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Steven Hyden’s ‘Whatever Happened To Alternative Nation?’
03.19.2011
06:22 pm

Topics:
Music

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music
alternative
Woodstock
Nineties
Steven Hyden
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Over on AV Club journalist Steven Hyden has come to the end of his ten part look-back over the alternative music of the 90s called Whatever Happened to Alternative Nation? Cataloging his musical obsessions year by year from 1990 to 1999, the series (named after the long-defunct MTV alt-rock show) is a great read, and ends on a spectacular low point for pop culture - Woodstock ‘99.

Remember Woodstock ‘99? The one where lots of people got beaten and raped? Just as we had almost completely erased it from the collective conscious, back come memories of Fred Douche shouting at a bunch of drunken jocks to “RAPE SOMETHING!!” in his squeaky, balls-not-dropped voice, while security throw their badges an the ground and dive into the mosh pit. OK, so he didn’t encourage rape (not that I’m aware of anyway), but the point is still the same. The ‘90s pretty much started with Kurt Cobain in a dress, and ended with Durst’s audience forcibly ripping dresses off harassed women. What a fitting end to the decade, this series, and the story of rock music itself over those years.

So here’s a clip of Limp Bizkit playing “Break Stuff” at the festival. Yes, sorry, it is more terrible music on DM this week, but whereas I can find genuinely interesting aspects of Gaga/AntwoordAndrew WK, I cannot for the life of me see a shred of redemption for anyone involved in this aside from car-crash attraction. Durst goads the crowd into breaking stuff, advice they take literally, and then bemoans their lack of attention for almost two minutes while asking “is this mic working?”. An audience member tells him it is - presumably the crowd are too busy rioting or trying to avoid danger to pay much attention to the band. The situation has the strange, menacing air of a child playing with grown-up forces they don’t truly understand. And that pre-pubescent, squawking, try-too-hard-yet-not-hard-enough MC style of his is in full effect between 2:40 and 2:50, delivering hilarious lines like “I pack a chain saw!”

Hey it’s ok, you don’t have to watch this if you really don’t want to:
 

 
OK enough of that crap, back to WHTAN? The current article “1999: By The Time We Got To Woodstock ‘99” contains some interesting and chilling details from Woodstock ‘99, including stories of women getting gang raped in mosh-pits or being forced to bare their breasts to large groups of drunk guys, and security being woefully under-staffed and themselves being refused drinking water from the festival organizers. It begs the question - how the fuck did this festival ever take place? Oh wait, it’s that old devil called greed again. Greed and the fact that the hippy ideal hadn’t cottoned on to the fact that by the end of last century it had been almost completely wiped out. But then how the hell did acts like Korn, Kid Rock and Metallica embody Woodstock’s ideals in the first place? Needless to say the organizers of Woodstock do not come off looking good in this article.

So, were the late Ninties a complete curtural waste ground? No. Of course not. If I have a complaint about WHTAN? it is that it’s too rockist. I left this comment which describes how I personally feel about the path of “alternative” music in the 1990s:

“Great series but it just underlines for me how spent a cultural force rock became over this period. The original sense of anarchy and rebellion that made rock so engaging was strip mined to nothing in the Nineties. The real story of the decade is how rock, or alternative, was superseded by other genres and how people who before would have dismissed those genres started to like them. A lot. It’s what happened to me.

I would like to see someone write about what was REALLY alternative and fresh in the Nineties. Hip-hop (THE genre that defines those times), house (the early-to-mid 90s was probably the most gay-friendly period the mainstream has ever been), electronica (producers like Aphex/Squarepusher pushed boundaries that rock bands are still catching up with), drum & Bass, rave, Daft Punk etc. Real progression / boundary breaking in 90s music was being done by kids with samplers, computers and machines, not by guys with guitars trying to fit into patterns established 30 years before. Not to mention that the drugs were better. I hope someone will write a series about music beyond rock in the 90s, because that is the real story waiting to be explored. “

This post was brought to you in association with Niallism.

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile

 

 

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