LAKEVIEW – Is it an attempted return to glory days? Or a just a fun reunion with longtime friends? The answer is somewhere in the middle, but probably more toward the latter, when you talk to Steve Timble and Brian Steele, two members of the ‘80s/’90s pop-punk band Reaction Formation about the group’s upcoming reunion.
The band formed when its members were in high school — Steele on vocals/guitar, Timble on bass/vocals, his brother Jimmy on drums and Steve “Mos” Pisto also on guitar — inspired by, the band said, “too much free time and a need to do something, anything to fight the cultural vacuum of the suburbs.”
Now these long-ago musicians, joined by guitarist Steve Steffens, are getting together again to play a pair of reunion shows this weekend: Friday night at GMan Tavern, 3740 N. Clark St. and Sunday at The Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia Ave.
The reforming of Reaction Formation was inspired by a requested memorial performance after the passing of the Timbles’ cousin, Lou Galassini.
“He knew what an arduous tax task it would be for us to rehearse and play. And, he also knew that we wouldn’t say no,” said Steve Timble of his cousin’s wishes for his memorial.
“And it was lovely to see friends, and people asked us, ‘When can you play again, you only played a few songs!’” Timble, who was the first publisher of Time Out Chicago, an associate publisher of the Chicago Reader and now is director of corporate sponsorship at StoryCorps, explained. “And so, because of poor judgment and poor decision making, we said ‘Why don’t we try to do this?’ And we call up people to say ‘Hey, can we get a show?’ And people said yes. And then once they said yes, it was too late for us to turn back.”
Some of those people called likely remembered Reaction Formation from the band’s many shows during Chicago’s alt-rock heyday. The band frequently played a local band series at Metro, 3730 N. Clark St., on Wednesdays called Rock Against Depression, as well as now long-gone clubs around the city like Gasper’s and Batteries Not Included.
Their sound was very much of the 1980s/’90s alternative pop-punk element. They revered groups like Chicago’s own Material Issue and Minneapolis’ beloved Replacements. They even got to open for the Replacements a few times, in college towns like DeKalb and Champaign. Steele, now vice-president of communications and marketing at the Chicago Transit Authority, recalls seeing the band killing “Bastards of Young” at the sound check at Champaign’s legendary club Mabel’s.
But once sound check was over: “The Replacements got so drunk that they made us almost look okay,” recalled Timble. “I believe that night went long, because there was an after-party at our house. And some of them came by, and I think they stole like, like a box of burgers and left us a handle of vodka in return or something like that.”
Reaction Formation hit their professional peak with a 7-song CD, “Pornstar” in 1991. Some of their tracks can still be found on YouTube, still railing against the towns they grew up in in “Suburban Wasteland,” getting romantic in “Looking At You,” or chronicling the traveling Midwestern band life in “Galesburg Bound,” which was released as a 7″ single.
But when Nirvana ushered in the grunge heyday in 1994, Reaction Formation knew their punk-pop days had come to an end. Except for a handful of reunion shows, like the ones planned for this weekend (the band also did a reunion at Phyllis’ Musical Inn in 2016).
But these upcoming shows may be less about the music and more about the people they’re playing with.
“It was a great time,” Steele said, “and we’re lucky that a lot of us are still here to remember it and save, not necessarily those moments, but just kind of the spirit of those days.”
“When we started playing in a band,” added Timble, “I had no idea what I’d get out of it, but I had optimistic thoughts that I would find some kind of fame or fortune. Fame or fortune didn’t come but I’ve got something more long-lasting and better: these lifelong friendships. I mean, as much as this is about music, I think it’s even more so about friends and experiences, right? Bands would have their moments and sometimes you could be there to celebrate with them and then they kind of disappear or join other bands or reform or whatever. But yeah, it was it was pretty special time.”
Reaction Formation will again take the stage at 8 p.m. Friday at GMan Tavern, 3740 N. Clark St., and 3 p.m. Sunday at The Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia Ave.. More info and background is available at the band website.
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