hundred Fights
You’re forgiven if you don’t remember Hero Of A Hundred Fights. After all, the math rock band only lasted a scant year and a half before abruptly parting ways six weeks into an eight-week tour back in 2000. As much as we’d love to see the short-lived project live, it’s safe to say it will never happen. “There’s no way that band would ever reunite,” Hero 100 drummer Shane Hochstetler (Howl Street Recordings, Call Me Lightning, Zebras) says. “It was one of the worst band break ups I’ve ever been a part of and I’m more than happy to leave it all behind.”
Though he says various personal and band-related occurrences from that period of his life make it difficult for him to look back on his time with Hero, Hochstetler was glad he got a chance to record with Steve Albini and have a part in making songs for three releases he’s proud of, though they’re hard for him to listen to now. In 2011, a Chicago label re-issued the band’s posthumous EP The Remote, The Cold on vinyl and promptly sold out of them.
7. John The Savage
Sometimes you don’t know how good you had it until something is taken away. During its memorable stint in Milwaukee’s music scene, John The Savage was never the city’s nomination for breakout band candidate. Labels didn’t seem to come calling, and festival slots were few and far between. But dammit if the fucked-up symphony that was John The Savage wasn’t a great band. While the group’s distinct drunken circus-like sound was never without local interest, few probably knew the hole that would be left when John The Savage called it quits in late 2012. Singer Mike Skorcz went on to play keyboard with Jaill for a couple years before departing on good terms late last year, but we’re sure we aren’t alone in hoping he can convince the other Savages to take the stage together soon. We know Soul Low is with us!
“We all would love to play again, but unfortunately all our schedules and locations are 100 percent opposite,” Skorcz says. “Maybe one day it’ll happen, but for now there’s no current plans to do it again. We all do miss it though.”
During their lengthy run, the Mistreaters were nothing short of Milwaukee music’s crown jewel. The garage rock juggernauts were known for their patently loud, rowdy live outings, and their timeless material. Seriously, Playa Hated To The Fullest still holds up incredibly well. Ironically, about a decade’s worth of crazy shows and tireless touring are the very reason Mistreaters won’t reunite any time soon, since the band’s members (now in their early 40s) simply can’t match the intensity they’d routinely bestow throughout Milwaukee and on the road—including frequent shows with White Stripes. Guitarist Kevin Meyer now focuses his musical energy into Drugs Dragons and his label, Dusty Medical Records. Singer Chris Schulist’s voice can now be heard yelling “Shots!” after Packers touchdowns at Vanguard, which he co-owns with former tour mate Jim McCann (the guy dancing beside him in the video). As cool as it would be, we have it on good authority this reunion will never happen.
9. The Olives
Sure, The Olives haven’t even been gone a year, but Milwaukee was just getting to know and love the all-female punk quartet when they called it quits last June after five years together. The split was amicable, coming as a byproduct of bassist/Milwaukee artist Alyssa Schulte’s move to Portland. Fortunately, two Olives play together in Fox Face. Those members—Mary Joy and Lindsay DeGroot—also play in Pussy Collector and Static Eyes, respectively. While those three bands make The Olives’ loss a bit easier to swallow, we’re holding out hope for the occasional reunion when Schulte is back to visit, and for some partially recorded material to be finished and put out.
10 Red Knife Lottery
Before Whips, No Future, and Hot Coffin roared into regional rock and roll consciousness, some of their members were getting their start in Red Knife Lottery. Behind the coarse bellows of Ashley Chapman (now Whips singer Ashley Smith, after she married drummer Ryan Smith), the band toured avidly—including shows with Paramore—and put out two good-to-great releases, best represented by 2009’s awesome Soiled Soul & Rapture. In 2011, Red Knife put out a single called “Kept Crypts” before coming to a halt. The band has since splintered off into the aforementioned groups and Chicago rock band Cut Teeth, all of which are almost as good, if not better than RKL. Despite all living in Milwaukee, a reunion is said to be very unlikely.
11. Since By Man
At one point, Milwaukee boasted a staggering three acts on the roster of once-respected punk imprint Revelation Records. Since By Man (also stylized “Sincebyman”) was the first—and arguably most successful—of the three. During the hardcore heavy hitter’s nine-year run, the band shared the stage with noted projects like Andrew WK, The Bled, The (International) Noise Conspiracy, and The Rapture. After the band called it quits in 2008, singer Sam Macon moved to Chicago for a career in film. He co-directed the documentary Sign Painters. Other members went on to play with The Response, No Future, Hot Coffin, and Poison The Well.
12. Temper Temper
While it’s possible the caliber of Milwaukee music has never been better than it is now, the local scene circa 2005 also found an array of area artists on the cusp of breaking out. Along with beloved acts like Decibully, Mistreaters, Call Me Lightning, Paris Texas, and Since By Man who were bending the ears of labels and national music periodicals Milwaukee’s way was a band called Temper Temper. That year, the druggy dance-punk quintet put out its self-titled debut full-length on Revelation Records. Unfortunately, that debut was also the band’s parting shot, as it hung it up in early 2006. Some members went on to play in the last iteration of Decibully, while others now play in Space Raft and Moon Curse.
Though he says he wouldn’t be opposed to playing a reunion show, bassist Andrew Menchal doesn’t imagine it will ever happen again. “I personally don’t want to be an old man playing young man’s music,” Menchal says. “I can’t fit in girl’s pants anymore.” Even if Temper Temper’s days are forever numbered, at least we’ll always have Cactus Nights.