Behind The Scenes Of Spoon’s Telephono-Era Reunion Set In Austin

Jason Cohen/Stereogum

Behind The Scenes Of Spoon’s Telephono-Era Reunion Set In Austin

Jason Cohen/Stereogum

Britt Daniel and Jim Eno were joined by original guitarist Wendel Stivers and bassist Chepo Peña at show commemorating local venue the Electric Lounge

Spoon were not supposed to play in Austin this past Saturday.

The bill for the 25th anniversary “Electric Lounge Reunion” at 310 Austin City Limits promised a short acoustic set by Spoon frontman Britt Daniel and original guitarist Greg Wilson, aka “Wendel Stivers.” They would reach back through the decades to play songs from the band’s 1996 debut Telephono, in homage to the bygone Austin venue, which opened in 1993 and closed in 1998. Having “Spoon” on the poster would have overwhelmed the 350-person capacity room and overshadowed a bill that also included Shoulders, Tee Double, the Hickoids, Hamell On Trial, the Living Pins, Flying Saucers, and Sincola (the band Stivers was in before and after Spoon).

But when Daniel and Stivers took the stage, they were quickly joined by a rhythm section: Spoon drummer Jim Eno, who flew in from Rhode Island, and Sincola bassist Chepo Peña, filling the spot once occupied by Andy Maguire (and then seven other people). Daniel introduced the unexpected duo, and Spoon Version 1.0 launched into Telephono’s opening diptych, “Don’t Buy The Realistic” and “Not Turning Off.”

That was followed by “Reservations,” which did not appear on record until 1998’s A Series Of Sneaks, but was still a song that Stivers put his stamp on. (Stivers wasn’t even in the band by the time they made Telephono, but he was the first member of Spoon – even before Eno, technically – and had written the guitar parts for these early songs.)

“Wowwwwwwww,” one fan yelled from the third row, his head thrown back in delight, when they started playing “Reservations.”

Five more songs from Telephono, most of which had not been played this century, would follow, each of them sounding more primal and fresh and unmistakably Spoon than ever. For die-hards, it was the equivalent of Radiohead playing nothing but Pablo Honey or Yo La Tengo reaching back to Ride The Tiger. All that was missing was “Waiting For The Kid To Come Out,” a song that actually references the Electric Lounge (from 1997’s Soft Effects EP) but was after Stivers’ time. Oh, and “Theme To Wendel Stivers.”

At times it has felt like Daniel had disowned Telephono – there’s not even a track from it on the 2019 best-of Everything Hits At Once – but the more that time passes, the more he likes it well enough.

“I don’t feel like we’d really found ourselves yet on that record, but it is a good record,” he says. “We have occasionally whipped out a Telephono song over the years in front of, y’know, a current Spoon audience. And we get about the same reaction that the album got when it came out, which is pretty muted.

“But for this show, people were showing up for that. They wanted to hear those songs. It was very cool to look out on the audience and see people singing along to a song like “Reservations.” I specifically remember seeing people singing along to that, which was kind of shocking to me. That’s a pretty deep cut.”

The groundwork for the set was laid on Spoon’s last tour, when Stivers went to see the band in Arizona. He’d joked with Daniel via text that instead of royalties that Spoon didn’t actually owe him, he wanted backstage passes. And Daniel texted back, “Yeah, but what are you going to play?”

Stivers hadn’t picked up a guitar in years, but he joined the band on “Nefarious” as well as “Fitted Shirt” – the latter a song from Girls Can Tell but still stylistically bare-bones enough to be “low-hanging fruit,” the guitarist says.

“People seemed to go crazy for Wendel,” Daniel says of that Phoenix show. “We were opening for Weezer, and I somehow feel like we got a better crowd response just from Wendel walking out. People were screaming Wendel! Wendel! There was no rhyme or reason to it.”

Another cameo would follow, in Perth, Australia. And when they started rehearsing for the Electric Lounge gig, it was Stivers who pushed to make it a full-band thing.

“I was like, these are kind of post-punk songs,” Stivers says. “We really need a rhythm section. And he agreed.”

Well, sort of.

“I don’t know if he didn’t think it was gonna work or if he just was itching to play with a full band,” says Daniel. “But he kept bringing it up.”

So Daniel passed on Eno’s phone number and left it to Stivers to talk the drummer into coming. Meanwhile, Peña – who was already rehearsing with Wilson in Sincola – didn’t need convincing. The musicians are all longtime friends dating back to those original Electric Lounge days, but Peña is also a giant fan of Spoon.

“For him, it was like being asked to play with the Beatles,” says Stivers. “He was just ecstatic about it.”


“Find someone who looks at you the way Chepo looks when he’s playing bass in Spoon,” Austin journalist and DJ Andy Langer said when he introduced Sincola after Spoon’s set.

“I love Chepo with all my heart,” says Daniel. “And so it was amazing to look over at him while he was singing those parts. He told me that Telephono was one of his top 10 albums ever. I knew how excited he was about it, and I was excited to play those songs too. I could just see how psyched he was, and that made me psyched.”

Who knows if it will ever happen again. But Stivers is already looking over Spoon’s upcoming summer tour dates.

“Don’t Buy The Realistic”
“Not Turning Off”
“Plastic Mylar”

Courtesy of Ray Seggern

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