If you couldn’t tell, ’90s nostalgia is en vogue right now. As the ’80s wave continues to subside, more and more pre-millennium relics are washing ashore. Last year saw the return of The X-Files, Independence Day, and O.J. Simpson, and this year sees a tongue-in-cheek remake of Baywatch, a continuation of Twin Peaks, and a reboot of Tales From the Crypt. That’s only scratching the surface, too.
Musically, more and more ’90s acts are returning to the fold and cashing in. Third Eye Blind’s touring behind their 1997 self-titled album this summer, Live is popping up at this year’s Lollapalooza, and a not-exactly TLC is keeping their garish I Love the ’90s Tour on the road with pals Mark McGrath (of Sugar Ray), Naughty by Nature, Biz Markie, Montell Jordan, and C+C Music Factory. It’s like we’re all still saving ourselves for Luke Perry!
But really, it’s not just ’90s nostalgia, it’s nostalgia period. Considering we’re at a time when the future looks too dark for shades, more and more people are looking for a cozy, warm blanket by dialing it back 10, 20, or 30 years, which is why Alice Cooper and Deep Purple are touring together, Netflix’s Stranger Things remains a phenomenon, and Moz is headlining a total emo revival fest next month called When We Were Young.
Having said that, there’s still something kind of refreshingly fun about ’90s nostalgia. Unlike the ’80s and the ’70s or even the ’60s, our current pop culture climate hasn’t really wrung the decade dry just yet, which is why hearing “Closing Time” feels less annoying than hearing “Don’t Stop Believin'” or why random references to Jim Carrey’s The Mask are funnier than hearing about Andrew McCarthy in Weekend at Bernie’s.
As more and more music festivals continue to overindulge in this rose-tinted madness, we decided to list some of our favorite ’90s acts and argue for their placement on any of their future lineups. Because if we’re going to stand through an emotional, non-9/11-related performance of “Lightning Crashes” this August, why can’t we all sing along to “Santa Monica”, too? If blatant nostalgia is what sells right now, here’s what we want to buy…
Last Seen: In 2012, she released her eighth studio album, Havoc and Bright Lights, and has since been offering choice bits of advice in her column for The Guardian.
Slammin’ Festival Jams: “You Oughta Know”, “Hand in My Pocket”, “Ironic”, “You Learn”, “Head Over Feet”, “All I Really Want”, and “Thank U”
Which Lineup? Coachella
Having sold over 60 million albums, Alanis Morissette is hardly what you’d dub “a ’90s act.” Still, most would agree that her best work hails from the same era that gave us Nickelodeon’s Gak. 1996’s Jagged Little Pill was like Frampton Comes Alive for anyone growing up during the ’90s, spawning five hit singles that conquered the airwaves and MTV for years and years to follow. And while her followup, 1998’s Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie, didn’t exactly capture that same magic, it did give us “Thank U”, a totally underrated gem that’s still worth singing whenever it surfaces on the radio. Seeing how Coachella is pretty much in her backyard — she lives in, you guessed it, the City of Angels — Goldenvoice only needs to knock. –Michael Roffman
Last Seen: Counting Crows quickly disappeared from the alternative rock world and nestled comfortably in VH1 territory by their third album, but that doesn’t mean that life after the ’90’s wasn’t without its successes. They were nominated for an Oscar in 2004 for their contribution to the Shrek 2 soundtrack, “Accidentally in Love”. NBD. And at last point we checked, frontman Adam Duritz still had those ugly dreadlocks.
Slammin’ Festival Jams: “Round Here”, “Angels of the Silences”, “The Rain King”, “Hanginaround”, “A Long December”, “Einstein on the Beach (For an Eggman)”, and “Mr. Jones”
Which Lineup? Outside Lands
The Bay Area’s biggest music festival would be the perfect launching pad for Counting Crows to get back into the festival circuit. Sure, they might be a little laid back for the Coachellas of the world. But any festival where there’s the option to sit in the grass and take in a leisurely afternoon set is a fine place for Duritz and his mellow hits. Between their radio songs, their covers (“Big Yellow Taxi” anyone?), and their tunes from films (how could we forget “Colorblind” from the classic Cruel Intentions?), there’s enough to both crowd-please and appeal to older music fans on a deeper, emotional level. We can see what the ladies from Friends saw in this guy! –Philip Cosores
Toad the Wet Sprocket
Last Seen: Since reuniting in the late aughts, the Santa Barbara outfit have surprisingly kept busy. In 2013, they released their first album in 16 years titled, New Constellation, which they’ve followed with multiple EPs. Good for them.
