News of the impending Oblio Joes breakup came as sad but inevitable to fans of the band, the very last of the original “Jay’s [Upstairs] bands” that broke the former Main Street club open for punk and indie music in late 1993.
“I’m still freaked out,” frontman John Brownell warns mildly in a recent phone interview. “It feels like I’m divorcing four people at the same time.”
Lately Brownell is steeped in late-night memories, uploading old band photos and thinking about what old songs to dust off for the last show Thursday, June 7, at Downtown ToNight in Caras Park. No task to be taken lightly, considering the Obes’ gem-studded back catalogue amounts, for a certain Missoula crowd, to echoes of distant former lives.
“When I look back at these pictures, I can’t believe how young we all were,” Brownell says. “And now everyone has gone through all these changes that we didn’t see happening at the time.”
“I don’t know if there was any one moment,” he says about deciding to dissolve the group he’s led for over 14 years. “It just got stressful and stopped being fun. It got to where I felt like I couldn’t do anything without the Obes in mind.”
Members Scott Simonson, Dan Strachan and John Fleming will play in a band with former Fireballs of Freedom bassist Troy Warling. Brownell insists that the Obes accomplished way more than he set out to do back in early 1993.
“I don’t feel like I’m leaving anything on the table,” he says. “It’s hard to define what I’d consider success, but there’s nothing else I would have wanted out of this.”
Members of Brownell’s family will be flying in for the farewell show, including a young nephew in New Mexico who has never seen the Obes and cried when he heard the news. Brownell is typically bemused.
“It’s kinda funny,” he says. “ I know we’re going to be playing for some people who have been coming to see us for 10 years, but now in my mind it’s really just this one kid.”