The yearning for a Sleeper Agent reunion show has existed since their confirmed break-up. The alternative quintet will lead its agency into 2020 on New Year’s Eve at Tidball’s Sounds and Spirits, 522 Morris Aly.
“I’ve heard Justin (Wilson) talk about a one show reunion for a while. It was merely a 'what if' and that would be 'sweet, if it ever happened kinda deal,'" Tidball’s co-owner Brian Jarvis said.
The venue, a mecca for musician success stories and initial point in plenty of timelines including Sleeper Agent’s-- hosted the then surprise, but publicly unconfirmed final, set on March 5, 2015.
In that March show, starting with their alternative chart-topping single “Be Brave,” Alex Crosby grooved to the memorable drum opener.
“It’s been a really long time since we've played here,” she said to the snow day crowd when then 21. “It’s been really nice, even if the weather is s---, I don’t care. This time last year my hair froze three times!” That was during their tour stop in Milwaukee, Wis., when temperatures fell to -22 degrees Fahrenheit. She later made her anticipated move: walking into the crowd, giving the mic to fans to shout lyrics to “Bad News,” another one off sophomore album, “About Last Night.”
“The magic was there. It was pretty freaking cool seeing them on our stage again. I gave them the key and slipped out, seemed like the right thing to do.” Jarvis said of the first practice on October 27 where he briefly listened to live tunes off their booming debut, ‘Celebrasion.’
“We see Justin, Scott (Gardner) and Lee (Williams) around from time to time, but we nearly lost touch with Tony and Alex outside of social media and musical projects and only see Josh when we catch Cage (The Elephant) on tour. With all the distance and traveling between the band, my doubts were stronger than my beliefs.”
News of a --then dateless--but confirmed reunion hit in late September, when front-woman Crosby (formerly Kandel) cleverly posted an iMessage screenshot stating, “So when’s practice?” followed by the caption "might be in Bowling Green soon…” The post garnered much fan-fare. One month later, Tony Smith, vocalist and guitarist, offered a clueful caption, “Well, I reckon hindsight will be 2020…” on his Instagram image of the inside of Tidball’s with gear on the familiar stage and keyboarder Gardner in the frame.
“I’m curious to see if it’s going to be mostly familiar faces or early 20-somethings who were too young to get into bars back in the day,” Smith said of the New Year’s Eve 2019 set.
In 2012, the band made their television debut on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon”. Throughout 2014, Sleeper Agent accumulated band van or flight miles, adding “The Late Show with David Letterman,” and scoring other national music festivals like Shaky Knees in Atlanta, Ga., Firefly in Dover, Del., and Coachella in Indio, Calif., as career milestones along with spotting familiar fans and friends of the band many times over. Best friends and Bowling Green residents Kegan Williams, 30, and Clint Montgomery, 28, have racked up 20 Sleeper Agent sets in bar venues and festivals across the country, including Vans Warped Tour.
“Sleeper Agent is one of those bands that makes me remember when I wasn’t old enough to get into bars and places like The Crow’s Nest and Greener Grounds were where I had to see music,” Montgomery said. “Definitely seeing ‘Get Burned’ again. ‘Be My Monster’ and ‘Be Brave’ will be great to see again too,” Montgomery echoed.
K. Williams lists what he looks forward to: “Hearing some White Blinds live again, chanting and singing with the whole crowd at the end of “Get Burned” and hearing Lee’s angelic voice during “Waves.”
Hometown roots have been an ever-present priority for Sleeper Agent. The second-to-last time the indie rock group performed for their hometown was in late August 2015, after having friends, including Western Kentucky University photojournalism graduate, Danielle Elise Bartley and Yellowberri’s Andrew Pearson, film a guerilla styled video shoot showcasing their city for “Be Brave,” different from their Vevo video for the hot summer single “Waves.”
