The universe (or at least The Globe) aligned to bring back The Benjamins
I first saw The Benjamins at Summerfest in 2001, when they played before Reel Big Fish. I was a curious 14-year-old who spent the hot July day with a small handful of my fellow squirrely friends, all of us curious about alternative music that went beyond whatever MTV was feeding us.
As we waited for the headliner’s horns, skanking and humor-tinged brand of ska, I was pleasantly surprised by the four-piece rock band that played before the sun went down. During their set, my naïve teen mind was blown when their lead singer, Jay Stys, said they were from Milwaukee.
Their performance further deepened my love for live music and educated me that local music can not only be good, but great.
The Benjamins, for me, were a sort of "gateway drug" to the music I discovered through my formative teen years. My friends and I pooled the little money we had to buy their album, The Art of Disappointment, which also introduced me to their labelmates on the now-defunct Drive-Thru Records, including Fenix TX, New Found Glory and Senses Fail. After that, the rabbit hole deepened to East and West Coast punk, screamo, hardcore and beyond.
As fate may have it, about a decade after I caught The Benjamins' drummer's drumstick at that July show, he got hired at the same restaurant I was working at (shout out to Cafe Hollander on Downer). After I was able to calm my fan-boying, I got to know Jonny Phillip really well and eventually — during my time at WMSE — helped set up their 2016 reunion at Turner Hall for the station’s 35th anniversary.
A lot has happened in the 266 months since I first saw the Benjamins, but I'm grateful my path and Jonny's continue to cross, including the interview you can either listen to or watch at the top of the page. I was honored and, if I'm being honest, a little bit giddy to talk to him before the band’s two shows this weekend, including Saturday’s Globe East Reunion at the Miramar Theater and a Sunday matinee with Clementine at Promises.
As a longtime fan of The Benjamins, I hope you check out the shows and that you’re able to appreciate them with more than — as they put it in their song “Wonderful” — a steady one hand clapping.