Electric Youth (Not the Band): A Grungy Look at the 90s in a Tiki Bar

When I was a kid there was “oldies” radio stations with music from my parents’ youth: happy Beach Boys, songs about how fine Brandy is and wailing Janice Joplin. I always wondered when music of my youth would be considered an oldie (but goodie). Last month I came to the realization music of my youth is now more in the “classic rock” section of today’s youth than ever. I’m sure my parents were surprised their music was considered old just as I was.

It was only a week or two after Chris Cornell’s death when I went to a 90s night-themed show at the Tiki Bar in Costa Mesa, CA. The opener, 90s alternative rock band done. (Aaron Zell on guitar/vocals, Mike Palmer on bass, Cody Herzog on drums), and headliner cover band Backlash (Chuck rhythm guitar/vocals, Rob lead vocals, Kourosh on lead guitar, Jason on drums and brother to Zell, Trent on bass) was promised to be a good, 90s alternative rock show.

At one point I caught myself reaching down to tighten a phantom flannel shirt around my hips.

They didn’t disappoint, and yes, the Backlash bandmembers don’t have last names. They are that cool.

The groupies are ready! Live in 1 hour @tikibaroc! #costamesa #newportbeach #rock #donetheband

A post shared by done. (@donetheband) on

How did I get here? My friend manages done. and invited me, of course. As a former Seattleite, I was excited to learn the main act is a cover band doing all the songs of my youth. done. warmed the crowd and I up with an opening boom boom, boom boom of the bass (and I don’t mean those 808s). Their sound is a lot of 90s guitar with late 70s-sounding vocals. When band and fan favorite “Inevitability Train” began, I was hooked. I could hear waves of influencers in their sound like David Bowie, Dave Grohl and the whole gang from Alice in Chains. This was done. and this was their show.

There was no fancy lighting at the Tiki Bar, no pyrotechnics, smoke or screaming groupies. The bar’s tiki theme seemed fittingly disconnected from the grungy, dirty alternative rock sounds of the night. The $8 cover seemed excessive considering the ripped-up pool tables in the back and mix-matched flooring throughout. The sticky floors made sense: “but with a great floor!” said the bands in unison of the venue at drinks before the show. Between sets the local dive played a stream of Chris Cornell.

Backlash’s sound check began with each member showing off riffs like baby Jimi Hendrixes practicing for the music teacher. Rob was in Dickies shorts and ready to wax some Stone Temple Pilots and wane some Pearl Jam. Soon I was transported to my early teens, singing along to every grungy song from the 90s. At one point I caught myself reaching down to tighten a phantom flannel shirt around my hips.

It’s an era. You remember.


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