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If there is one reunion that has been talked about to death and seemed impossible it was the original Guns N’ Roses lineup. After years of the Axl Rose project playing cheap versions of classic Guns songs, Rose and original guitarist Slash finally made up thanks to bassist Duff McKagan and made a (sort of) return to form at Coachella 2016. Many felt the reunion was about cashing in due to the lack of Steven Adler and Izzy Stradlin on drums and rhythm guitar, respectively, but the performances so far have been nothing short of incredible when you look at how far gone the group was before now.
The 12 most surprising reunions at music festivals
After the excitement built up from 2015’s smash hit biographic film Straight Outta Compton, Ice Cube stirred up fans with a few near complete N.W.A reunion shows. The main thing that fans noted about these shows was the lack of crucial member and producer Dr. Dre. Coachella 2016 was a smash hit for reunions but Ice Cube kept the full N.W.A reunion under the radar well until bringing Dre up on stage for a few songs. Cube’s set was an explosive one with guest spots from not only all the living members of N.W.A but also The Game and Kendrick Lamar who performed an incredible rendition of smash hit “Alright” with Cube.
The 12 most surprising reunions at music festivals
After years of substance abuse issues, iconic metal group Black Sabbath had dealt with enough from notorious vocalist Ozzy Osbourne by the time they kicked him out in 1979. The entire group had issues with drugs and alcohol but according to guitarist Tony Iommi Ozzy “was on a totally different level altogether.” The band would go on to work with Ronnie James Dio while Ozzy started his solo career which took off far beyond where he was before. In 1997 at the second edition of Ozzfest, the band reunited with the iconic singer and released two new songs to follow up. Sabbath has gone through more and more lineup changes since but Ozzy joined once again in 2013 to do the unexpected once again and released their final album, 13.
Metalcore mainstays Avenged Sevenfold went through a dark period in 2010 after drummer and main songwriter Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan died of an overdose at the very end of 2009. The band never gave up though and continued working on what eventually became 2010’s Nightmare which was nearing completion when tragedy struck. Most fans expected the group to either disband or take some time off but eager to make a quick return, the band made an explosive comeback at Heavy MTL in Montreal, Quebec with former Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy manning the drums. This performance was the beginning of a new life for the band who have now released two albums since following a few changes in drummers.
While this reunion hasn’t happened yet it sure did come as a shock. The Misfits have been led by bassist Jerry Only for years now to the dismay of many but when Riot Fest announced their lineup for the 2016 edition people quickly changed their mind on the group. After not performing together for over 20 years, original Misfits members Glenn Danzig and Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein have rejoined the group for both the Denver and Chicago editions of Rot Fest in September this year. Details on who will be drumming for the band haven’t been released yet but these shows are sure to be a once in a lifetime opportunity.
After an unexpected breakup in 2011 and a farewell tour in 2012, everyone thought Alexisonfire was done. The band were all doing other things and it seemed like there would be no return from the group until 2015 when they posted a mysterious photo of their heart skull logo on Instagram with the caption "03/09/15". The band announced a string of festival reunion shows starting in Montreal and ending with a headlining set at Riot Fest Toronto. Fans were left confused after the final show in Toronto when the group said they wouldn’t be leaving again and shortly later announced they were not getting back together. The string of festival dates was thought of as a one of event but they recently announced a show at UNIFY in Australia so who knows what is in the works.
Political rap rockers Rage Against The Machine disbanded in 2000 with no sign of any sort of new music shows or anything else. In 2007, tensions were high in the U.S over former president George W. Bush so the band used their status to fight back against the right wing administration. Guitarist Tom Morello described the reasoning behind the reunion as being a vehicle to voice the band’s political opposition. RATM played their first reunion show at Coachella 2007 which led to sporadic performances and tours between 2007 and 2011. While there are no plans for anything else at this point, all of the members except for singer Zach De La Rocha have formed the supergroup Prophets of Rage with Public Enemy rapper Chuck D and B-Real of Cypress Hill to fight the power once again during the 2016 presidential elections.
