State of the Reunion Scream, Government Issue, Marginal Man: How punk is the golden age of the hardcore reunion?

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“I think bands that never got a chance to be heard are now getting heard,” says The Dismemberment Plan’s Morrison. “You can be a ‘new band’ to some people’s ears and not actually be new.”

In an age when social media enables people to extend their young-adulthood well into middle age, audiences also aren’t maturing out of the music quite as quickly. “I think also rock fans are getting older,” says Morrison. “In 1995 there were very few 38-year-olds at shows. It’s more widespread now. Perhaps because of the Internet as well. You can hear new club-level and underground music at work and at home. You don’t have to be in college, or in a club at 1 a.m. on a Wednesday. So those folks want to see bands they grew up with.”

All the reuniting has also created its own momentum. Kenny Inouye explains the Marginal Man reunion as the product of a “steady drumbeat of requests by people [for a reunion], like fueled by the fact that other bands got back together.”

After Scream disbanded in 1990, Franz Stahl and his brother Pete continued playing music in various groups; Franz, most famously, did a stint in the Foo Fighters with former bandmate Dave Grohl. “The first thing most people think is that you’re trying to cash in and ride the coattails of a member who went on to greater popularity,” Stahl says. But with Scream, “it was having the time to do it. It’s your first love. And you realize, ‘Hey, we’ve got a half reputable name, we can play again and have some fun without the stress of trying to do a new band.’ It’s even more fun because the pressure is gone. As a kid, you were trying to survive, sell merch.”

“We ask ourselves, can we do this, can we pull it off?” he says. “Besides, there is a market now. There are promoters who will put them on.”


“Unlike the old days, when you could get a taste of combat boots, this was old guys bumping beer bellies,” says John Stabb, who has done a couple of Government Issue reunions. “It wasn’t a lot of stress.”

It’s also easy for club owners. “I find them really pleasant,” says Ferrando, whose Black Cat hosts many D.C. hardcore reunions. “You know they’ll draw pretty well. With the older crowds, it’s hard to get them to go out. But those people will go out if it’s a special event.”

Ferrando says he’s turned down some reunion shows. They were too expensive, or the lineup was weird—a band reuniting with only half its original members doesn’t have the same cachet. “Every band that can do a reunion will do one at some point,” says Ferrando. “But there are some bands that are just running through the motions.”

But, he says, “it’s easier with D.C. reunions because the pressure’s not there to sell the club out. Also I know all those guys and I know they’re not going to be jerks.”

VIDEO: ‪The Dismemberment Plan - "The Ice of Boston"‬

Our Readers Say

maybe i misread this, but does the
article suggest that agnostic front
is a DC band?
Ed, The last two paragraphs appear twice in the article.
Interesting read. Minor correction: Dag Nasty recorded an LP in 2002 (called "Minority of One"), but haven't played live since 1988.

I think it's widely understood that hardcore is made by and made for a niche audience. That audience, however small and dwindling, still has an interest in what these bands have to say and what they have to offer artistically. Music is cyclical in nature. The audience that these bands relied on twenty years ago is, still, to a large degree - the very same audience. For the kids who never got to see the bands the first time around, a lot of these shows are really important. DC is lucky to have so many of it's own people still involved in the music scene, running clubs and booking shows. Not to mention still willing (and able) to pick up a guitar or scream into a microphone for two hours.
Sometimes the best thing about a reunion show isn't even the band on stage, but the people in the audience you haven't seen in years. My favorite part about the Plan "reunions" is the chance to drink a beer with people I forgot I even knew.

I think that's especially critical in a place like DC that has seen so much growth. On those reunion nights, DC feels like a small town again.
rvparks: thanks for noting that. Fixed now.
I think reunion shows have gotten a bad rap for the most part. From my experience at least, the number of "good" reunions has far outweighed the bad ones. Yes, some like the Pixies are blatant about their intentions. But they still put on a great show. In addition to the Gray Matter, Scream, and GI shows, others I've seen over the past 5 years that come to mind that were really good: X, Mission of Burma, The Damned, The Slits, Adolescents, Naked Raygun, The Avengers, The Jesus Lizard. The Stooge reunion a few years ago at the 9:30 club was outstanding! I thought Bad Brains on election night 08 was disappointing.
Bad Brains will never ever be good again. I was also at the election night 2008 Bad Brains show, HR basically ruined it, as I pretty much expected.
The G.I. reuion was great. It took me back to another time in DC. It did make DC feel like a small town again, that night at The Black Cat.
re: “Compared to the infamous and widely panned Sex Pistols reunion of 1996—a blatant moneymaking effort whose actual name was the Filthy Lucre tour…”

A common trap. That’s exactly what they were from the get-go, back in the 70’s . . . a blatant moneymaking effort. I mean they moved their album from house to house, put together an unwarranted US tour. Infamous? Panned? Yes, and in my opinion the tour was never to share their music with the world, even less so than the first time around.

I was there. Lydon walked out on stage, turned around, dropped his pants, bent over, and gave everyone a lesson on what an aging man’s taint looks like. The live recordings I have on LP and digital are horrid, the ones from the 70’s. The 96, they were actually vastly improved (thanks Glen), so they were somewhere between the shows they played as kids, and the album version. Sure, they had a message in the 70’s. It was “fuck you” and “wake up”. But, it was also about money. Maybe not Johnny, and I know the rest of the guys were about getting drunk and playing a show with their friends, but the band was managed by a money hungry s.o.b. who fancied himself a multi-media artist of sorts.

But that anyone, at all, would take their last tour as anything other than a chance to cash out was misguided when they bought the ticket.

I guess the definition below says it best. I mean, that’s what they called their tour basically, “Filthy Money”. I think that all but makes the critics and the experts look just as stupid as the ones in the 1970s, which gives Lydon the last laugh, again. He really is a smart, smart man.

Money, esp. when regarded as sordid or distasteful or gained in a dishonorable way
I like to think, as cranky old men and women, the current trend in music is so damn boring that you think they would put themselves to sleep on stage. Round one was kick the old guys in the ass, Round two is kicking the young ones in same said orafice. "Indie" is not a's just lame. Sorry for you guys had to get out of retirement....but at least I can feel my pulse again!!

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