According to “Portlandia,” the dream of the ‘90s is alive and well in Portland. According to the upcoming local concert calendar, that dream is also doing fine here in D.C. Scan the listings for the next few months, and you might think WHFS is still the area’s dominant musical force. So which local venue wins the right to claim ownership of the Clinton era?
It’s hard to beat 9:30 Club, which has 10 upcoming shows that cover many of the alt-’90s bases. The first on the schedule is a sort of inverse of a 1996 show at USAir Arena when Smashing Pumpkins was riding high on the success of “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness” and came to town with newcomers Fountains of Wayne as opening act. More than 15 years later Fountains of Wayne headline the 9:30 Club and Pumpkins guitarist James Iha opens. Other corners of the ‘90s represented: H.O.R.D.E. Festival jam bands ( Rusted Root ); goofy rap/rock ( 2 Skinnee J’s ); college radio favorites ( Spiritualized , Mark Lanegan , the Promise Ring , Matthew Sweet ); ska-punk ( Reel Big Fish & Goldfinger ); platinum-selling mainstream stars ( Garbage , the Cranberries ).
Wolf Trap can’t match 9:30 when it comes to number of shows. But number of acts? Now it’s a little bit tighter. That’s because there are two mega-’90s supershows on the schedule. On July 11, you’ve got Barenaked Ladies, Big Head Todd & the Monsters and Cracker . (Blues Traveler is appearing on every date of this tour except Wolf Trap -- weird.) The ante is seriously upped on July 25 with a show featuring Everclear, Gin Blossoms, Sugar Ray, Lit and Marcy Playground . Seriously, isn’t that just the 1997 HFStival lineup? Throw in Seal and Ben Harper shows and the decade is well covered.
Don’t rule out the Fillmore in this competition. There’s a definite second-wave-grunge, beginnings-of-aggro-rock feel to the ’90s acts booked here. Candlebox and Collective Soul were the polar opposite of, say, Nirvana and Soundgarden when it came to grunge cred. In the first week of May, Marilyn Manson (sold out already) and Korn play at the club. Those were two acts that signaled the end of the slacker era and the onset of the angry era. (Call it the Woodstock ’99 era.) And a ’90s bonus — Kix Brooks , one half of country superstars Brooks and Dunn, who sold more albums in the ’90s than any band mentioned so far.
And there are more. With Dave Matthews Band at Jiffy Lube Live and Fiona Apple at the Warner Theatre, all we’re missing is a Semisonic/Smash Mouth bill at the Maryland State Fair and the time travel would be complete.