There’s no denying that the scene has been awash in a sea of nostalgia in recent months. It’s nearly impossible to avoid the slew of anniversary tours and reunion shows that have come down the pike, celebrating a decade since the pop-punk/emo boon of the early 2000s.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been over a decade since the music we love went from the comfort and privacy of our dorm rooms and car rides to late night MTV rotation, seemingly in the blink of an eye. That windfall of mainstream airplay not only grew the audience, but, for better or worse, shone a spotlight on an entire subculture that was secretly begging for attention.
For many, this transition took place during the most confusing and formative of life transitions – that of adolescence to maturity. For that reason, this music, these songs, hold extra weight and make the wistfulness to relive those moments somewhat appropriate.
Partaking in this opportunity to relive the halcyon days are none other than The Ataris, touring in celebration of the 10th anniversary of their album So Long, Astoria. However, this experience holds an extra poignancy – the estranged members of the band who recorded the album have reunited with lead vocalist and guitarist Kris Roe for just this tour.
The real question is, does any of this matter?
The band has famously failed to follow-up Astoria with any sort of gusto, releasing the dark, ill-received Welcome the Night in 2007 followed by continual promises of new music and a litany of lineup changes. The announcement of this particular reunion may have felt suspect to some, but it’s hard to ignore the intrigue.
The band’s stop in Indianapolis landed them at The Vogue, one of the premier mid-sized venues in the city’s artsy Broad Ripple district. Coincidentally, this is also a homecoming of sorts, as the band’s origins lie in Anderson, In., just over 30 miles northeast of Indianapolis.
The venue isn’t completely packed, but it’s certainly abuzz. The openers, including punk band Authority Zero, do well at setting the table for the main act. Before The Ataris take the stage, I chat with a couple of fans reminiscing about So Long, Astoria and its impact on their high school years.
This nostalgia is more than a fleeting romantic thought or idea. This night provides the opportunity to once again sing and dance to the songs that made sense of growing up – a chance to step away from the reality of adulthood and remember the journey that got them there.
As The Ataris take the stage with friends and family in attendance, it’s clear that the fans are not the only ones remembering that journey.
The band’s set is one filled with joy, smiles and excitement. Considering that this lineup hasn’t played together for a lengthy period, it’s impressive how tight the band sounds and how much energy they bring to the songs. So Long, Astoria is played in its entirety with little need for lengthy dialogue or stage banter.
Astoria has always lent itself well to sing-a-longs, and although Roe sounds just as good as he ever has, it’s just as fun to listen to the crowd belt out every line of “In This Diary”. The line “Being grown up isn’t half as fun as growing up” clearly holds an extra weight in this setting.
When the opening notes of “The Boys of Summer” sound, even those standing at the back with their arms crossed jog forward to join the masses. The sight of grown men and women smiling and dancing to the sound of a pop-punk cover of an 80s classic might seem odd in theory, but it’s a delight on this night.
The set moves quickly, flowing with the anticipation of the crowd. Though there are a few explanations given before certain songs, these tracks tell most of the stories themselves. When Roe talks about “Summer of ‘79” it’s clear that he knows his own story is one of many that now associate with the song.
It’s corny, but this is one of those shared human experiences you hear about – and it’s wonderful to watch, whether you’re a fan of the band or not. When those connections take place, you often feel good about just being in the room.
The Ataris may have failed to capitalize on the promise left in the wake of Astoria’s release, but it’s clear that their impact is an appropriately lasting one. When these anniversary tours and reunions begin to feel worn out or hackneyed, it’s important to remember the moments and lives that allow them to exist.
To answer the earlier question, this does matter. It matters because there’s clearly an audience that still connects to these songs and lives that still feel the ripple effects from those days a decade past. Yes, it’s nostalgic. But it’s also therapeutic and a part of our story. It never hurts to stop and reflect on the moments that make our story a good one.
by Kiel Hauck
Kiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.