Three years ago, Gareth Popham's fiancee Mjellma asked him a simple question: could he get Salmonella Dub and Tiki Taane to perform together again?

"Probably not," replied Popham, a concert promoter and one of the founders of New Year festival Northern Bass.

Popham was rightly sceptical about his prospects of reuniting the Christchurch act with their former singer after nearly 10 years apart.

The band had its biggest hits in the late 90s and early 2000s with Taane behind the mic, with dub-pop jams like For the Love of It, Dancehall Girl and Love Your Ways soundtracking many summers.

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But Taane exited the group in 2007 to embark on a solo career and, ever since, he and the group had shown little sign they were willing to reunite.

Earlier this year, they turned down the chance to be inducted into the NZ Hall of Fame, reportedly saying they were "not yet deserving of a legacy award".

Industry rumours swirled around the split. "I still don't know the full story," says Popham. "That's not my part of it. You'd have to ask Tiki and Andrew."

TimeOut did, with co-founder Andrew Penman saying the band was slowing down in 2007 at a time when Taane was ready to start a solo career. Aside from some issues around Taane's publishing contract, he said "it all worked out swimmingly well".

Taane said: "We had our differences like most bands do (but) I owe so much to Sal Dub for schooling me up and getting me ready to branch out as a solo artist."

Mjellma didn't let up with her idea. A big fan of the band, she'd never seen Salmonella Dub perform live. So she asked Popham again.

"The only reason I said (no) was because they hadn't done it," Popham told TimeOut. "But my fiancee had an amazing idea and set me a challenge. I love a challenge."

So he flicked Taane an email. He got a reply. It was semi-positive. "There was no like, 'No, it's not happening'," he says.

Spurred on by Taane's reaction, Popham did the same with Penman and got a similar reply.

Fast-forward three years and Popham is helming Salmonella Dub's three hotly anticipated reunion shows with Taane this summer.

Across a period featuring many reunited Kiwi acts, from OpShop to The D4 and Stellar*, Salmonella Dub's shows with Taane at Northern Bass, in Christchurch in January and Taupo in February, feels like the big one.

Popham knows it, and he's preparing for some of the biggest gigs he's ever worked on, with full stage set-ups with screens and a line-up of support acts including Fat Freddy's Drop, Trinity Roots and Ladi6. He's expecting up to 10,000 fans at each show.

"These are expensive shows. We're not going to spare any expense. I promised the band, if you let me do this, I'll do it well," he says. "It's huge."

Penman said they were rehearsing for an "audio-visual, bass-heavy, back catalogue mash-up with a treasure chest of guests".

It's the first show, at Northern Bass on December 31, that will be the most special to Popham. He usually spends the three-day festival as a giant ball of stress, but has promised himself and his fiancee to silence his phone, turn off his walkie-talkie and let Salmonella Dub's set sink in.

That show will mark the group's 25th anniversary, and it will be 10 years to the day that Taane last played with the group.

It all goes back to that conversation with Mjellma three years ago. "If she hadn't have been persistent with it ... I might have let it go," admits Popham.

There's no word on whether the reunion will progress beyond their summer tour, but Taane has already warned it is "probably a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence".

Salmonella Dub and Tiki Taane will reunite for the first time in 10 years at New Year's festival Northern Bass.
Salmonella Dub and Tiki Taane will reunite for the first time in 10 years at New Year's festival Northern Bass.

Popham's clearly proud that he helped make it all happen. He tells TimeOut how he couldn't make the group's first rehearsal in Christchurch, and was concerned whether they would all "gel" after 10 years apart.

But soon after he received two text messages - one from Taane, the other from Penman.

Both said the same thing: "Mate, that was amazing."

LOWDOWN
Who: Promoter Gareth Popham
What: Salmonella Dub and Tiki Taane reunion shows
Where and when: Northern Bass, Mangawhai, December 31; Hagley Park, Christchurch, January 13; Owen Delany Park, Taupo, February 3.