By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Dec 15, 2004 at 5:38 AM

{image1}In a world full of remakes, reunions and rehashes, we say, "give us a reunion we can love." Luckily, for Milwaukee music fans, December offers two such reunions: first surf kings The Exotics and then pop/punk/emo outfit The Benjamins.

The latter was one of the city's most promising bands as the new millennium dawned and appeared poised to do big things after signing with Drive Thru Records and releasing "The Art of Disappointment" in 2001.

However, the disc's title turned out to be prophetic for fans, who were saddened by the band's split not long after the disc was released. Those fans will be happy to hear that the foursome is back for one more gig, 10 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 18 at Mad Planet with The Saltshakers and The Etiquette. caught up with bassist Ben Perlstein and drummer Jon Phillip to get the story.

OMC: What have you boys been up to since the band split?

Ben Perlstein: After the band split up, we all found new bands to play in. I moved to Minneapolis to join a wacky space-rock band called Manplanet that we'd played shows with a bunch. That band broke up last year, and I held a couple of music industry jobs -- artist management/booking and live show production -- and now I'm doing promotions at the new Twin Cities office of The Onion. Jon started the bands Versa and The Nice Outfit, quit both, and formed The Obsoletes with former Yesterday's Kids members. Dan (Hinz, guitarist) plays with Carolina and fixes guitars, and Jay (Stys, vocalist/guitarist) played with Sulu for a while and is now a kitchen manager at the lovely Palomino in Bay View when he's not working on new songs in his basement and trying to find people to play them with.

OMC: Since you're getting back together, can we assume the split was an amicable one? What brought it on?

BP: Well, at first we were pretty pissed at each other, but as they say, time heals all wounds. Jon and I have remained best friends the whole time and talk at least once a day. I work closely with The Obsoletes. I'll run into the other guys here and there when I'm visiting town and it's always a pleasure to see them.

Jon Phillip: It was definitely a friendly and good-natured breakup, but we were very sick of each other, our booking agent dropped us, we were in debt way over our heads with everybody we dealt with, some people in the band couldn't handle the road, and just like every band we had problems with our label.

BP: I don't think being on the road for eight months straight helped anything.

OMC: Why get back together now; what was the impetus for the reunion?

JP: I booked a show at Mad Planet for The Obsoletes with Eugene III from The Etiquette as a going-away party for him because he now lives in New York City. Then The Obsoletes booked a show at the same club two weeks before the going-away party. Stupid me! To prevent people from getting even more pissed at me, Ben asked if we should get the band together for that show, and everybody else agreed to do it.

BP: It started with a couple of the folks over at the Mad Planet talking about it, and we were drunk and thought "Hey, why not?" We had fun playing together, we loved those songs and the whole thing represents an important phase in all of our lives, and if we can re-create that -- even just for one night -- it's worth it. We've been practicing lately, and when we get together and go over old memories from the road and recording and what not, it's great fun.

JP: The motive for the reunion was to prevent Gene from getting mad at me.

OMC: Will there be any surprises at the gig?

BP: We'll be surprised if we make it through all our songs without f*cking up too badly. Our friends that used to come to all our drinking shows will be surprised if we're able to stand up afterward.

JP: Ryan Weber from The Promise Ring and Decibully will be performing a few tracks with us on the Moog synth. It's his 24th birthday that night and everybody needs to buy him a drink, a shot or both. Now that I told you it's not much of a surprise now, is it?

OMC: Has there been talk of the band getting back together on a more permanent basis?

BP: No, and I seriously doubt that there will be. I'm well over trying to keep a band together, it's far too much of a pain in the ass. Plus, I really like my job and intend to keep it. Plus, I know Jon couldn't be happier in his current band, and I'm pretty sure Dan feels the same.

JP: Hell no! Absolutely not! I mean no, not really.

BP: What's the state of the local music scene in the years since the band split? Has it changed?

BP: Well, one of the most noticeable changes would have to be that eyesore at 2028 E. North Ave., where The Globe used to be. That place had meant a lot to me since I first moved to the East Side when I was a wee lad. Other than that, it's hard for me to say how the scene's changed, because I've been living in a far-away city with a very vibrant music scene for the past two years, but from what I hear Milwaukee is the same as it ever was -- the good bands are few and far between, the good venues are even more scarce. But like I said, I don't think I'm qualified enough to make a fair judgment. Minneapolis, however, is awesome. There's always stuff to do and tons of great bands with very supportive fans.

JP: Has it changed? The local music scene has pretty much remained the same. It's still very segregated, like it used to be. Certain bands will only play with their friends' bands. Mad Planet becoming a music venue again has helped create more and better sounding shows, thanks to Marc Solheim and Rocker Pat. The Cactus Club has always been great. But I do have one thing to say: F*ck the scenesters! What makes me the happiest is playing basement shows. There are a handful of basements that still have them but there can always be room for a couple more.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He has be heard on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories, in that station's most popular podcast.