A few months ago, my friend Michael invited me to go with him to a thing called 90s Fest in Brooklyn. It was an odd request, because Michael was 7 years old when the '90s ended. I wondered what nostalgia he could possibly have for a decade he wasn’t very present in. But I like Michael, he’s a cool guy, and it sounded like a fun event so I bought a ticket.
My boyfriend Geoff came with us too. We are both 31 years old, born (weirdly) on the same day, September 28, 1983.
Michael was born March 31, 1992.
Michael and I joked about getting some full '90s-themed outfits—a Power Rangers costume or Ghostbusters proton pack—but, in the end, we dressed pretty tame. I threw on an old MTV shirt I found online and Michael wore a sports jersey representing a hockey team that no longer exists. The team, called the Whalers, was largely associated with New England, so a lot of people thought he was from Connecticut or Boston. In fact, Michael is from North Carolina, where the team relocated in the 1990s before going defunct. So, in fact, his '80s nostalgia pertained to the '90s.
We arrived at 90s Fest a little late, and waited on a long line of people wearing some pretty cool outfits. There was a lot of '90s swag for sale too.
A lot of the festival seemed promotional, and it made me wonder why I had paid $65 to be surrounded by marketing. Nickelodeon had a lot of setups and Century 21 hosted cornole, which was… weird? Then there was some company giving away soylent drinks. (90s babies are more adventurous than '80s babies: Michael had some; I did not.)
The first artist we saw perform was Coolio. There were some other rappers and singers on stage with him as he performed. Michael did not know which one was Coolio, and did not know some of Coolio’s biggest hits, like “Gangsta’s Paradise.” I did not ask Michael whether he had ever seen Dangerous Minds, because I already knew the answer.
Michael was pretty cognizant of his youth, though. When people were taking selfies with Coolio after his set, Michael yelled, “That's not a '90s thing! People from the '90s would be afraid of their celebrities and take pictures from afar!”
I asked Michael what his first concert was, and he said it was Of Montreal, in college. I told him that my first concert was The Offspring, when I was 13. I got a blank stare in response. Suffice it to say, Michael and I do not have much in common musically.
When Naughty By Nature came on, Michael and Geoff had the following interaction, after Geoff expressed shock that Michael was unfamiliar with their music:
Michael: I've never heard of Naughty By Nature. I know. I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, fam.
Geoff: No one has ever said to you, "Are you down with O-P-P?”
Michael: No, I'm sorry.
Geoff: “Hip hop hooray?”
Michael: No. I'm terrible.
Michael later asked if Naughty By Nature had ever been part of the Wu-Tang Clan.
To be fair, Michael later recognized the songs Geoff was referring to. But lack of Naughty By Nature awareness was scary to me. 👻 👻 👻
When I put my old-lady feelings aside, there were plenty of things at 90s Fest that made me happy and nostalgic, such as butterfly clips!:
And blossom hats!!!!!!!:
And people doing the Macarena!:
And this dude, who really tried to embody '90s white guy fashion:
I also got a kick out of this guy, who was soooo into Coolio:
At some point we made friends with this dude. He thought Michael and I were dating, and made some kind of joke about me going after younger guys. After telling him we’re just friends, I asked how old he thought we were, and he guessed correctly. I was a little bummed that I couldn’t even pass for a '90s baby if I wanted to!
Pauly Shore was hosting the event. I asked Michael if he knew who Pauly Shore was, and he said, “Sure! Pauly Shore of TV or something.”
At some point Pauly asked the crowd who was born in the 1990s. There was a low roar. Then he asked who was born in the 1980s. There was an enthusiastic roar! The emcee then asked who was there from the '70s and it was a low croak. THE '80s HAD WON!!!!!!!!!! Having spent a day feeling like an Old, it was nice to know that my people were more prevalent at 90s Fest than it seemed.
My feeling of victory didn’t last long though. The skies darkened and clouds gathered, and I wanted to leave. But Michael really really wanted to see Smashmouth, which was pretty much the only band he knew at 90s Fest. “Who really wants to see Smashmouth ever?” you may be asking yourself. Maybe you have never met Michael. His bright young face encouraged me to stick it out.
As Smashmouth was setting up, it started to rain. Heavily. They covered the instruments with tarps and Pauly Shore fled to backstage. It was not phat. The big lot where the concert took place had uneven terrain. If I stood in the low-elevation parts, the water was splashing up to my ankles.
Eventually Smashmouth performed, largely in the rain. Everyone who stayed to watch them was pretty enthusiastic about Smashmouth, and it made the experience more fun than it otherwise would have been if you think about Smashmouth, the way I do, as one of those B-List bands that plays in the background of Ally McBeal episodes. I tried to capture some of the experience on my rained-upon phone:
I had a lot of fun going to this show with my born-in-the '90s friend. But, next time, I’m probably going to drag him to an Offspring concert instead.
I oversee Fusion's money section and have spent most of my time as a journalist writing about banks and finance. I live in Brooklyn with my partner Geoffrey & our two dogs, Captain & Tallulah. Favs: leopard print, Diet Coke, gummy candy, Ireland.