Because reuniting is what bands do these days, turn of the century Milwaukee stalwart El Oso is re-grouping for a couple shows this month, says guitarist and singer Jim Hanke, who we last spoke to in that capacity back in 2005. (We've since talked to him, of course, in his role as a member of Chicago-based Kid, You'll Move Mountains.)
The band – which also includes bassist Lee Gianou, keyboardist Jeff Grabowski, drummer Andy Hartzell and guitarist Jasen Kinart – plays a Dec. 9 gig in Chicago with Felix Culpa and opens for Maritime on Saturday, Dec. 17 at the Cactus Club. Liar's Trial is first on the evening's bill.
The shows will be the first El Oso gigs in nearly six year.
"We were asked by the Felix Culpa camp if we had any interest in reuniting in December to open their farewell show," says Hanke via email from Chicago, where he now lives.
"It seems every year we've talked very generally about getting together and playing again, however briefly, but this time it's actually happening. It's sort of fitting, since our last show was with the Felix Culpa anyway, only then we didn't know it'd be our last show.
"Our bass player Lee was still living in Florida when we were asked, and everything just lined up perfectly time-wise, so he moved back recently and we've been practicing since. It also seemed like a no-brainer to do a hometown show, as well."
Since the band split in 2006, Grabowski spent some time on the West Coast before returning home to Milwaukee, where Hartzell has played with John the Savage and Kinart plays with Slo-Fi and First Known Ruler. Gianou has toured with Transmit Now and, in addition to playing with Kid, You'll Move Mountains, Hanke performs as a duo with his wife, Jen.
In advance of the two gigs, El Oso has uploaded nearly everything it ever recorded and is offering it for a pay-what-you-want download. Among the goodies are the band's official releases – the full-length "Whichever Chapter Covers Now" and the "Making Love, Making Beds" EP – compilation tracks and two live performances from WMSE.
Hanke says that El Oso has made no plans beyond offering the download and the two gigs this month.
"I know it's the party line when bands reunite, but I have no idea what our plans aside from these shows," he says.
"It's been really fun so far and I think we've all realized how great of a time we have when all five of us are in a room together. We're just excited to be playing again and whatever happens happens."
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 OnMilwaukee.com 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 can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.