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A Shot of 90s Nostalgia

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The babies of the '80s have achieved enough temporal distance from their upbringing that they can now look back on the 1990s with nostalgia. It's only in hindsight, over a decade removed, that we can actually recognize the characteristics that made the time: our fashion, our technology and, of course, our music. But just talking about '90s music is boring. We all know the big names, the ones that have superseded the decade that wrought them and become established acts that are still active today. The fun in nostalgia is looking back at the ones that you've forgotten. In a way, by rising to fame and then disappearing all within a few years establishes you as a cultural anchor. You can bet that when a “Classic 1990s” radio station surfaces, it's going to feature these guys. Near and dear to my heart is Silverchair, best known in the '90s for being a poor man's Nirvana. Their first claim to fame was through their album Frogstomp and their single "Tomorrow." If that doesn't ring any bells, you might remember “Ana's Song (Open Fire)”, a dark,  personal ballad about anorexia struggles, which got them real MTV traction. The stateside success made them our quintessential Australian band for a good couple of years until The Vines took it all away. They didn't make it up to us in the year 2000, but they remained a megaband that filled stadiums in their native Australia when most Americans traded them in. I'll always remember them for their later highly orchestrated work and lyrics that still make no sense to me. Seven Mary Three, or 7M3 as superfans would call them, are the band responsible for such 1996 alternative rock jams as “Cumbersome” and “Water's Edge.” If, after listening to these songs, you can't remember them filling the airwaves, that is forgivable. They sound like every other band who wished they were Pearl Jam in the '90s. Yet there was a time when these guys were the new hotness, and they reached platinum status in less than a year on that wave of popularity. But all waves crest, and what was once a platinum-level band eventually charts new at #178 in 2001. This is the darkness that awaits us all. The 1990s were an especially exciting time for hip-hop, then a much younger genre that was still developing its canon. When people get nostalgic about '90s rap, (read: VH1's “I Love The 90's” and throwback DJ sets) they always go to the humor of Skee-Lo and “I Wish.” But there doesn't seem to be nearly enough talk about Ini Kamoze and reggae/rap hit, ”Here Comes The Hot Stepper.” Even today, that's still a cool bass groove and it's full of hooks. It’s become one of those songs that people would recognize if they heard it, but don’t know the artist or the song name, if they ever knew it at all. Even fewer people remember the R&B group, 4PM. They had the misfortune of coming up in the time of Blackstreet, 112 and Boyz II Men, so it's no surprise that time has swallowed them whole. Their hit, ”Sukiyaki” is an English cover of a Japanese song and exemplary of everything that was popular in R&B at the time: the group harmonies, the snap-along intro, and of course, the baritone guy doing a spoken word interlude that refers to you as “girl.” It was a simpler time! There are some that say nostalgia is a poisonous idea, that looking to and rehashing the past is a lazy endeavor for people who don't want to make the future. There's something to that! Retromania has its limits, and the future always has the potential to be better than the past ever was. So while I'm always in favor of progress and the cutting edge of now, I can’t help but appreciate the harmlessness of self-contained nostalgia. Not necessarily reverent or condescending, but the type of nostalgia used for looking at washed out family photos. It's more about remembering the old times with our new brains and seeing what they've evolved into: strange landmarks of a time that grow continuously further away.

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Pearl Jam Announces More 20th Anniversary Events

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Pearl Jam is continuing to celebrate the band’s 20th year in style, by announcing more special events for fans. Besides the recent live album that was just released, Live On Ten Legs, the band has just revealed that there are some special releases and a documentary in the works. In an interview with Rolling Stone, bassist Jeff Ament and manager Kelly Curtis told the publication about some of their plans. Pearl Jam will release deluxe editions of Vs. and Vitalogy, as well as a documentary from Cameron Crowe. The band also plans on headlining their own festival some time this summer.

