It was only life in 1999 that scattered members of Giant Steps around the country. "Jobs, wives, kids, promotions," sax player Mike Silva ticks off the list of things that come up, even for local ska heroes who made as big a stride as the Steps. "We didn't want to go on with just bits and pieces of our former band." Members realized they had gone as far as they were going to go, he says. Still, Silva remembers his time with Giant Steps as one of the best in his life.
Mike "Otto" Barthel, singer and guitarist, never would have thought a Steps reunion show was going to happen all these years later. Almost half the band moved out of state.
Independent filmmaker Gavin Gillette called Silva this summer and asked if he could use some Giant Steps material in his flick, Donor Conspiracy, due out early next year. That gave Silva an excuse to dial up the other players. “That put us all back in touch with each other. I don't think we've all communicated for six or seven years as a full group," says Barthel. The idea of a reunion show emerged sometime near the film's release.
As the day of the Steps’ next stand approaches, Silva says he's as pumped as he was at the height of the group's popularity. "We're all pretty charged," Barthel agrees. During its heyday, the usually seven-man outfit hit the same stages as acts like No Doubt, Barenaked Ladies and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Most big ska fans in Burque probably had a copy of 1998's Feel the Thunder, the last release from Giant Steps.
Old bandmates are flying in from Los Angeles, Kansas and Seattle to be a part of the show. There isn't talk yet of the Steps reuniting for other performances. "We'll see how this one goes," Barthel says.
Members have all stayed musically active during the hiatus, whether as part of other projects or jamming alone in their living rooms, Silva says. Three days before the performance, the core lineup will hole up and get ready with intensive rehearsals.
"It's never enough," says Barthel. "I'm a little nervous because, physically, playing ska can be kind of challenging if you don't do it all the time, just with tempo and that kind of thing." But Silva says he's stoked to be playing for all their old fans, many of whom came from Highland High School, where sax player Paul Blakey is still the band director. Silva's also amped to play alongside New Mexico's more recent crop of ska bands. "They were kind of getting their start while we were on our way out," he says.
Though Barthel sounds like he's got the pre-show jitters, some part of him will likely remember what being part of a Giant Steps show is all about. "I think all of our instincts will kick in. We'll be bouncing off the walls.”