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There's nothing Brian Diaz hates more than a lazy, ignorant rock critic. "We just got slagged for making a video that doesn't exist and wearing New Found Glory T-shirts we don't own," fumes Diaz, bassist for Long Island power-pop wizards the Reunion Show. But it's not just web-jockey slackers who have him peeved; it's the whole gang of fanzine pigeonholers who have pegged the Reunion Show as inhabitants from Planet Emo who live in Get Up Kids Village deep in the heart of Weezer Valley. "The people who have to label different types of music only own ten records that they feel they have to compare everything else to. I have tons of records, and I know about a lot of obscure bands that would make better comparisons," Diaz spouts, taking a deep breath as his rage subsides. "I'm a rock critic at heart, but I'm a musician -- and I don't think you can do both."
Although the Reunion Show is barely two years old, the 26-year-old Diaz can justify his jaded lens. He's spent his entire adult life on the road, starting in 1997 with Moon Ska outfit Edna's Goldfish. "I wanted to be in a band, and singing in a ska band was all that was available. Ska was fun music to play, but that's not really where my influences lie." Despite Diaz' preference for Elvis Costello over Prince Buster, he led Edna's Goldfish through two albums, four U.S. coast-to-coast tours, a European jaunt, and a video spinning in MTV rotation before the band imploded at the end of 1999.
While Edna's Goldfish floated in the bowl, Diaz played bass with his pals in the similarly doomed pop act Step Lively. "Both our bands were breaking up, so Mark [Thomas, Step Lively guitarist] and I got really drunk one night and started laughing about one of the other guys from Step Lively who had started this band called Race Car Breakup. We thought that was the stupidest band name ever and said, 'If they ever break up, they'd have to call it the Reunion Show!'" The name stuck, and guitarist Derrick Sherman filled out the lineup along with Step Lively drummer Skully.
Three months after its first practice, the Reunion Show had recorded a three-song demo and made its debut opening a gig for Reel Big Fish. A real impressed Fish offered TRS a slot on their tour the following year. In the meantime, TRS played a series of East Coast spot gigs before heading out for a cross-country tour with the aptly named Brand New. "We'd end up 'headlining' over the local bands and playing to nobody. But that's part of starting out," Diaz shrugs. One complication was the name -- which continues to confuse promoters to this day. "We were on tour with Lawrence Arms, and we were billed some nights as 'Lawrence Arms' and then in parentheses 'The Reunion Show.' People were like, 'Dude, they're back together!' But they never broke up," he laughs.
After enduring two months of sleeping on floors with Brand New, TRS returned to Long Island and recorded another three songs. They combined the new material with their demo and self-released The Motion EP. Shortly thereafter, Reel Big Fish made good on its offer and took TRS on the road for a leg of its fall tour. With nothing but grass-roots bootstrapping, the Reunion Show struck gold. "It was the first time any of us had been on a tour that size," Diaz basks. "We were playing huge venues like Sunrise Musical Theater." The exposure led to a run on The Motion EPat TRS' merchandise booth, eventually tallying 5,000 sold, a fairly staggering figure for a self-released CD.
"After the Reel Big Fish tour, people started to take us seriously," Diaz understates. Within a few months, TRS had finally collected all the accouterments of an indie band on the rise: management, booking agent, a record on a small label, and bigger imprints sniffing around. The Reunion Show remained on the road non-stop to support a rereleased The Motion EP.
Once again on the club circuit, TRS was repeatedly stopped by the border patrol when it played Southern California. Diaz, who is of Puerto Rican descent, was horrified: "I was driving both times when we hit the checkpoint, and I had lost my license. I was positive they'd see a Hispanic guy with no documentation and throw my ass in Mexico. So I freaked, and we switched seats in the van like a Chinese fire drill. The people in the other lines were staring at us. It looked very sketchy."
Back in the heartland, TRS' fairy godmother struck again when Victory Records head Tony Brummell caught its first show in Chicago. Brummell was enamored and signed them to his label. In July, the Reunion Show returned to the land of border checkpoints to record with Foo Fighters producer Nick Raskulinecz. The resulting CD, Kill Your Television,contains more hooks than a bass-fishing tournament. Thomas' goofy keyboard lines bring out the skinny-tie '80s poofter hiding in your closet -- until he swings the other way and joins Sherman in smashing you over the head with their formidable two-guitar assault. Further separating Kill Your Televisionfrom the rest of the CD rack is the Costello-like metaphorical acumen displayed by Diaz and Thomas as they trade lead vocals: "Feel as nervous as a Christian Scientist/One with a severed artery across his wrist/Maybe we'll stop the bleeding, but it's sure to infect/Who ever thought breaking hearts was such an easy task?"
A month after Kill Your Television's release, Diaz can't see an end to the Reunion Show anytime soon. "When I was 22, I said when I was 24, I wouldn't do this anymore. Then I said I'd quit at 26. Now that I am 26, I'm finally doing what I want. As long as we're happy and people dig what we're doing, why quit? When this band runs its course, I'll probably stop. I'll pack up and go really far away -- but when I got there I'd wanna come back and weasel my way back in."