Getting the band back together is about more than just nostalgia.
When it comes to big bands, it means big sales, big crowds and big money.
An artist's popularity and cultural relevance can continue to grow even if his or her band is no longer recording or performing. For some bands, that means playing to larger crowds than it ever has before. A reunion can satisfy the interest of fans, produce big revenue and even revive a band's waning popularity.
Maha Music Festival has specifically gone after bands that were on hiatus or that rarely tour, taking advantage of the popularity of reunions. Organizers pursued Superchunk, Guided By Voices, Desaparecidos and Garbage for those reasons.
This year's Maha, today at Stinson Park at Aksarben Village, features Desaparecidos, not together for years until just recently, as well as Garbage, which was on hiatus for seven years.
Before this year's festival, Desaparecidos played a 2010 show in Omaha, but otherwise had been disbanded for a decade.
Garbage, which also plays this year's festival, recently reunited, released a new album and embarked on a tour, renewing interest among fans and critics.
“Anytime you don't have a huge talent budget, you have to be strategic. How can you find something that differentiates you that doesn't show up at every festival?” said Maha board member Tre Brashear. A reunited band “is a unique opportunity and that motivates people to buy a ticket or travel or attend.”
Organizers report that fans from across the country, Canada and even Russia have bought tickets to see Desaparecidos today.
Recently, fans have clamored for reunions by defunct bands such as Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Genesis and even R.E.M., which broke up only last year.
“There are some heritage acts like that that have made such an imprint on the musical culture that there's a lot of people that would love to see them play,” said Gary Bongiovanni, editor of Pollstar, a publication that tracks the concert industry.
For one of Led Zeppelin's only shows since drummer John Bonham died in 1980, a one-off gig in 2007 that was a tribute to music industry luminary Ahmet Ertegun, millions of fans tried to purchase 20,000 tickets. Tickets had a face value of $250, but a pair was auctioned for more than $165,000, and the proceeds went to charity.
In recent years, band such as The Police, Blink-182, The Pixies, Hole, Spice Girls and New Kids on the Block have all reunited. The Eagles, whose members famously said they'd never get back together, famously reformed for “Hell Freezes Over” and have since toured again and released a new album.
Phish and Motley Crue, both of which have been through member shakeups and breakups, were in the top touring acts through the first half of this year, according to Pollstar.
No matter the benefits, reuniting can be a more difficult than it sounds. To reunite Desaparecidos, some members had to download the band's catalog from iTunes and relearn songs.
“At one point, we even double-checked with one of those lyric websites just to kinda cross-reference and have them printed out,” said Desaparecidos guitarist Denver Dalley. “It was so much easier than typing them up.”
The band's biggest audience yet was at the Concert for Equality it headlined in 2010 in Omaha's Benson neighborhood. Maha and other dates on the band's upcoming tour, such as Los Angeles' FYF music festival, could prove to have even larger crowds.
Dalley attributed the buzz to the band's short run, which included one album, “Read Music/Speak Spanish,” and few tour dates.
“We were kind of gone before we were here. We kind of disappeared, no pun intended,” he said. “I think the record has had a lot of time to kind of build a cult following. We were such a brief thing that there's been people that have been interested in seeing us play for a long time now.”
Readers told The World-Herald that they also loved reunions by New Kids On the Block, Pulp, Van Halen, Backstreet Boys, Afghan Whigs, The Police, Dinosaur Jr., Pavement, Blur and the Black Crowes.
Keith Binder, 30, of Omaha, enjoys that several of his favorite hardcore punk bands are reuniting, even if he has reservations.
“I feel like they are cashing in,” he said. “But I wouldn't turn down seeing Youth Of Today, Gorilla Biscuits, In My Eyes and several others.”
Phil Reno, 36, of Omaha loved seeing Van Halen back with David Lee Roth, even though the band replaced original bassist Michael Anthony with Wolfgang Van Halen, Eddie's son. Reno saw the band both in Kansas City and Omaha and said he could go on and on about how good the shows were.
“It was amazing to hear all the classic songs live,” he said. “They had so much energy and were genuinely happy to be there.”
Maha Music Festival organizers tried to channel their reunion hopes for a favorite band into the festival. Brashear loves The Replacements, defunct for two decades, and Maha has reached out to members of that band every year, but they're always rejected.
“And we will try every single year,” Brashear said. “That would be phenomenal.”
Boy bands such as New Kids on the Block have done especially well with reunion tours. New Kids went from headlining arenas to struggling on a club tour in 1994.
Years later, when fans got older, there was renewed interest. The band released a new album, “The Block,” in 2008. They launched an arena tour that same year, and in 2011, toured on a double bill with the Backstreet Boys.
Renewed interest is typical, especially with pop groups.
“The people who grew up on Backstreet Boys are now moms and are looking forward to reliving their youth,” Bongiovanni said. “Typically, those acts go through a cycle where the young kids tear through everything they used to like, but 10 years go by and suddenly they're big fans again.”
If you have a favorite band or artist that has called it quits, hold out hope. As long as they're physically able, most of them come back.
“Sometimes, the interest in the band has faded and that's why they retire. You wait five years or 10 years,” Bongiovanni said. “If we wait another five or 10 years, there could be a Nickelback reunion tour, and they haven't even broken up yet.”
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