Fanny packs will always be awesome.
What were my 90s like? It has always been my personal mythology that I was thoroughly miserable between the ages of ten and twenty. My addiction was getting A’s in every conceivable academic subject or going for first chair in band. I don’t remember being very happy, I remember the sheer exhaustion of being caught up in an empty race that had taken over my life. Worse, it’s an addiction society applauds. Unlike adult workaholics who neglect their families, no one saw the downside to a child with a self-imposed, yet self-destructive, habit of chasing perfection. That’s what “good kids” do. I was convinced I could achieve the impossible, which was flawlessness. And all it ever did was make my heart sick and the grind seemed infinite. I needed more and more of my fix to feel any high. Despite it all, I found joy in the music. When had I forgotten I once had moments of joy between the punishing races to be Superkid?
As Oasis’ “Wonderwall” played and the lights came on, signaling the end of 90s night at Lola’s Room, I realized I had spent almost four hours dancing in a state nearing ecstatic bliss. It was the happiness where you completely lose yourself in the moment and forget time. The tipping point into barreling down memory lane were the videos and the chance to hear songs all the way through. I sang along, unthinking, only guided by instinct.
From the period between the end of elementary school through most of my undergraduate years came a wellspring of memories. It was a glorious time of Brit pop, hip hop, grunge, ska, techno, everything mixing up together. In addition, during that era everyone called me “fat” because I was not white and I was not skinny. But a funny thing happened. The Fly Girls on In Living Color starting being the It Thing. This song called “Baby Got Back” alerted me to the fact that maybe flat-assed albinos were not the end all, be all of female beauty. Music helped me through a period of intense negative self-image.
What about the other option for 90s night in Portland? Holocene does a pretty decent version and I have been to many of their 90s nights. The downfall is they often play one-minute snippets of songs and the crowd skews towards those who were born in the 90s. The club is full of kids who have just turned twenty-one, and they are hearing everything for the first time. They tend to get sloppy drunk. There’s always that painfully young girl falling off the bench in the corner. My friends and I cannot help but maternally hover over her and ask if we can call her a cab or get her a ginger ale.
But the energy of Lola’s Room is that we all grew up with this stuff and we don’t get too wasted on gin and juice anymore. Watching the videos, I remember how graceful the dancing was in 90s music videos. There are moves straight from The Nutcracker in them. But there was also Hammer-style, Baby had back and twerking was not even a twinkle in our eyes. As a kid, I tried replicating Janet Jackson, Madonna and Paula Abdul for hours and fell off many chairs in the process. In the 90s, women were allowed to wear clothes, and often baggy, tomboy clothes at that. And why did fanny packs have to go out of style? It makes clubbing much more convenient.
Every one on the bouncy dance floor asked without asking, “Do you remember?” We answered each other, “Fuck yeah I do!” Am I only glorifying the music from my formative years? Yes! Who doesn’t? It’s my right. Everyone deserves to look fondly back on something and relive their Good Old Days. Even me, in my fervent anti-nostalgic assumption that I didn’t have any of those.