For whatever reason, this year’s FunFunFun Fest is stacked with reunions. And while it’s always tempting to go see a legendary group that you thought you’d never get to see, sometimes the end result is a tarnished legacy that has you questioning whether the band was ever good to begin with. But don’t worry, we’ve compiled nine of the most interesting reunions at FunFunFun this year and some insight into whether these sets will be worth the wait.
Rocket from the Crypt
Original Years Active: 1989 to 2005
The legacy: One of the more successful post-hardcore bands, Rocket from the Crypt benefited from the major label interest in all things underground back in the early ’90s. But their use of a horn section and erratic live shows that frequently included onstage fire breathing, game show wheels determining the night’s set list and coordinated outfits ensured that they always stood out from the pack. While signed to Interscope, the band achieved some modest radio success alongside frontman John Reis’ concurrent, seminal project Drive Like Jehu.
Should You See Them? Absolutely. During their original run, Rocket from the Crypt had a constantly shuffling line-up, but Reis has remained a punk tour de force through acts like Hot Snakes and the Sultans, ensuring that the consummate showman will almost certainly kill it, even when confined to a festival stage that doesn’t have much room for massive theatrics on the level of fire breathing. The band’s sound has aged remarkably well, too, and while they may not have the “once in a lifetime” opportunity feel of other acts reuniting this year, you’ll definitely get your money’s worth with their set.
The Blood Brothers
Original Years Active: 1997 to 2007
The legacy: Of all the emo/post-hardcore mash-up acts that came out of the Pacific Northwest between the late ’90s and the early ’00s, the Blood Brothers are almost certainly the weirdest. Featuring a spazz punk sound and inhumanely high pitched, yapping vocals, the fact that the Blood Brothers emerged from Seattle’s tight knit indie label circuit to unleash a trio of minor hit records on major V2 remains one of our generation’s oddest triumphs.
Should You See Them? We’re going to issue a cautiously optimistic yes. While in their heyday the Blood Brothers were known for their apocalyptic live shows, there’s no denying that the projects that emerged from the band’s ashes have been uniformly disappointing. That said, the band’s sound remains unique, which is impressive given how beloved they were in the heady, experimental days of early 21st century emo and the current revival going on with that scene. This is the first year the band has reunited and there are likely going to still be some kinks to work out, but if they can even remotely pull it together, their set could be a true highlight at FFF this year.
Original Years Active: 1973-1979
The legacy: An underappreciated proto-punk group, The Dictators’ complicated history more or less matches up completely with the rise of glam rock, punk and eventually hair metal, with support from everyone from Sandy Pearlman to Bruce Springsteen failing to grant the band its due. Originally, the band featured bassist Andy Shernoff as its lead vocalist, with roadie and occasional vocalist Handsome Dick Manitoba serving as the band’s “mascot.” That line-up is responsible for, among other things, inspiring the formation of Punk the magazine which begat “punk” the genre term. But it’s the album Bloodbrothers and the transformation of Handsome Dick Manitoba into the group’s lead singer that cemented their legacy.
Should You See Them? No. Even though the Dictators will just be performing a lower stakes FFF Nites show, the band’s spotty track records with reunions, name and line-up changes and Manitoba’s frequent spats with everyone from Wayne County to Manitoba the electronic act mean the set will likely be more of a sad spectacle than anything close to the group’s legendary original performances. Which is too bad, because if the New York Dolls could find new fame in our generation, there’s no reason the Dictators can’t as well.
Original Years Active: 1990-1997
The legacy: One of the many watered down “alternative” acts that emerged in the wake of Nevermind, Failure are best remembered as a major label group that was produced by Steve Albini shortly before the In Utero debacle. They had a very minor hit with “Stuck on You” in 1996 and toured with Tool at one point. In every possible sense they lived up to their name.
Should You See Them? Fuck no. Who was asking for this band to reunite? Why are they even on the FFF line-up?
Original Years Active: 1994-1997
The legacy: Mineral remains one of the more elusive of the peak era emo acts, even though the band was signed to a rather unique Interscope deal that granted each member a separate contract. Closer to the Sunny Day Real Estate end of the emo spectrum than Jawbreaker’s rugged bombast, you can detect the influence of Mineral on the current crop of more atmospheric, textural emo created by FFF peers The World is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die and local acts like Hikes. If anything, they appear to have only become more relevant and beloved twenty years after their formation.
Should You See Them? Yes. Austin frequently has a curious problem with supporting “coulda been contenders” acts but Mineral is an exception, growing in status and stature over the past decade. Mineral’s fragile sound may struggle to rise above the other stages at FFF, but they could also function as a tonic to the harder edged punk acts that make up most of this year’s reunion crop. The band’s sound remains pretty timeless, too, and for those of you who missed them the first time around, there will be a lot to discover here.
