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A mighty mighty comeback By Sarah Rodman Globe Staff / December 23, 2007 Link

Hometown heroes the Bosstones are reuniting in time for holiday Throwdown The Mighty Mighty Bosstones will gather for the first time in five years and bring back their traditional Hometown Throwdown. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones will gather for the first time in five years and bring back their traditional Hometown Throwdown. The band started talking last year, the wheels were set in motion in July, the rumors started in early September, and in October it became official: The Mighty Mighty Bosstones were reuniting for the first time in almost five years and resurrecting their holiday tradition, The Hometown Throwdown, to boot. more stories like this

For nine years, starting in 1994, the Throwdown was a beloved local institution. The raucous sets were a cheery homecoming for the always-touring ska-punk octet, a chance to skank along to the percolating grooves in a small club, to hear leader Dicky Barrett bark out a seasonal tune or two alongside old favorites, and to celebrate the growing success of these hardworking and proud Bostonians.

It also became a yearly showcase for the Bosstones' own favorite things as they offered the opening slots to friends and mutual admirers such as Darkbuster, the Pietasters, and the Dropkick Murphys, who have since symbolically filled the Throwdown void with their own annual St. Patrick's Day shows.

So there was no doubt excitement about its return. But when the tickets went on sale Oct. 19, all five shows at the Middle East Downstairs (that's roughly 3,000 tickets) sold out in seven minutes. The Throwdown returns Wednesday and continues through Dec. 30.

"We knew the shows would sell out; it was a question of when and how quickly. But seven minutes is just amazing," says Kevin Hoskins, booking agent for the club. "There are people coming from all over for these shows."

One of those people is Los Angeleno Jonnie Rosen, who has booked his flight and hotel despite not having a ticket to any of the shows . . . yet.

"I'm 24 now, and when I was 14 years old, I remember hearing the album 'Question the Answers' in my cousin's mom's car, and ever since that day I've been obsessed," says Rosen, who did secure a ticket for the sold-out New Year's Eve show at Lupo's in Providence but still hopes to squeeze into the Cambridge club. "I followed the Bosstones around the West Coast for 10 years. I've seen them 30 to 40 times."

That fans like Rosen and others around the world are making plans is heady news for band members, who, when they stepped offstage in France in July 2003, had no idea that they wouldn't be stepping onstage together again until this week. There was no big blowout. No harsh words spoken. No diplomatically worded press release citing a split over creative differences.

The final incarnation of the band - singer Barrett, bassist Joe Gittelman, guitarist Lawrence Katz, drummer Joe Sirois, saxophonists Tim Burton and Roman Fleysher, trombonist Chris Rhodes, and "Bosstone" Ben Carr - just decided to take a break.Continued...

Although they knew shutting down the machine lent some finality to the decision, Barrett says, "It wasn't anything where we said, 'On this day of history we will no longer play together.' "

The mad-for-plaid octet rose from playing small clubs as part of the Boston punk scene in the late '80s to become international ambassadors for the Hub through the early 2000s. Albums like "Devils Night Out" introduced their canny, upbeat blend of rocksteady ska, hardcore punk energy, and pop melodies, and they broke into the mainstream in 1997 with "Let's Face It" thanks to the rowdy-yet-reflective hit "The Impression That I Get."

A punishing tour schedule took them around the globe with important stops everywhere from "Sesame Street" to the American Music Awards, and they grew tired. Some had been in the band since high school; others, like Barrett, were approaching 40 and interested in exploring a life that didn't involve being cooped up on a tour bus with seven other dudes 300 days a year.

"I feel like we really cared about it enough to put it down," says Gittelman, by phone from Los Angeles, where until recently he had worked in A&R and as a producer for the band's former label, Side One Dummy, making a name for himself as a sort of punk-rock version of Timbaland. "The Bosstones is something that deserves to be done to its fullest, and we reached that point where we had a combination of people wanting to do other things."

"These offers were coming in, and people were trying to get us to do stuff, and nobody was willing to say, 'Let's do it,' " recalls Burton from his new home base in Jacksonville, Fla. "We just completely ran out of steam."

"I think that we were edgy and irritated and upset but not at each other," says Barrett, also from LA, where he's made his home for the past five years and where he works as the announcer on the late-night talk show "Jimmy Kimmel Live." "I think we just kind of felt like, let's look around and try something else. We've been the most successful Bosstones that the world has ever seen, so I didn't feel like there was any other kind of awards we needed to win or finish lines we needed to cross."

The web music channel Mi 145 (mi145.com) has been chronicling the band's reunion, and anyone who has seen the highly entertaining "Road to the Throwdown" video episodes (also available on the band's MySpace page, myspace.com/themighty mightybosstones) knows that there was one "T" that begged to be crossed, however.

The Bosstones have thrown down nine times. Knowing that Barrett has a touch of self-diagnosed OCD, Gittelman was confident that 10 would be an appealingly round number to the singer. "That's the God's honest truth, and Joe dangled that like a carrot," says Barrett, who is the face of the band but credits Gittelman as the motor.

There was only one condition that all of the band members had before committing to the shows. "We decided if we do it again it's going to be in our eyes, minds, and hearts as good as it was or not at all," says Barrett and adds with a laugh, "We're not getting back together to show people, 'See, this is why we don't play together any more.' "

To that end, Barrett, Gittelman, Katz, and Sirois, who all live in the LA area, started rehearsing more than six weeks ago. "We've been practicing in a cold storage place just to get used to the climate in Boston, kind of like Rocky pounding the meat in the freezer," jokes Gittelman.

The band is coming to the Middle East with more than 60 songs ready to go and feeling that the break has had a positive effect on its attitude and ability.

"When you put some time between the last time you did it, you start to realize, 'Wow, these were pretty good, we did a good job writing this stuff,' " says Barrett of a catalog that includes hits such as "Where'd You Go," "Someday I Suppose," and "Pictures to Prove It." "It feels good, and it's like old friends in the songs themselves."

In addition to the Throwdown prep, the band also managed to record three new tunes for "Medium Rare," an album of B-sides and rarities released last week. One of these songs, "Don't Worry Desmond Dekker," is a bittersweet look at the band, its history, and its friendships.

As for the future, the band isn't quite there yet.

"We're not really looking past New Year's Eve at this point," says Gittelman. "But me personally, I've had so much fun doing it and working on new tunes that I could see us doing more."

"Yeah, I think we'll probably record more music and see if we can string together enough songs that we like to possibly make another record," says Barrett. "And I don't see why, if the machine is up and running, we wouldn't do other shows. But are we going to gut it out on the Warped tour? I doubt it. We don't have that kind of incentive. It was fun while we did it, but you know? It's just going to be things that we want to do." © Copyright 2007 Globe Newspaper Company.

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