By Tanner Kent
Free Press Features Editor
MANKATO — Naked Bob is back from hiatus.
“If you can call 15 years a ‘hiatus,’” chided Matt Marka, lead singer for the recently reunited Mankato band that once captured a large, regional following for its good-humored vibe and original music composed in a mishmash of rock styles. “Our last show was April 1998.”
That’s the last anyone has seen of Naked Bob. During that show at the What’s Up Lounge, the band debuted two new songs and gave no hint of the dissolution to follow.
There was no animosity band members said over drinks at Savoy Bar and Grill in Mankato, which happens to be located just a few downtown blocks from the site of the band’s Saturday reunion during day two of the Post-Holiday Extravaganza.
There were no conflicting personalities, nor struggles with drug or drink that precipitated the band’s breakup. As drummer Eric Bunde said, Naked Bob had simply “run its course.”
After that, a few band members moved away. Some stopped playing music altogether. Bunde — who joined the band midway through its career after being a devoted fan — said he stopped playing drums publicly for the next 10 years.
“I felt disenfranchised when I realized I was not going to be a rock star,” he said.
But Naked Bob did come tantalizingly close.
From 1990-1998, the band released a demo and three albums. After starting out as a three-piece acoustic band, Naked Bob gradually morphed into a five-piece that retained its fan base even after a shift from acoustic to electric.
Along the way, they were recruited by Uncle Bob’s Promotions in Sioux Falls, S.D., and were booked all over the Midwest. They even sent a few recordings to major recording houses, but received only rejection letters.
After the breakup, members occasionally discussed getting back together, but nothing materialized. Those discussions gained momentum in recent years, but there didn’t seem a convenient way to get everyone back together.
That is, until they were presented with an opportunity to play in the Post-Holiday Extravaganza.
Though they are humorously billing the performance as “the reunion no one asked for,” band members agreed they’ve enjoyed playing together once again and are excited to see some old fans.
“It’s really nice to play these songs,” Marka said.
Ryan Frederick added: “Rehearsals have gone surprisingly well. The muscle memory just takes over, and it works.”
One thing that hasn’t changed is the band’s trademark sense of humor.
The same band that once used a picture of five gorillas foraging for food as a promotional photo and likes to joke that its name arises from a euphemism for sex — it’s actually a much more boring story that involves a co-worker who quickly changed outfits during a costume party — has not changed a bit.
As band members discussed the set list for Saturday’s concert, Marka made one guarantee: “Nobody will die on stage.”
To that, the band’s fellow founding member Eric Melhorn quipped: “Whoa. I’m 50. We can’t guarantee that.”