A little over a decade ago, swing music made a strange comeback. You may remember seeing people all over dressing like '40s hipsters, jumping and jiving in Gap commercials and most every club or bar was offering swing lessons.
It started with the release of the film Swingers, which still miraculously holds up 14 years later, and ended with Lou Bega's "Mambo No. 5," which effectively and swiftly made us look down at our wingtips and trade them for shell-toe Adidas.
Friday night, one of the biggest swing bands of that era, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, hits House of Blues to play songs from last year's Cab Calloway covers album How Big Can You Get along with '90s hits like "You and Me and the Bottle Makes 3 Tonight (Baby)" and "Go Daddy-O."
Craig's Hlist came of age in the '90s, and from the beginning of our adolescence have been a pop-culture whore, so we took a hefty bite out of most every musical fad that came along during the Clinton decade. Yeah, we owned a Sublime record or two, and yes, we did have one or three floral-print shirts even though we can't surf, swim, and are allergic to campfire singalongs.
We aren't gonna talk about that, though. You don't need to know how many bucket hats Craig's Hlist owned either, or that Eminem ruled our life for six months in 1999.
The '90s seemed to be a time of rough seas for music, with everyone looking for a life raft to hold on to. Even the grunge scene was fraught with drugs and strife. With every new fad came a gaggle of news outlets and magazines hailing it as the "next big thing" that would revolutionize music for years to come. It wasn't so much about quality, as much as everything seemed to be about being so bored that you invented false hype to make things have more weight.
We miss all these fads in different ways, because for us each of them was an important stepping stone to a more enlightened (haha) time in our musical development. Without buying a Chemical Brothers record, we wouldn't know Kraftwerk. Without hearing Green Day in 1994, we wouldn't have known about The Clash and erected a shrine to them in our parents' house.
We creamed all over ourselves for techno when it hit in 1996. It was cold and clinical, chicks danced to it, and we had an inkling that we could do with just a laptop and turntable.
We watched Amp on MTV most every Sunday night, taking notes on what to buy and listen to, making our mother drive us to Chemistry Records off Westheimer so we could buy techno wax. Then we sold it all once we discovered Oi!.
We even had a small electronica cassette project we made out of our room, marking our first and only foray into making music. Rest In Peace, Taint Mansion.
Being the worst dancer in the world, we didn't get into the dancing part of swing but we bought all the records we could. In 1998, bands like Cherry Poppin' Daddies played the Warped Tour, solidifying its coolness to punk kids.
The lyrics were raunchy and it was something you could relate to your grandparents with, though our probably thought we were on "the pot" when we went rummaging for Louis Prima records in their vinyl stash. On the plus side, a lot of younger swing kids ended up finding out about psychobilly and rockabilly through a tear in the swing wormhole.
After Green Day scuttled off and grew up with 1997's Nimrod, the floodgates opened for every pop-punk band to fill their scatological hole. You had bands like blink-182, MXPX, Digger, and locals Riverfenix (later to be called Fenix TX) all sporting spiky dyed-black hair and Dickies shorts. It was fun, and we were also young and stupid.
Most everyone in Houston who is in a cool indie group has a shameful pop-punk past. If you remember Pearland's The Insecurities, then we probably ate lunch together in 1998.
2. Third-Wave Ska
Swing was more than likely an outgrowth of third-wave ska, which started in the late '80s and culminated with No Doubt and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. We were outright ska snobs, so we hated ska-punk except for Operation Ivy, who got a free pass because of our Rancid love.
We were wannabe rude boys, skanking it up at Fitzgerald's most every Friday night. We wore Ben Sherman polos, suspenders (braces to us) and even entertained thoughts of a Specials tattoo as our first ink. But alas, we grew out of just as soon as we jumped into it.
Now it seems like a fourth wave is trying rise up, especially around Houston. Bands like the Failed Attempt may not be old enough to remember the Bosstones' three-night stand at Fitz in 2001, but they still have a mighty skank in their step.
1. Boy Bands
Sometime in 1996, boy bands started making their trek back into the limelight with the Backstreet Boys releasing their first single in Europe. Technically, boy bands in their purest sense never left us. Boyz II Men could have been easily classified as a boy band, but since they were R&B and not made up of mostly white dudes, weren't hailed as such. After the BSB came 'NSync, who begat 98 Degrees, which led to LFO, which gave us O-Town.
Everybody hated boy bands, except for boy-crazy girls with new and scary feelings. The rest of us hated everything that they did or touched because we were too cool to just let the shit ride. By the '00s, major pop-punk bands ended up being the new boy bands. All-American Rejects and Good Charlotte were the new class, and Justin Timberlake became more powerful than we could have imagined in 1998. You all downloaded "SexyBack" and liked it.
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