The deluxe releases of Vs. and Vitalogy are said to add previously unheard demos and alternate takes of hits, including an entire 1994 concert from Boston and a cassette from Eddie Vedder's '90s "Monkeywrench Radio" shows. Curtis told the magazine that the band members are not usually ones for nostalgia. "They’re always thinking about the next record – not old stuff." The band’s manager noted that he did see a cut of the upcoming documentary from Crowe.
"I just saw a rough cut. It was so f--king weird seeing footage of stuff I didn't know anybody was taping at the time. The whole movie is Cameron’s love letter to us – but it’s equal parts complimentary and really painful. It shows our growing pains and some real bad times, including Roskilde [the 2000 Danish festival where nine fans were trampled to death during the band’s set]. It was just really hard to watch."
The film is slated to debut in late summer. As for the festival headlining slot, Curtis describes it as a "weekend bash" that will occur some where in middle of the U.S. It’s to be a two-day event, with Pearl Jam playing a headlining set each night. "We’ve played enough festivals that we know what makes them exciting. We want to give people places to go that aren’t necessarily musical – second stages and all that kind of stuff. We’re asking our friends if they want to play a couple of shows with us,” notes Ament.

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Pearl Jam v Nirvana: The Eternal Debate

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“Who’s better?” - how often do we hear that question posed? Whether the discussion revolves around sports, music, politics or pizza, we live in a culture that loves reducing the issue down to two competitors: Beatles v. The Stones, Jordan v. Kobe, Republican v. Democrat. And so goes the debate between music fans over which band rocked it better: Pearl Jam, or Nirvana? But how can you compare the talent of these two iconic groups whose sounds are so distinct yet are both forever linked to the Seattle alt rock / grunge movement from which they were born? You can’t. But what about a discussion of which band was more influential? Clearly, both had staggering early success. The difference here is that Nirvana’s landmark Nevermind followed their lesser-known debut album Bleach, while Pearl Jam’s first release, Ten, was a huge breakthrough success. That said, Nevermind cemented Nirvana as the “face” of a new music movement. Not only did its success help make grunge popular, but it proved the commercial viability of alternative rock in general. In contrast, the success of Ten brought out a host of early detractors, including Cobain, who accused Pearl Jam of selling out with a guitar-lead style that was less than alt rock. Much of this changed, however, when the masses began to see Pearl Jam in concert. The band’s powerful live performances helped establish their identity, and their refusal to make music videos (after Jeremy) -- followed later by their infamous Tickemaster boycott -- further formed their anti-establishment identity.

Does Cobain Reign, or is Vedder Better?

Yet another fruitless comparison. While Cobain’s prominence followed by his early demise may have elevated him to cult-like status along the lines of James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, or Jim Morrison -- Pearl Jam’s remarkable success and longevity (including its lead singer’s solo projects) give Vedder equal iconic claim. In the end, both Kurt Cobain and Eddie Vedder represent individual talents of the top order, whose distinctive voices and creative visions helped propel their bands into the hearts and minds of American youth. Although Nirvana’s run was short but sweet, the continued impact of the band’s albums and the success of its progeny (i.e. The Foo Fighters) put them on equal turf with Pearl Jam, who Allmusic named “the most popular rock and roll band of the ‘90’s.”

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Pearl Jam Donate $210K to Make Tour Carbon Neutral

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After Radiohead famously planned out their In Rainbows tour last year using carbon neutrality as the goal, another band has jumped on the wagon. Pearl Jam recently invested $210,000 to make their 2009 Back Spacer tour carbon neutral. How you ask? Well, as guitarist Stone Gossard noted, they’re planting trees to offset the 7000 tons of carbon dioxide caused by their tour last year. “Pearl Jam is a band, but we're also a business. We see ourselves as a Washington business, a business in that region which is acknowledging its carbon footprint and hoping to inspire other businesses. It's not going to kill your company – if anything, it'll enhance your company's ability to sell whatever it's selling by being good stewards of the land." Where did they get 7000 tons as a number? They added up the amount of fossil fuel burnt by planes, buses, tour trucks, and ships, along with hotel rooms, venues and even all 480,000 fans' travelling arrangements to make it to shows. The plan is to plant trees on 30 acres of Washington state which will absorb CO2 from the atmosphere around the amount they created. The band did this a few years back as well, donating $150,000 to the cause then. Gossard said, "The idea of celebrity is fantastic in terms of raising awareness for a day or a week. But it needs constant business policy in the long term." What do you think of this move? Should more bands be donating to offset their carbon footprint or is it unreasonable to ask? Of course the majority of bands around the globe couldn’t afford to drop such an amount, but there’s a lot of rich musicians out there. Either way, it’s good to see someone trying to even things out in the environment - at least a little a bit.

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