Best friends and WKU photojournalism 2017 alumni Sally Jean Wegert, from Louisville, and Nikki Boliaux, currently residing in New York City, both 24, are cancelling plans. “I, 100 percent, need to schedule my life around it, if possible,” Wegert said, not knowing it will be on the Holiday.
“I loved them so much, still have their vinyl record. Sal and I danced so hard,” Boliaux added. Both were 19 at the time of disbandment but Boliaux and Wegert attended the all-ages April 2014 performance at The Warehouse at Mt. Victor and got signed vinyl copies of “Celebraison,” the body of work that landed them on the list of Rolling Stone Magazine’s “Bands To Watch” in 2011.
Crosby had the energy of a Joan Jett then and it continues today. Jarvis only sat-in for a half-hour to run sound, following another audio engineer for Tidball’s, Brian White.
“I’m fangirling a bit. Sleeper Agent has always been one of our favorites. They always kinda did their own thing, but were cool about it. I always admired that. I’m pretty sure everyone is gonna be excited as we are. They are a part of the ‘Wonder Years,’ not only for us, but that era and history of Bowling Green music. I have the utmost respect for venues of yesteryear and the artists, Sam Bush, the “Cheese” but nothing will ever touch that time period of the mid 2000s. Cage, Sleeper Agent, Morning Teleportation, Buffalo Rodeo, Schools, Canago, Billy Swayze. I could go on and on and on.”
For the New Year’s Eve celebrations, Sleeper Agent meets Sugadaisy, a Bowling Green bred and Nashville transplant indie-rock band of another five-- Zac Littleton, Johny Lovan, Craig Brown, Alex Helson and Patrick Duncan which formed in summer 2017.
“It’s awesome. I’m excited to play with Sleeper Agent again, play with some friends that I haven’t played with in a while--some I haven’t seen in a while,” Patrick Duncan said. Duncan, a veteran in Bowling Green music scene is the bassist for Sugadaisy and formerly Buffalo Rodeo and Decade of Experts and Assassins. “I haven’t really thought about the change of age demographics, and that’s real exciting, because you play house-shows for under 21 kids and turn around and play another show, and all of a sudden everybody’s 21, it’s just a totally different atmosphere, not to down-play house-shows. Those are awesome, but I’m really excited to play with them again.”
Other “wonder years” connections, Sugadaisy vocalist Craig Brown performed in energetic jam band Canago which has seen its reunion shows at Tidball’s in previous years.
“The Canago House was two doors down from where Sleeper Agent practiced so we heard each other’s rehearsals a few times a week and probably heard each other play more than any other people,” Brown said, while laughing. “ Also, they’re some of our best buds and literally family....”
After NBC’s The Voice, the first medium to officially confirm the break-up when introducing Alex Crosby (formerly Kandel) Crosby continued with Hen and worked as a coach with Girls Rock Louisville, a non-profit organization which aims to empower girls, trans (regardless of identity) and gender-non conforming youth from all backgrounds by exploring music creation and seeking to create a supportive community of peers and positive mentors that encourage and teach participants to be their own rock heroes. Smith sparked Teem, an indie solo project with singles “Warpaint,” “Afterglow” and two EPs “Weekend Warrior” (2016) and “Good Grief” (2019). Martin is guitar technician and more with another local rock band, Cage The Elephant. Wilson worked in The Josephines, following studio recording and North American and European tours with Nashville’s MONA. His talents are amplified in the debut Josephines EP “Sober Up” and “Soldier On”. Gardner and Williams with friend Reuben Bynes bop in Bowling Green underground hip-hop trio, Waco Bell.
“You're gonna hear a lot of their (Sleeper Agent) catalog. The energy, tears, cold chills, sweat, jumping will be epic. Get your tickets! It will sell out,” Jarvis said. “ Oh, it will be all that plus Sugadaisy! Those guys could carry the night by themselves and are a stalwart of the scene. They will have this place lit before SA even takes the stage and they have some things up their sleeve that will blow ya mind.”
Tickets can be purchased at Eventbrite, links are available through Tidballs.com and all facets of their social media.