By Julie Lawrence Special to Published Dec 21, 2005 at 5:23 AM

Some people send cards to say hello to old friends during the holidays but Milwaukee musician Bill Backes had a better idea.

It had been about five years since his now-defunct band Little Blue Crunchy Things had played together in Milwaukee, and he was feeling the sweet tinge of nostalgia.

"I had off work one day and I was thinking about how long it had been since we had been together," says Backes, who drummed for LBCT and has since played with the Lovelies, The Uptown Savages and The Cocksmiths, among other bands.

"I also thought about our last and most depressing show, and thought it was time. I thought that if we did it over the holidays everyone would be in Milwaukee anyway, so it made it much more realistic to organize.

"I called our manager and asked his opinion. Quite honestly he thought it would be too difficult to do and I disagreed, which dumped a ton of gas into the fire for me. I felt like Jake Blues out of jail getting the band back."

His efforts a success, Little Blue Crunchy Things play a reunion show at their old stomping grounds, Shank Hall, on Thursday, Dec. 22. Freshwater Collins opens the $10 show.

Little Blue officially disbanded in April 2000, though Backes admits to reuniting to play a series of "poorly attended" shows in 2002.

"I personally regret booking (those shows). It was a sad way to end the band with a sour taste. Our last show at The Rave should have stayed the last show."

Thursday's reunion promises to be a better ending to one of Milwaukee's most definitive bands. Although they technically hailed from Madison, during the mid-to-late '90s their funk beats mixed with smooth horns, not to mention their incredibly high dancability factor, earned them frequent and massively attended -- especially by the younger crowd -- performances at The Globe, Shank Hall, The Rave or the Modjeska Theatre.

"I think the all-ages shows launched us forward in many ways," says Backes. "It brought up our confidence, it paid for things such as recording and other expenses, and it really created a great foundation to grow from."

Originally comprising Backes (drums), Cara Davis (percussion), Rick Eells (bass), Douglas Haynes (saxophone), Brandon Mason (trumpet, trombone), Noah Tabakin (vocals), and Michael Wengler (guitar), the band released the 1995 debut, "Rhetoric."

They then went on to become a sextet, dropping Eells, Haynes and Mason, and adding Bryan Elliott (saxophone) and Ken Fitzsimmons (bass) and recording 1996's "Owner's Manual" live at Shank Hall. 1997 saw the release of "Swarm," 1998, "Babies," and their last CD, "In Loving Memory Of," came out in 2000.

When the group plays Shank Hall on Thursday, Backes says just about every member will be there.

"We are going to play all the songs, all the way back to the beginning. Oh yes, we are bringin' it!"

Julie Lawrence Special to staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.

As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”