As the self-crowned King of the '90s and longtime lover/partner to MTV VJ Kennedy, it is my duty to discuss how the mid-1990s crash-landed into Missoula this past year and choked our fair burg with that nasty old carcinogen: nostalgia. At the Wilma Theatre, we had a last-minute visit from Uncle Fester and his Smashing Pumpkins Revue. The Missoula Internet lost its mind and the show sold out quickly. To hell with blowhard Billy CorganGive me Gish or give me death! Anywho, Corgan made do with a new crew of doppelgangers and weirdos who replaced the original line-up, not to mention a cache of easily recognizable tunes. Giving Corgan your money in 2012 is like drinking a recently discovered Coors Light Party Ball™ and expecting it to be as good as it was 1992.
To boot, 45th-wave ska band Reel Big Fish performed at the Wilma as well, and played that 1996 song about selling out called "Sell Out." Many former high school concert band horn players enjoyed it, no doubt. Speaking of No Doubt, they are a band from the '90s with a recent release, but haven't played here since 1996.
However, there was one big fat rock show that ruled the mediascape in 2013: Pearl Jam with opener Mudhoney at the Adams Center. The crowd that stood in line for 45 to 90 minutes to buy a fresh Pearl Jam T-shirt wasn't geared up for a '90s revival necessarily; there were too few Guatemalan textiles, flannels or cool berets, and too many Pearl Jam T-shirts tucked into belted jeans, which as a rule is never ever, ever acceptable dress.
Cool guy alert! I saw Pearl Jam when they opened for Alice in Chains as Mookie Blaylock in February 1991. Some idiots in the crowd threw smashed Hamm's cans at them at one point during a cover of a John Lennon song. The idiots are certainly sorry for that.
I also saw Mudhoney back in the day (ahem, several times, ahem-ahem) and at the Adams Center show they were nearly as fun to watch (and way less drunk). But to quote a 1986 Monkees' hit, "that was then, this now..." The sedate(d) crowd was there to see Pearl Jam and the fact that Mudhoney singer/guitarist Mark Arm could still high-kick as he did back in '91 meant nothing to most of them. They restlessly waited to hear a "hit" while a fine rock and roll outfit kicked out the jams (literally). This is why large-scale Adams Center-type shows are often dull. It isn't the bands' fault; it's the awkward social scene. It's people who want to sit the whole show fighting with people who want to stand. It's the 25-minute wait for beer inside a well-lit gymnasium. It's the too-drunk dads grinding against the moms during the outro of "Alive" and the moms grinding back.
Tell you what, though, that Pearl Jam has a singer named Eddie that can keep the crowd rapt, even when he tells a lame dick joke.
And Eddie has a lot in common with my guy, T-Pain.
Facts are facts, friends, and the finest show and performance of the year went down back in February, and it starred none other than producing and hit-writing powerhouse T-Pain. Yes, the undisputed king of Auto-Tune. The guy who helped create the soundtrack to the aughts.
It was the last date of the tour. He performed snippets of many of the 47 Top-40 hits he wrote or collaborated on, including "Bartender," "I'm a Flirt," "Buy U a Drank" and "I'm in Luv With a Stripper." Oh, yeah, and he did Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" because, why not? The '90s are back, after all.
He smoked and he joked. He juked around his dancers, obviously getting winded. The young crowd ate it up for the first 90 minutes. Then T-Pain, whose brand has been flagging in pop culture land as of late, went on an extended homily about the music industry, about how he made other "motherfuckers" famous, about how hard he worked, about how the whole system wasn't fair. The crowd grew restless and began to sally on back to the dorms or their parents' houses. T-Pain carried on until most had left, sweat leaking through his shirt, his voice cracking from the fatigue of talking and the fatigue of giving all of himself to a few thousand people. The kids, they had no time for nostalgia, only time for the next moment. T-Pain seemed to know his time was up; he went out like a boss.