SEATTLE—Members of the popular 1990s grunge band Soundgarden shocked critics and fans alike Tuesday, appearing together publicly for the first time in more than a decade after accidentally running into one another at the Northgate Mall Cinnabon.
The unplanned 15-minute reunion was the result of a number of unrelated events, including lead singer Chris Cornell stopping by the baked-goods franchise to buy a Caramel Pecanbon, drummer Matt Cameron taking a break from shopping at the nearby Banana Republic, bass player Ben Shepherd walking by and noticing his one-time bandmates in the food court, and former guitarist and Cinnabon daytime supervisor Kim Thayil working the 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. shift.
According to those in attendance at the packed fast-food venue, the highlight of the incidental Soundgarden reunion came when the rockers reconciled their differences and teamed up for the first time in years to finish off an order of Cinnabon Stix.
"At first it was pretty awkward and none of them seemed like they were really into it," said Al Helbling, 30, a Northgate Mall Sam Goody employee and Soundgarden fan. "But then the drummer comes in and right after that the bass player comes in, and it was like, 'Yes, Soundgarden is back.' It was so intense."
The former members of Soundgarden, who have not released an album together since 1996's Down On The Upside, reported that it was initially difficult to find common ground, but once they began exchanging ideas and riffing on which sugar-filled dessert they were going to order, the chemistry felt "as strong as ever."
While Shepherd told reporters he enjoyed seeing his old bandmates, he admitted to experiencing some last-minute doubts about going through with the encounter.
"I got all the way there, but then I just didn't know if I could do it," Shepherd said. "I had a huge lunch that day. And Cinnabon, that's some really sugary stuff, even if you have a sweet tooth like me."
Thayil, who joined the band shortly after it was formed in 1984, said some tension arose between himself and former front man Chris Cornell early on in the reunion, after Thayil scolded Cornell for entering the cinnamon-bun snack purveyor without a shirt.
"Honestly, I didn't even recognize Chris at first," Thayil said. "All I saw was this bare-chested guy entering the store, and that's unacceptable in the food-service industry. I hate to be the enforcer, but just because we were in a band together doesn't mean I can allow him to create an unhygienic environment."
The heated situation was quickly settled, however, when Thayil offered Cornell a complimentary 12-oz. CarmeLatta Chill. In turn, the 44-year-old lead singer responded by serenading Thayil with a version of the group's hit song "Black Hole Sun" in which he replaced the titular phrase with the word "Cinnabon." Cornell, former singer for the now-defunct group Audioslave, then stuffed his pockets with napkins, saying he needed them for a later solo project.
The two soon moved to a back table, where they joined Shepherd and drummer Matt Cameron, the latter of whom said he was overjoyed to see his old bandmates, since he had to "kill some time" before Pearl Jam practice.
Although Tuesday marked the first time the group has fully reunited, the members of Soundgarden have had a few near-misses in the past 10 years. In August 2000, all four members were seen entering Seattle-area Arby's restaurants, but the reunion never materialized: Cornell and Cameron visited the Meridian Avenue location, while Thayil and Shepherd decided to visit the Michigan Street franchise. The afternoon did, however, mark the largest Temple of the Dog reunion to date, when Cornell and Cameron ran into the rest of the supergroup's members in the restroom.
After the success of the Cinnabon reunion, Soundgarden is reportedly planning a tour of the Sunglass Hut and Piercing Pagoda.