When you've been around as long as the band Kansas has, the anniversaries start piling up.
The group, which performs June 30 at the 11th annual El Paso Downtown Street Fest (with Candlebox and Blue Oyster Cult), is celebrating the 35th anniversary this year of its blockbuster album "Point of Know Return," and their biggest hit, "Dust in the Wind."
Next year? The band turns 40.
"When you think about how many bands make it to 40 years, it's pretty special," drummer Phil Ehart said by phone recently.
One reason they've made it to 39, he added, is "we just go out there and play and do what we do."
That may be simplifying it a bit.
The rock music landscape was much different when Ehart, violinist Robbie Steinhardt, singer-guitarist Kerry Livgren, guitarist Rich Williams, singer-keyboardist Steve Walsh and bassist Dave Hope started playing a progressive form of rock in 1973.
Expectations, for one thing, were much lower for a fledging band at a time when radio was king, glam rock was coming on, the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin dominated and touring had become big business.
"We thought, God, it would be great to have one of our songs on the radio," the 62-year-old Ehart remembered.
After establishing its rep as a solid live band and album-oriented group with its first three albums, Kansas broke out big with 1976's "Leftoverture," which included its first big radio hit, "Carry on Wayward Son."
It was the beginning of a run of platinum-selling albums and headlining tours, not to mention some tensions with singer Walsh, who split briefly during the making of "Point of Know Return," an even bigger album that sold 4 million copies in the U.S. and yielded Kansas' other big hit and classic rock staple, "Dust in the Wind."
What Ehart calls the "revolving door" of membership started turning in the early '80s, as Walsh, Hope, Livgren and Steinhardt packed their bags.
They disbanded altogether in 1984 before regrouping with Ehart, Walsh, Williams, journeyman guitarist Steve Morse (of Dixie Dregs and, later, Deep Purple fame) and new bassist Billy Greer a year later.
A few more have come and gone since then, including Livgren (who left again) and current violinist David Ragsdale, who left a few years later and rejoined a few years ago. The current lineup includes Ehart, Walsh, Williams, Greer and Ragsdale.
The band has perservered well beyond the days when once-powerful record moguls used to try to brainwash groups like Kansas into thinking they'd be nowhere without all that executive muscle.
"The bands are still around but the record companies are gone," Ehart said. "How weird is that?"
The drummer said the band is taking time during its show to acknowledge the role "Point of Know Return" has played in its legacy. The group recently published a book about it, "Dust in the Wind."
He said their motivations may have changed over the years. They still have the passion, he said, still get a kick out of the high of performing. The work ethic is still there — Kansas averages 80 shows a year.
But, Ehart added, there's one other element that , their has kept what started out as "bumpkins who basically knew nothing about the business" going all these years.
"Did we surpass every goal," he asked. "Pretty much, yes. But we're very thankful our fans and everybody that stood with us."
Tickets for the Street Fest are $15 in advance at 7-Eleven Fina stores (and Pic Quiks in Las Cruces), $20 at the gate; $5 for children 12 and under.