Slammin’ Festival Jams: “Walk on the Ocean”, “All I Want”, “Something’s Always Wrong”, “Fall Down”, “Little Heaven”, and “Good Intentions”
Which Lineup? Bonnaroo
Toad the Wet Sprocket would be an enviable afternoon set at a summer music festival. Chummy acoustic runners like “Walk on the Ocean”, “Little Heaven”, and “Something’s Always Wrong” are ripe for a quaint sunny day at The Farm with old college pals (Christ, will someone get me a fucking violin already), and if the band wanted to try and turn things up, they could always whip through a pseudo-grunge hit like “Fall Down”. But really, it wouldn’t be necessary. The joy in Toad’s songs comes from the melodies and the laid back rhythms, and sometimes that’s all we want at a festival. –Michael Roffman
Last Seen: Art Alexakis has maintained the Everclear moniker despite the unamicable loss of founding members Craig Montoya and Greg Eklund in 2003. He’s since formed a touring band and indulged in any number of nostalgia tours, including his own ‘90s-themed Summerland Tour and intimate dates celebrating the 20th anniversaries of 1995’s Sparkle and Fade and 1997’s So Much For the Afterglow.
Slammin’ Festival Jams: “Santa Monica”, “Everything to Everyone”, “You Make Me Feel Like a Whore”, “Heartspark Dollersign”, “Heroin Girl”, and, sigh, “Father of Mine”.
Which Lineup? Lollapalooza
Only at Lollapalooza—a safe space for ‘80s-born olds—could a crowd unironically enjoy Everclear’s searing, perhaps overly earnest, anthems (just look at the rapturous reception Third Eye Blind received last year). You could count on Alexakis not to bore the crowd with new material (though 2015’s Back in Black isn’t half bad), as he’s shown a near-frantic willingness to sate the masses with the band’s best known songs, be that through their aforementioned nostalgia tours or the numerous greatest hits and remix albums in their catalog. Lest we forget (and he won’t let you), the band’s got a boatload of hits, surely enough to fill an hourlong set on a breezy summer afternoon. Even the smirkiest of passersby won’t be able to resist singing along. –Randall Colburn
Last Seen: Sort of breaking up? In 2013, longtime bassist Greg Richling jumped ship, making singer-songwriter Jakob Dylan the sole original member left in the band. That’s not good. Fortunately for him — and maybe us? — he’s still touring under The Wallflowers, despite the fact that the band hasn’t released a studio album since 2012’s Glad All Over. In fact, save for last year’s reissue of 1996’s Bringing Down the House, they’ve done zilch.
Slammin’ Festival Jams: “One Headlight”, “6th Avenue Heartache”, “The Difference”, “Heroes” (David Bowie cover), and “Three Marlenas”
Which Lineup? Austin City Limits
Jakob Dylan likes to stay busy. In the past, when he wasn’t touring with The Wallflowers, he was biding time with a fledgling solo career. That workmanlike mentality should be alluring to festival promoters looking to spice up their lineups. We live in an era where bands ink deals to appear at multiple festivals, which is why so many fests share the same undercards. With that in mind, we’d much rather have The Wallflowers playing the hits over, say, another maudlin set from Capital Cities. What better place to start than the festival that respects a little country and a little rock ‘n’ roll: Austin City Limits. Dylan’s songs are a perfect fit for the Austin soiree, where liberal cowboys and rockers revel together under the Texas sun. –Michael Roffman
Last Seen: After jagged, infectious singles like “Plowed” and “Molly (16 Candles)” established Sponge as the optimist’s answer to Alice in Chains, the Detroit natives found themselves unable to maintain their relevancy in a post-post-grunge music landscape. These days, frontman Vinnie Dombroski is the lone founding member, having assembled a new group of musicians who’ve helped record the band’s last five albums.
Slammin’ Festival Jams: “Plowed”, “Molly (16 Candles)”, “Wax Ecstatic”, “Have You Seen Mary”, and “Rotting Pinata”
Which Lineup? Riot Fest
Sponge rips, dude, but things just ain’t the same without the original lineup of Mike Cross, Tim Cross, and Charlie Grover backing Dombroski. And that’s why Riot Fest, the go-to festival for old school reunions, would be such a good fit. Sponge suits the Riot Fest audience, too, which has always been kind to the underappreciated rock acts that made a mark without ever quite carving out a clear legacy. Sponge is easy to forget these days, but any track from their 1994 breakthrough Rotting Pinata will have the masses wet-eyed and harmonizing, lighters piercing the early evening air. –Randall Colburn
Our Lady Peace
Last Seen: It’s been an ugly decade for the Toronto rockers. 2012’s Curve was miserable at best, their attempts at celebrating the 20th anniversary of their 1994 debut, Naveed, led to the departure of longtime drummer Jeremy Taggart, and their last single, 2014’s “Won’t Turn Back”, was a new career low. Needless to say, they could really use a comeback.
