Planes Mistaken for Stars is back
Gared O'Donnell is back in Denver now. He wants a cigarette badly, but with six smoke-free months under his belt, he's keeping his cool and just enjoying being back in the city he loves, despite occasional cravings. He even ran a half-marathon a little over a month ago.
Aaron Thackeray. Full slideshow Planes Mistaken For Stars played a one-off reunion show in 2011.
"I no longer want to attack everyone I see all day long," says O'Donnell with his trademark wheezing chuckle. "My 37-year-old self could kick the shit out of my 27-year-old self." The Planes Mistaken for Stars frontman is relatively healthy and in high spirits, a far cry from what he was back in 2007, when his band called it quits and he fled Colorado. The split was amicable; O'Donnell says that after ten years of hard living on the road, he could no longer give it his all.
"We felt like if we couldn't do it 110 percent, we shouldn't do it at all," he says.
When the band played, it most certainly did that. Nate Newton, bass player for Converge and frontman of Doomriders, has long held that Planes Mistaken for Stars was the most underrated band in punk music. "If Converge is Black Flag," he says, "then Planes are the Minutemen."
Newton, whose bands toured with Planes several times in the band's heyday, says there was never any question that what the band was doing on stage was as real as it gets.
"They never got up there and faked it -- ever," says Newton. "You knew if they were happy, you knew if they were sad or angry. But regardless of their mood, they always delivered. They were real, and they were truly sincere about their music. There was nothing contrived about Planes Mistaken for Stars, and I miss them. I have yet to encounter another band even remotely like them."
Part of what made the band so genuine, Newton says, is how effortlessly the members melded the sounds they were raised on.
"Planes always had this sound that was undeniably theirs and theirs alone," says Newton. "You could hear the influence of early-'90s, manila-envelope seven-inch-cover, basement hardcore punk. You could hear the melody and angst of a band like Samiam. You could hear a distinct love for heavy, fuzzed-out classic guitar rock, and you could hear a boozy country ballad hidden in all of it somehow as well."
Peter Bottomley, longtime editor of the now-defunct Skyscraper magazine, echoes the importance of Planes to both Denver and punk music in general.
"They put everything they had into their shows," says Bottomley. "They were always more than a late-to-the-game emo band. Planes deserved more recognition than they got when they were around, but at least their cult following has continued to grow in the afterlife, so it's great to see them still willing to get back together."
Aaron Betcher, who fronted Denver's O'er the Ramparts in the late '90s, remember the first time he saw Planes and just how blown away the newcomers left everyone in attendance.
"When Planes moved out from the great Midwest to find a new home, [their new house] was down the street from my bass player's," says Betcher. "Somehow he met them and became friends, and we played a show at their house -- really in their tiny Easy Bake Oven they called a garage. It was an afternoon party, and everyone was hammered. We played and had a great time, then retired to have some beer. I had met Matt and talked to him about moving from the Midwest, and thought, 'What a nice group of guys.' They went into the garage, I think they tuned up, and then they played.
Betcher says nobody in attendance was ready for what Planes was about to unleash on Denver.
"People ran," says Betcher. "The garage was the only thing that mattered, and PMFS punished us. It was fantastic."
Planes played a lot more brutal, memorable shows over the years in Denver and around the country, but after years of the road life, even the love of fans and critical praise did little to slow its demise.
"My life imploded, and it wasn't feasible to do what we'd been doing for the past decade," says O'Donnell. "I was just in a bad place."