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Nostalgia Fest, the improbable-reunion franchise

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SPIT IT OUT Coffee & Donuts, back in the day, reunite this weekend.
  • SPIT IT OUT Coffee & Donuts, back in the day, reunite this weekend.

The pain of band reunions, so incessant and unrelenting in their frequency in the last 10 years, is that they pose as tremendously necessary. Never mind that they might be entertaining, no, no. That's not the point. These are REALLY BIG EVENTS. I mean, really, it's been ALMOST EIGHT YEARS since ALL FOUR MEMBERS of LETTERS TO CLEO played together, OH MY GOD tickets go on sale TOMORROW!

When announcements like this arrive every week, and when the time retroactive to the band breaking up in the first place to their inevitable cash-in reunion gets shorter and shorter, you're allowed to get weary. You're allowed to grumble about too many band reunions and bemoan our culture's attachment to the past and pine for a future that really looks, smells and sounds like the future instead of Refused reuniting to play at Coachella for $315.

But then there are the completely improbable band reunions. The bands for which there is very little call to perform once more in public. The bands that elicit barely a Google search result, because they are more obscure than even Tripping Daisy or Suddenly, Tammy!

I am a fan of these stupid reunions, these culturally irrelevant occurrences. Consider this weekend's resurrection of Coffee & Donuts, an unclassifiable band who played every Sonoma County skate party from 1988 to 1991. The people who remember Coffee & Donuts are one of three types: (1) cheap-beer-swilling forty-somethings in denim Jaks jackets; (2) local music nerds who work at record stores or write for alt-weeklies; or (3) the band members themselves, maybe.

And yet Coffee & Donuts are an integral part of the early-'90s Sonoma County musical quilt, one that blankets jazz, punk and psychedelia. Their legacy exists only on one out-of-print compilation and a muffled, endlessly dubbed practice cassette; their reunion is a history lesson, a chance to fill in the gaps. Likewise for the Louies, a funk juggernaut that's got no recordings out there. Throw in reunions by local 1990s bands Punch the Clown, Jr. Anti-Sex League, Edaline, Headboard and Seven-Year Winter, and you've got Nostalgia Fest 2012—headlined by the almighty Victims Family.

There have been three of these Nostalgia Fests, all benefiting good causes. This year, proceeds go to the newborn son of Tony Evjenth, a well-loved skater and team manager who died suddenly last year. Add it all up, and, yes, it's a really big event.

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