Local music lovers over the age of 30 still remember Jibe frontman Joe Grah jumping off the side of the Curtain Club. Grah was exactly what we all morbidly want a rockstar to be: daring, out of control and ever on the verge of screwing up his chance at stardom. In the late ’90s and early 2000s, Jibe drunkenly zigzagged on the edge of nationwide fame. They made it to the 20th spot on national radio play, toured with Marilyn Manson and Kings of Leon, and had security at their shows. Yet the band dissolved literally overnight, without so much as a farewell tour.
Just as their breakup — precipitated by Grah’s self-destructive behavior and escalating drug habit — remained unannounced and unexplained, Jibe are now unexpectedly reuniting 11 years later. They’re like the old boyfriend who disappears, only to reemerge on Facebook and ask you out again as if nothing happened. Tsk tsk. But all seems to be forgiven by Jibe’s fans, as they’ve responded enthusiastically to the reunion, selling out the first show at Gas Monkey Live! and exceeding even the band’s expectations.
In the early 2000s, TRL was king. It was a violently mediocre era for mainstream music when any cute blond with an auto-tunable voice was star material. Jibe, short for Juggernaut Jibe, were au courant with the mistaken-for-dangerous flavor of the Limp Bizkits of the day, playing a pleasant sort of rock that was hard enough for live shows, yet soft enough for radio play. They fit right in on The Edge, the reigning station in Dallas at the time, with its Alice-in-Chains-to-Creed spectrum.
As Dallas music vet and present-day Kessler Theater artistic director Jeffrey Liles puts it, “Jibe’s shows were almost always packed to the rafters, and their live performances were always energetic and intense. Joe would climb all over the PA gear and lighting rig, and the audience sang along with every word to every song. They had an exceptionally large and loyal fan base, and most had very high expectations for them at the time.”
The breakup blindsided Jibe’s fans. “I disappeared in the middle of the night,” Grah explains. “Nobody knew. I scored an eight ball of blow, stuffed it in a station wagon and drove all night [to Los Angeles].” He told the band about his departure days later, leaving them to deal with their management’s wrath.
The band had tried to stage an intervention for Grah — “Your reaction was, ‘Oh yeah? You think I’m fucked up now? OK, you just wait!’” Corey Tatro tells him — but they had deeper issues. “Girls were getting between us, drugs were getting between us. Everything was,” Grah says. “We have enough content for 14 Behind the Musics. If we hadn’t broken up, one of us would’ve died. Probably me.”
The band’s management tried to find a new singer, to no avail: “Nobody can do what Joe does,” Tatro insists. Grah, meanwhile, fell into a depression, even as he joined Loser, a band with John 5 of Marilyn Manson. “I cleaned up when I left,” he says. “I’ve played with the guys from Nine Inch Nails, multiple platinum artists. I’ve learned a lot, but what I was missing was the connection this band has. You can’t put a price tag on it.”
Grah says he spun out of control but eventually righted his ship and got on the path to recovery. He remembers one specific night when he rode in an elevator “out of his mind” with Missy Elliott and Justin Timberlake. “I went into my room and we got the call to play a sold-out show. I hadn’t been to bed in five days; I had a broken ankle from jumping [off] a building. My managers were giving me ecstasy, anything to keep me going,” he recalls. Even his girlfriend was giving him drugs. That night, he wound up injured: “I took a header off the stage ... and broke my nose.”
Jibe’s shocking breakup left a bad taste in the mouths of some fans. One woman recently screamed at Grah on the street, “You! You broke my heart!” He asked her to hit him in the gut, and she did so gladly. “It’s about the fans. It’s bigger than us,” Tatro says of Jibe. “And their patience!” Toby Bittenbender adds. “Who remembers things 11 years later?” The girl who punched Grah, for one.
It was Ben Jeffries who, last year, began a relentless text campaign to get the band back together. “I apologized recently and said to Ben, ‘I’ll never leave you again,’” Grah says. Jeffries says he finds Grah much changed, more like the guy he started out with in ’93: “I’ve known this man my whole life and he’s never apologized.” Jibe say that at first they booked a place “just to rehearse.” “It was as if no time had passed,” Grah says. “In the past, I was out of my mind with every narcotic and alcohol I could shove down my face. I was heavily deluded, and now I’m not.”
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Jibe have high hopes of picking up where they left off. The group are currently recording in Austin at Orb Studios. “Our sound hasn’t changed, but life has changed, so we changed with the times,” Grah says.
Despite the passion evinced by Jibe’s fans, as the band prepared for their big comeback show, they humbly miscalculated interest, initially booking the respectably sized Gas Monkey Bar & Grill. When that venue sold out within days, the show was moved to Gas Monkey’s newer, larger venue, Gas Monkey Live!, which also sold out quickly. As a gesture of apology for their abrupt disappearance over a decade ago, tickets to the September 25 show are free.
Some of Jibe’s members are now engaged and others have children. Grah, on the other hand, appears once again to be on the verge of either insanity or stardom. He still enchants, and his bandmates look at him proudly. “We’ve played 2,500 shows. We’d go play for a bag of weed in Minnesota or for $5 in a double trailer. Now we’re just gonna take it as far as it can go,” Grah says.
Old Amazon reviews of Jibe’s albums promise the band will blow up any second, and they may still have time to. Grah and Jibe’s other members are renewing their vows to the band, and now they really mean for better or worse, in sickness and in health. And yes, Grah broke up with his L.A. bandmates in person this time.