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Washed out of Mile, The Hamburgers take show down the road

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It was as if the forces of nature were conspiring to put a stop to it.

So The Hamburgers put forth the only appropriate punk response: do it anyway. 

Appleton punk band The Hamburgers came together for a long-awaited reunion show on Saturday night — but not the show they or fans had planned on. Their Mile of Music appearance was cancelled for reasons beyond their control. So they went off and found a new venue.

Guitarist and singer Walt Lontkowski, better known as Walt Hamburger, ultimately found what he was looking for despite the unexpectedly twisted path to the destination. 

“I didn’t know if it would matter if we did something like this,” he told the crowd, “but you’re making it feel like it does matter.”

The Saturday show came 14 years after their breakup. The reunion was slated for the early evening as part of the Mile of Music lineup, though ended up happening five hours later than expected in almost pop-up style at the tail end of a metal show at Missfits Tavern. 

A torrential, late afternoon rainfall rendered their Mile of Music stage unusable — and their stage was the only venue that didn’t recover after a delay.

They went into scramble mode.

“People came from Minneapolis, from Chicago … ” Lontkowski said just before taking the stage at Missfits. “The last four hours have been chaos.”

Their Facebook postings took a tone of exasperation.

The Mile of Music schedule was packed solid and there was nowhere to put them.

Fans had walked off disappointed from the scheduled reunion site behind the History Museum at The Castle.

The Hamburgers started in early 2004, released two recordings and played more shows than a band should during a life span of less than two years.

Walt on Saturday spoke to a promoter for the Missfits Mayhem event at the Appleton Street tavern. The metal show had been slated to end at about 11:30 p.m., so there was a good window before bar time. The tavern took to the idea. They didn’t have a drum kit as Mile of Music provides all but the breakables. One of the bands offered theirs.

Things had finally gone right.

The Saturday rain that cancelled the Mile of Music show was only the exclamation point. Severe weather two weeks back ended up cancelling one of the few rehearsals they had scheduled. They had to scramble after bassist and singer Ben Kastner of Chicago missed a train en route to Appleton for the show.

But after the set began, it became clear they were playing a venue that better fit the moment and the material. The beer flowed; the fans were packed tight and sweat soaked — it had to be 100 degrees inside the tavern. 

The band was a touch winded after powering through their first number.

“After every song, we’re going to need a two- to three-minute break” Lontkowski said. 

Despite all the years that passed, they didn’t miss a beat; check that — they had one restart, but it fit the mood. 

They played through their fast, upbeat repertoire with little hint that aside from a few rehearsals, they hadn’t played together since they were younger men. Lontkowski and Kastner were on point with their vocal harmonies. 

It was a band reunion, but also a reunion in the bigger sense of the word. 

Between band and fans, it was a big gathering of long-time friends to relive something special. And as punk shows happen to go, the moment closed all too quickly. 

“That was our last song — probably forever,” Lontkowski said. “Good night.”

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