Neutral Milk Hotel
Original Years Active: 1989-1999
The legacy: It’s pretty much impossible to overstate the growing influence of Neutral Milk Hotel’s masterpiece In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. Though it was critically well received upon its release in 1998, no one at the time predicted the eventual impact it would have on indie music and on its label, Merge Records, in particular. Even through all the hype, Aeroplane stands out as one of the defining musical documents of its time, a crazed epic that had Apples in Stereo frontman and Elephant 6 wunderkind producer Robert Schneider aiding Jeff Mangum in bringing his fever dream of a work to stunning life. The work was in fact so impressive and its reception so fanatical that it more or less forced Mangum out of the spotlight for more than a decade.
Should You See Them? That depends. In their time, Neutral Milk Hotel were known more for sloppy live sets than transcendent ones. If you go into this performance with exceedingly high expectations, you’re bound to be let down, especially when you factor in the inherent limitations of a festival show. But if you go in just wanting to hear some of your favorite songs performed live, with all the spontaneity and flaws that entails, this may be one of the most necessary sets at FFF, particularly given Mangum’s habit of going off the grid for decades at a time.
Death from Above 1979
Original Years Active: 2001-2006
The legacy: I was living in Vancouver when DFA1979 emerged and eventually exploded. At university, the band was all the rage in the circles I fell into and while I enjoyed their debut album as much as anyone, I definitely didn’t enjoy the legion of imitators that sprang up and watered down the duo’s gritty apocalyptic dance music. Still, that debut holds up remarkably well even today, with only Liars equally crazed debut holding up as well from the same scene.
Should You See Them? The last time DFA played a festival in Austin, they sparked a full on riot, complete with horses. So that fact coupled with my memories of DFA’s heavily antagonistic sets makes it easy for me to recommend you catch them. It doesn’t hurt that their new album has been receiving good press too, which is pretty unusual for a reunion like this.
Murder City Devils
Original Years Active: 1996-2001
The legacy: When Murder City Devils hit the Seattle scene in the late ’90s, they were a massive breath of fresh air. The band was gloomy, and thuggish, like so many grunge acts before them, but they filtered that into a sound that was equal parts Misfits, carnival barker and motorcycle gang. Wielding an organ as a lead instrument and Spencer Moody’s primal growl as its weapon of choice, MCD burned bright as fuck in their five years of existence, before fittingly exploding in a feud with their label, Sub Pop, over a Halloween live recording that was forced on them. It’s tough to say how influential the band really is, since there remain very few modern groups that sound anything like them, but the legion of spin off bands that came out of MCD is dizzying: Pretty Girls Make Graves, The Cave Singers and Dead Low Tide are just a few of the most known.
Should You See Them? MCD have been reuniting off and on since 2006, so you’ll likely get a number of opportunities to see them if you miss this one. The band is best witnessed in a smaller club environment rather than in the outdoors on a huge festival stage, but I must confess that one of my favorite live MCD memories isn’t in such a club but on stage at Sasquatch Music Festival in Washington, where Spencer Moody used the stage as a soapbox to lambast all the fratbros out there “laughing at us beautiful faggot bands” before demanding to know how many people they were planning to date rape in the camp ground. It was an ugly but triumphant moment and made it clear that Moody’s ferocious indignation at the world isn’t just an act.
Original Years Active: 1984-1989 (with Lou Barlow); 1989-1997 (without Barlow)
The legacy: I am a hardcore Lou Barlow devotee, so as far as I’m concerned, the Lou Barlow years of Dinosaur Jr. are the only years that truly matter. Alongside Husker Du, the original Dinosaur Jr. really blew open the punk scene’s notion of what hardcore could even be and in the process they essentially invented the American interpretation of indie rock. Sludgier and more anarchic than the polished guitar heroics that would make up the “Dinosaur Jr. as a J. Mascis solo project in all but name” years, the trio of albums the band issued at the start of their run remain some of the most inventive and adventurous indie rock ever made.
Should You See Them? This is another reunion set that technically isn’t a reunion since the line-up has been playing semi-regularly for several years, but given that Lou Barlow was previously axed from the line-up in an especially petty way (Mascis kicked Barlow out by telling him the band had broken up, then proceeded to book an overseas tour without him) and the twosome have a history of fighting onstage, there’s no telling how long this “reunion” will last. Plus, how often do you get to see two giants of indie rock on stage at the same time, playing incendiary guitar rock that puts so much of today’s wimpier indie to shame?
Nick Hanover got his degree from Disneyland, but he’s the last of the secret agents and he’s your man. Which is to say you can find his particular style of espionage here at Ovrld as well as Loser City, where he mostly writes about comics. You can also flip through his archives at Comics Bulletin, which he is formerly the Co-Managing Editor of, and Spectrum Culture, where he contributed literally hundreds of pieces for a few years. Or if you feel particularly adventurous, you can always witness his odd .gif battles with his friends and enemies on twitter: @Nick_Hanover