At this year’s Coachella festival, two of the best punk bands of the past 20 years will reunite. Refused and At the Drive-In, two bands that succeeded in breaking the “my skateboard is broken and so is my heart” mold that most punk during the last half of the 1990s fell into, will be performing reunion gigs for the first time in years, and people will probably lose their shit. Which is all well and good, but what does it say about the state of punk rock that nostalgia has suddenly become not only popular, but profitable?
At the Drive-In in particular never seemed like likely candidates for a grab-the-money-and-run reunion show. The band, whose live shows were the stuff of legend, famously dissolved on the verge of achieving mainstream success with its 2000 album Relationship of Command, splitting into the more punk-influenced Sparta and the so-prog-it-hurts Mars Volta. Mars Volta leaders Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler-Zavala distanced themselves from ATDI as much as possible following the split, at one point deriding the group as “jock rock”. But here they are. And why? “We’re not getting any younger and there’s been an offer of money every year”, Rodriguez-Lopez told NME this month. “You can’t avoid that. You’d be a fool and politician to pretend that wasn’t part of it.”