See Where Lookin’ Pretty Good’ll Getcha?

I’ll be honest with you. I wasn’t sure we could pull it off.

Sure, we were rehearsed. We knew our roles. We knew the songs. And yeah, Chris is finally clean and sober. Ryan’s kicked his Advil addiction. And Tony’s back from his six-year exploration of Wicka. But it’s been a long, long time since Buckeye performed. I mean, up until last week, it’d been a long time since the members Buckeye were even in the same room together, let alone making beautiful, awe-inspiring music. So that fact that last night’s reunion show came off at all was, well, nothing short of a miracle.

Try as we might, none of us will ever forget Sunday, June 30, 1996. Chumbawamba had just finished its set on Roskilde’s Yellow Stage. We’d had an amazing time up to that point. Chris had finally met his hero, Mark McGrath, who band, Sugar Ray, was playing the Blue Stage later that afternoon. (They compared hair care products.) Ryan had just turned twenty-one. Heather Nova bought him his first pint. Tony was sitting around smoking Marlboro Reds and drinking Budweiser with Bush bassist Dave Parsons. They were super wasted, chanting, “USA! USA! USA!” And me? Well, I was just trying to get everyone onstage on time. (Per usual.)

The set began well enough. We’d just released our cover of The Smiths “Girlfriend In A Coma” (you know, the melancholy one with really excellent harmonies that makes everyone weep instantly). It was blowing up in the Netherlands, and there were a lot of Dutch there. (In fact, I’ve since come to learn that Roskilde ’96 was Undisputed Heavyweight guitarist Wes Vehoeve’s fist show, and our performance was the reason he first picked up a guitar). There was tension in the air, but it was the good kind, the explosive kind, the kind where the audience is with you, rabidly anticipating your Big Finish.

So we’re totally crushing “Go Let It Out.” Sweat is flying from my spiky mane. Chris kills the solo. Tony’s holding it down. Ryan remembers everything perfectly. Then I notice Grant Lee Buffalo front man Grant Phillips standing in the wings flipping us the bird. Like, he’s just standing there, all straight-faced, silently telling us all to fuck off. I’m not sure why, exactly. I guess because our cover of The Gin Blossom’s “Hey Jealousy” had just bumped his cover of “Boys Don’t Cry” from the Top of the Pops. Whatever.

For some reason (I blame Heather Nova) Ryan lost his shit. He stops dead in the middle of the tune, and starts chucking sticks at him. He nails him square in the solar plexus with a huge marching mallet, the again in the forehead with some brushes. Which was pretty cool. Except then he picks up his snare (I’m sure you’ve seen it all on “Behind The Music,” but still). Which was pretty rock ‘n roll. I wasn’t about to dissuade him. Nor were the 26, 423 fans watching on the JumboTron monitors. Problem is, he takes out, like, half a dozen music execs with his floor tom. I’m talking heavy hitters here: David Geffen, Danny Goldberg, Kevin Lyman, Albert Grossman, and Clive Davis — in one fell swoop.

We never finished the set. We were immediately blackballed, and kicked off the festival grounds. Ryan wandered off with Heather Nova’s guitar tech. Chris disappeared on The Jesus Lizard’s tour bus. Frank Black offered me a ride in his helicopter. And Tony just walked off into the Danish country side with nothing but a backpack and a fist full of quarters.

Ten years later, there we were in front of a sold out crowd at New York City’s Rockwood Music Hall. We were smiling, and playing all the faves like it was 1996 all over again, but thousands of miles later.

Ryan had disappeared completely — no solo records, no clothing line, no acting cameos, no nothing. Tony fell into binge drinking while running a small tarot card shop in Amsterdam. Chris was found drumming on a hollow stump wearing a loin clothe in the deep Amazon. Me? I was running a Mainecke muffler franchise in East Lansing, Michigan.

If it weren’t for our label, Flaming Cochlea, dispatching their young intern, Casey Shea, to the edges of God’s Green Earth to bring us back together again (not to mention our terrific band band therapist, Phil Towl), it never would have happened. But it did, and it was good. Heck, it was great. Epic, even. And I think I speak for the four of us when I say thanks to you, the fans, who held out hope that we’d get back together, who attended all of our fan conferences (“Buck-a-thons”), and kept buying the albums in every new format (vinyl, eight track, cassette, cd, mp3, ringtone).

It’s all about the songs, man. (Well, and the hair.)

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