Pink Floyd 2005
In 2005, for the first time in 24 years the classic lineup of Pink Floyd performed together for one brief night. Performing as part of the Live 8 festival, a string of benefit concerts spread across the world, the classic Pink Floyd came out as the only band to not have an introduction and simply opted to have a 10-year-old hold up a piece of paper with their name written on it. The performance was brief, consisting of just five songs but fans were thrilled just to know that this would even happen given the distant relationship between members. Although the performance was incredible it was clear that it was a one time only deal as David Gilmour stated, “Any squabbles Roger [Waters] and the band have had in the past are so petty in this context, and if reforming for this concert will help focus attention, then it’s going to be worthwhile.” At least the band members were able to put aside their differences not only to give fans an unexpected treat but also to benefit those in need.
Legendary doom metal trio Sleep broke up back in the late ’90s with no expectations of a return after guitarist Matt Pike started High On Fire and bassist and drummer Al Cisneros and Chris Hakius began OM. In 2009 fans were delighted to hear the group would return for two exclusive sets at All Tomorrow’s Parties in London. The stoner rockers also debuted an unheard song from the recording sessions of their final album Dopesmoker at the festival performances. From there, Sleep has gone on to do select shows in between the members work with their other projects and have announced they are working on a new album with a new song that was released in 2014 via Adult Swim Singles.
Swedish hardcore band Refused broke up in 1998 due to not receiving enough attention but in 2012 the unexpected happened. For two years rumours stirred that the group would do festivals in Europe with Epitaph Records putting the band’s website back up simply stating “Coming Soon.” Nothing turned up until finally the group began a year long reunion tour beginning with festivals in California followed by multiple legs of North American and European tours. Refused have now made a full return to form after another short hiatus and a second set of reunion shows at festivals. They released the relentlessly heavy Freedom in 2015 and have been touring since.
New York dance-punk rockers LCD Soundsystem had a heartfelt farewell in 2011 with a sold out performance at Madison Square Garden but in October 2015 rumours began spreading that the band would reunite and headline some major festivals in the US and UK the following year. Once January hit, rumours became facts and the group began announcing their return. This comeback was shocking because other than a Christmas song that came out in 2015, the band were defunct. Media outlets and fans alike all thought LCD Soundsystem would be a piece of history as the group talked about disbanding for a few years before they did but now they have returned in full force and are expected to drop some new music this year.
20 years after the release of their debut album, hip-hop duo Outkast announced a 40-date festival reunion tour which fans were ecstatic about, but member Andre 3000 was not terribly thrilled over. In 2007 both Andre 3000 and Antwan “Big Boi” Patton pursued solo careers and put Outkast on hiatus. Andre 3000 had moved past Outkast at the point of their reunion so while the performances were stellar, the passion was false. "Honestly, I didn't wanna do the tour. We hadn't performed in 10 years. It was old songs," the rapper said. "I'm like, how am I gonna present these songs? I don't have nothing new to say." The rapper found it more entertaining to wear 47 different custom jumpsuits with phrases like “I don’t know what else to say” written on them that he would change up frequently. At least he was honest about the lack of passion for doing the tour, claiming he needed money to help pay for his teenage kid.
Music festivals are a great place for fans to see all of their favourite acts in one place, but they serve another purpose for artists: reunion shows. Whether it’s a comeback from a hiatus or the return of a retired act, some of the best and most unexpected reunions have happened at festivals.
When bands announce they are getting back together, they typically leave a lot of unanswered questions which tend to be answered after their big festival return. Will their reunion be permanent? Will there be new music? Does the line-up represent what the band was or is it inauthentic? In some cases, fans are thrilled by the answers to these questions but at other times bands fall flat and deliver a disappointment.
Festivals can be a great setting for musicians to return to the spotlight, though, with large venue sizes to accommodate as many people as possible and a generally uplifting atmosphere. Festivals also tend to have an ‘anything goes’ tone for one weekend which makes them the perfect place for acts people never expected to see back together make their revival.
Click through the gallery above to see some of the best and most unexpected reunions that have happened at festivals.