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The Format Reunite: Live at the Mayan screening turns into band’s comeback gig

This is a love letter to some Arizona originals and the inspiration behind so much of our devotion to the Phoenix music scene.

Where were you when The Format returned? For about 100 lucky Phoenicians (and this ecstatic Atlas writer), the location was 850 W. Lincoln on a chilly February Monday. 

After announcing their hiatus in 2008, The Format went silent for over a decade. That all changed in January, when the band reactivated their social media accounts, announcing new merch and a special limited screening of their lauded Live at the Mayan concert film. 

Instead, attendees were shocked when the screen was pulled aside, revealing a small stage as Nate Ruess and Sam Means entered the room to deafening applause and more than a few tears. This epic bait and switch ensured that the room was filled with diehard fans, willing to spend their Monday night at a viewing of a concert film that many already owned. It was a truly beautiful moment watching the room transform with shared joy as strangers and friends couldn’t keep the smiles off their faces looking at Ruess and Means.


They were visibly thrilled at the reaction from the room, smiling gently at one fan openly sobbing in the second row. It’s been 15 years since Dog Problems was released and The Format started their acoustic set with songs from that celebrated album. The audience seemed to hold their collective breath for several minutes before the spell was broken and fans started softly singing along and cheering raucously at the end of each track. 

The duo’s selections included “She Doesn’t Get It”, “The Compromise” and the sweet-but-never-saccharine “Snails”. Ruess sang like no time had passed, hitting every impressive note while Means played a soft and steady guitar. 

When it came time to revisit Interventions + Lullabies, Ruess reflected on a record that everyone in the band “despised”. Upon a recent listening, however, he found himself texting Means saying “Interventions is awesome!” to the general laughter of the audience. Of course, “Tune Out” and “On Your Porch” were met with excitement and more singing along. The night ended with the crowd rising to their feet to sing “The First Single (You Know Me)” with Ruess and Means stomping along. 

It’s impossible to talk about the Arizona music scene without including The Format. The band peaked and disappeared while many of us were in high school, but two stellar albums and a cult-like following built them into one of Arizona’s strongest sounds to this day. They also drew the respect of their fellow Phoenicians- evidenced by Jimmy Eat World’s Jim Adkins making an appearance at the reunion. It’s been 12 years (and a fun. interlude) but the hype surrounding The Format has never waned. Older fans reminisced on seeing The Format play iconic Arizona spaces in their high school/college days while younger fans relayed excitement at finally getting their chance to experience the band live. 


Now, several lucky cities are getting their chances. The Format announced limited shows in New York, Chicago and another Phoenix date, with tickets going on sale this week. 2020 is shaping up to be an incredible year of bands returning from the dead to bless the fans that have hoped and waited for another moment with their favorite music. 


Story by Olivia Khiel
Cover photo courtesy of The Format
Live photo courtesy of Amanda Luberto