Slammin’ Festival Jams: “Superman’s Dead”, “Starseed”, “Clumsy”, “Is Anybody Home?”, “Right Behind You (Mafia)”, “In Repair”, “Life”, and “Somewhere Out There”
Which Lineup? Osheaga
Our Lady Peace’s frontman Raine Maida would be wise to make some house calls, starting with former lead guitarist Mike Turner and ending with the aforementioned Taggart. Obviously, the band’s shift to a poppier, Bob Rock-endorsed sound didn’t add up outside of the two hit singles off 2002’s Gravity. So, now that they’re a little older and a little wiser, perhaps they could let bygones be bygones, get the band back together, and dust off their best works, all while looking ahead to greener pastures. Pastures, you know, like Montreal’s world renown Osheaga Festival. From there, they could take on the rest of North America, but only if they promise to lean heavily on 2000’s cruelly underrated Spiritual Machines. –Michael Roffman
Last Seen: Though Shirley Manson and co. took most of the aughts off, a recent resurgence has found the alternative rockers headlining large venues in America and recording new music that’s still worthy of attention, including a pair of albums in the last five years (2012’s Not Your Kind of People and 2016’s Strange Little Birds). This summer, they’re spending their summer with Blondie.
Slammin’ Festival Jams: “Special”, “Stupid Girl”, “Queer”, “Only Happy When It Rains”, “#1 Crush”, “Push It”, “When I Grow Up”, and “I Think I’m Paranoid”
Which Lineup? Sasquatch!
Garbage’s influence on alternative rock has never been in question. Even at the time, they saw their success parlayed into an Album of the Year Grammy nomination for Version 2.0, and witnessed handfuls of tunes from their first two records become radio staples. While their later output would never match those heights, festivals sets that could combine heavy doses of nostalgia with sprinklings of the band’s recent material would play huge to both casual and diehard fans alike. More than 20 years into a career and Shirley Manson is still one of rock’s most captivating frontpeople. That more fest haven’t utilized her is baffling.–Philip Cosores
Last Seen: After a brief hiatus in the mid-2000s, The Cranberries reformed in 2009, though not without some internal dissent in the form of an amorphous lawsuit among singer Dolores O’Riordan and guitarist Noel Hogan. Since then, they’ve toured extensively, released 2012’s Roses, and appeared on an Ireland-set episode of The Bachelorette. Next month, they’ll be back with a new album, Something Else.
Slammin’ Festival Jams: “Linger”, “Zombie”, “Dreams”, “Salvation”, “Ridiculous Thoughts”, and “Promises”
Which Lineup? Primavera Sound
Much of The Cranberries’ power came from O’Riordan’s robust, accented vocals, which still cut as deep as they did 20 years ago. The band’s timeless melodies are similarly resonant, both infectious and oddly hypnotic, the latter being due to their debt to the insistent nature of Irish folk. Even if you’ve never heard them before, songs like “Linger” and “Zombie” are open doors for any audience to get lost in. –Randall Colburn
Last Seen: Being nominated for a frickin’ Grammy last year. But yeah, after the ’90s. Korn kept releasing albums, forging a niche more in the Juggalo circle and less in the radio rock camp. Oh, and they also might have invented dubstep.
Slammin’ Festival Jams: “Blind”, “Got the Life”, “A.D.I.D.A.S.”, “Shoots and Ladders”, “Make Me Bad”, “Falling Away From Me”, and “Freak on a Leash”
Which Lineup? Governors Ball
While bands like Linkin Park and System of a Down can still pop up at the top of the occasional international festival, Korn is generally relegated to the specialty metal market. But why not release these freaks from their leash and let them play to the masses. They were a TRL fixture back in the day, with hits that everyone knows even if they don’t want to admit it. Sure, the band’s look hasn’t aged particularly well, but music festivals could be boosted by an outside-the-box pick like Korn, if only for the unintelligible growl-scatting alone. –Philip Cosores