On the Red Room Lounge stage that night in December of 2011, it dawned on Caroline Schibel that this was one of Mon Chéri's final moments as a band. That's when emotions took over.
"I was bawling so hard by the end of that final show it was hard to sing," she says. "The people who came out were so attentive, so in tune with us. It was awesome and sad. But I'd say it was a good way to go out."
The group pulled all the stops, playing the favorites — their brand of harmony-heavy indie-retro-rock heaving through the space. The closing song was a cover of Death Cab for Cutie's "A Lack of Color," the line "I should have given you a reason to stay" sadly washing over the crowd.
After nearly four years, two LPs, one EP, multiple West Coast tours and plenty of Schibel's onstage party dresses, the four-piece had to disband. Its singer/guitarist/songwriter Patrick McHenry was taking a job as a traveling nurse, which was set to take him overseas.
"We couldn't be mad at him. It was something he always wanted to do," Schibel says. "We just knew we couldn't go on without him."
Still, the breakup was devastating for avid fans who had come to love the sincerely upbeat quartet.
In 2011, drummer Brandon Vasquez told the Inlander he hoped the band could eventually come back together.
"The future is kind of a question mark, so I think the band has collectively agreed that this is the end," he said. "Is there a chance of regrouping when/if Pat returns? I sure hope so."
Saturday, the band finally reunites at The Bartlett.
Meeting with Schibel at a local coffee shop last weekend, she says she's thrilled to be back onstage with the group she describes as a close-knit family.
"I just miss my friends," the smiling brunette says. "They're all such great musicians."
McHenry, who now lives in Seattle, was coming back to Spokane to visit. He contacted all of his old bandmates to ask if they'd be interested in a reunion. Everyone was on board. After three years, Schibel can't believe how fast time has gone by.
A lot has changed in the interim. Three of the members have had babies, jobs have transitioned and upright bass player Kurt Olson decided to pursue his Masters degree at Eastern Washington University.
"I can't even imagine doing all of the Mon Chéri thing with all the babies now. It would be wives, husbands and babies everywhere," Schibel says.
The band used to play Zola every Monday, drawing from their extensive catalogue of more than 50 originals, along with choice covers. They did weddings, engagement parties, old folks' homes and any other gig they could book.
"I think because we played so much and our music was happy music, that's why it appealed to a wide variety," she says.
Beginning as a two-piece with Schibel and McHenry, the duo added Olson and finally Vasquez. Through word of mouth and consistent playing, their shows grew in popularity. Eventually, Mon Chéri would be named an Inlander Band to Watch in 2009 and even scored a mention on an MTV blog.
After all the band accomplished, there is still that sense that perhaps they hung it up too soon.
"I always felt we could have gone a lot further," says Schibel, a Spokane native. "But at the same sense, being a band in Spokane can be rewarding. We were a big fish in a little pond here."
Today, McHenry still plays solo, Vasquez plays drums in at least four local acts and Schibel is a singer with the band BIAS. While they're mostly getting that music fix, the group knows it'll never quite be the same as Mon Chéri.
"We had really good chemistry." Schibel recalls. "It was very healthy. There was fighting, crying. We were all very honest with each other."
After years apart, the first time the band will practice will be two days before their upcoming show. But Schibel isn't nervous.
"It will be like riding a bike? Right?" Schibel asks. "Still, I feel good about it."
Schibel says the show will consist of songs that the people want; they've already polled fans on Facebook. No matter what, expect one big difference from Mon Chéri's final show.
"There won't be any tears at this one, I don't think," Schibel says. ♦
Mon Chéri reunion show with Bristol • Sat, Feb. 15, at 8 pm • $12/$15 day of • All-ages • The Bartlett • 228 W. Sprague • thebartlettspokane.com • 747-2174