For the first time in a decade, the Ataris will tour with the lineup that brought them mainstream notoriety, playing their breakthrough album “So Long Astoria” in its entirety.
Beginning Feb. 28, frontman Kristopher Roe will embark on a 25-date tour with guitarist John Collura, bassist Mike Davenport, and drummer Chris Knapp. The tour marks the 10th anniversary of the album that has sold over 693,000 copies (according to Nielsen SoundScan) and produced the band’s greatest hit, a cover of Don Henley’s “The Boys of Summer” that peaked at No. 20 in the Hot 100. The Ataris chronicled the reunion in a documentary which Billboard has an exclusive sneak peak at:
“Andy Somers (of the Agency Group), who used to book us, threw this idea at me,” Roe says. “I was a little reluctant because I hadn’t spoken those guys in a long time.”
After the band left Columbia following its breakthrough album, the “classic” Ataris lineup splintered apart. Collura moved back to New York and now runs a studio there. Roe temporarily lost touch with Davenport, who now plays in Versus the World, who will serve as openers on the tour. And Collura continued with Roe onto the Ataris’ 2007 follow-up, the indie rock-oriented “Welcome the Night,” only to depart later that year. But when the 2003 incarnation of the Ataris reunited in October, time washed away any awkwardness, and the reunion gigs were drawn up.
On the upcoming tour, the Ataris will trade in their usual van for an RV and play “So Long Astoria” in its entirety to the biggest venues they’ve graced in years. Inspired by Weezer’s “Pinkerton” tour and a trip to see Taylor Swift with his girlfriend, Roe wanted to give fans a more theatrical experience. He dug up old photos and footage of the “So Long Astoria” years and plans to turn it into a projector presentation to accompany the set.
Ten-year anniversaries are great for nostalgia, and Roe was eager to reminisce on the successful album that produced a pair of songs that made it to “Now That’s What I Call Music!” compilations: “Boys of Summer” and “In This Diary.”
“When ‘Boys of Summer’ happened, it was kind of an accident,” he says. “I recorded that song because my grandmother had passed away and [Henley’s original] reminded me of visiting her in Florida when I was eight years old.” “The Saddest Song,” an ode to Roe’s daughter, was planned as a single, but after KROQ began spinning the Henley cover constantly, it became in inescapable hit. Major League Baseball loved it, and the band wound up playing the 2003 All-Star Game, where Roe remembers starting pitcher David Wells tossing him a baseball. The band’s punk ethos got them to turn down a “TRL” performance, but they did license an old, 30-second song called “The Radio Still Sucks” to the very first iTunes commercial.
“Steve Jobs contacted us through our old independent label Kung Fu Records,” Roe remembers. “At the time, I wasn’t aware of him; iTunes was just launching. He was like, ‘We want to use your song in a commercial.’ I was like, ‘Sure, yeah, but you realize there are four f-words in the song?'”
But that’s not all coming down the pike from the Ataris. The band is in the process of securing rights for a vinyl reissue of “So Long Astoria” from Columbia, and plans to re-release it along with the rest of its back catalog on its original home, Kung Fu Records. The gatefold albums will be available in a boxset and individually, with additional b-sides and photography from Roe.
The Ataris hope to use proceeds from the tour to help finance their long-delayed album “Graveyard of the Atlantic,” which Roe is in the process of recording with the pre-reunion Ataris (the 2003 incarnation is limited to the upcoming tour). There’s no official release date, though Roe says, “maybe if we’re lucky we’ll get it out by the end of the year.”
Here are the dates for the “So Long Astoria” anniversary tour:
Feb. 28: Scottsdale, AZ (Pub Rock)
March 1: Las Vegas, NV (Backstage Bar)
March 2: Fresno, CA (Strummer’s)
March 3: San Luis Obispo, CA (SLO Brewing Company)
March 5: Los Angeles, CA (House of Blues)
March 6: Anaheim, CA (House of Blues)
March 7: San Diego, CA (House of Blues)
March 8: San Francisco, CA (Bottom of the Hill)
March 11: Portland, OR (Hawthorne Theatre)
March 12: Seattle, WA (The Showbox at the Market)
March 13: Boise, ID (Knitting Factory)
March 14: Salt Lake City, UT (In The Venue [Club Sound])
March 15: Denver, CO (The Summit Music Hall)
March 16: Kansas City, MO (Riot Room)
March 18: St. Louis, MO (Old Rock House)
March 20: Minneapolis, MN (Mill City Nights)
March 21: Chicago, IL (House of Blues)
March 22: Indianapolis, IN (The Vogue)
March 23: Detroit, MI (The Shelter)
March 24: Cleveland, OH (Agora Ballroom)
March 25: Pittsburgh, PA (Altar Bar)
March 27: Philadelphia, PA (Theatre of Living Arts)
March 28: Silver Spring, MD (The Fillmore)
March 29: Boston, MA (Brighton Music Hall)
March 30: New York, NY (The Gramercy Theatre)