Culture

Punk and Disorderly: A Love Letter to 90s Pop Punk

Allow me to transport you back to a simpler time. The internet was still young — accessed by dial-up modem — email was the newest thing, and there were no social media sites anywhere to be found. There was no Spotify, no iTunes, no Amazon music, and Napster was still a few years away. These were the halcyon days of the mid-1990s, my friends.

Blues Traveler, Hootie and the Blowfish, and Alanis Morissette were the closest things to rock music on popular radio. Grunge was fading. Hair metal was dead. The Dave Matthews Band was hitting its stride, but was popular pretty much only amongst college kids, and the “Macarena” was soon to be a huge global phenomenon. I still made mix tapes with liner notes. It was awesome.

This was not a glorious time for mainstream music, in other words. However, hidden deep in this cultural jungle of Bone Thugs N Harmony and Celine Dion, obscured from the view of popular radio and MTV, there was a scene, man. It was the mid-1990s punk scene. And it was glorious.

Yours truly was a high school senior in Florida and a college freshman in Washington, DC, during these years. I had embraced the grunge scene fully, and was a huge Pearl Jam fan. I had also come out of my Guns N’ Roses and Metallica phases a few short years prior. By this time, though, I was a lost boy wandering the musical hellscape, devoid of a musical salve for my tortured teenage soul. Did I mention I made mix tapes?

And then one day, all of the sudden, almost out of nowhere, one of my best friends (Ben) had discovered punk music and had turned me and our group onto it. And holy shit, Lord Jesus, we were born again into musical bliss.

Now, this was the new punk scene that had sprung up in the early 1990s. This was not the Baby Boomers’ punk scene. This was not the Sex Pistols, the Ramones, Black Flag, or The Clash. It wasn’t even Fugazi. No, this was a new school of Gen X-fueled punk, which, for lack of a better term, can be unsatisfactorily classified as “pop punk.” That is a shit term, but it has to do in this case.

The bands and albums that defined these years for me included (but were not limited to):

“Punk in Drublic” — NOFX;
“White Trash, Two Heebs, and a Bean” — NOFX;
“Hoss” — Lagwagon;
“Don’t Turn Away” — Face to Face;
“Face to Face” — Face to Face;
“Cheshire Cat” — Blink-182;
“Dude Ranch” — Blink-182;
“Dixie” — Avail;
“Life in General” — MxPx; and
“…And Out Come the Wolves” — Rancid.

I listened to those albums over and over and over again. Loudly. I blared them in my dorm room. I blared them in my ears while I ran and mowed the lawn (on my Walkman!). I blared them in my car while I drove. Constantly. They spoke to my 18-19 year old psyche, in terms I embraced wholeheartedly.

And the concerts. Oh, the concerts. I wish I could adequately convey the mania, release of energy, and eruption of pent-up late teens angst that happened at those shows. They were always at small clubs (until the bands got bigger and started playing venues like The 9:30 Club and the Capitol Ballroom in DC), and the music was always louder than should’ve been allowed by the authorities.

The mosh pits were a thing of beauty. Dudes — and it was almost always mostly dudes, with a few punk chicks sprinkled in, in the pit — moshed vigorously, colliding off each other to the roar of the music. It was rarely malicious in there, though, and when someone went down, someone else almost always rushed to pick them up quickly. The vibe was almost always universally positive at the shows.

Bands like NOFX and Blink-182 were funny as hell during their shows. NOFX would often walk out on stage and bassist/singer Fat Mike would give all of us in the audience the bird and lovingly shit talk us before launching into the music. Blink-182 had a running dialogue between songs that was often sophomoric and hilarious, and as entertaining as the music. The feeling was always one of community at the shows. We were all there to enjoy our secret pleasure that most people did not even know existed, as the music had not yet made it onto radio (in the case of Blink-182), or never would (in the case of Lagwagon, Face to Face, NOFX, and most of the others).

Once I left for college, and made new friends there, none of them liked punk music. Not a single one. You know what? It did not matter. I went to the shows alone and proselytized through playing it loudly in the dorms. It was my thing and the shows were almost more enjoyable because I went alone. It was just me and the music.

Like most things in life, I eventually grew out of the punk scene, and mellowed out some in my musical tastes. That does not mean I do not still love it, though, even now, in my early 40s. Just this morning I played Lagwagon “Hoss” loudly in my empty house, from start to finish. It was glorious.

Please Login to comment
avatar
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
homanj1
Member

Nice to see you on here Fru. Have to say I had you pegged as an MC Hammer guy. Haha. Seriously, my grown up kids all went through their punk or rap phase. And just like my father before me I was apt to say (or yell) “Turn that shit down”. Korn at top volume nearly caused me to smash my head against the wall……

GsGirl
Guest
GsGirl

Oh Lord…a Fru article!!! I have died and gone to heaven!!! Now, if we could just get BKactual and Mike Rutland on here, I will be O’ing all the love long day!!!😜😜😜

GsGirl
Guest
GsGirl

Rutland should read Ritland…Damn spell-check!

JoyB
Guest
JoyB

What do you mean punk phase?!? I only have a few years up on you, but I still listen to and go see some of the same bands from High School and right after. I went to see Rancid and the Dropkick Murphy’s for my last birthday. I was also the cool older sister chaperoning my younger siblings to see some of these bands, pretending to be way too cool to actually like the music in my Iron Maiden or NIN concert shirts. Great seeing you here, Fru!

Mic-Mac
Member
Mic-Mac

Joy, the Drop Kick Murphy’s are awesome.

Mason
Member
Mason

Did the Tubes do anything for you? I wandered the same landscape, fell in with the likes of Nada Surf, and Local H. I saw Nirvana in San Fran before they were known, so I am older, but I know of this hellscape you speak of in the 90s. Still a RATM and Tool fan, and for me anymore, only the likes of “White Stripes” will get a response from me. Nice walk down memory lane Fru, thank you! P.S. this also made me think of “Mott the Hoople”, you jogged a lot loose for me with your references.

JoniS
Guest
JoniS

I remember The Tubes. I had chance to go see them but had to pass. Concerts were cheap and we would go see everyone who came to town. Now, of course, mostly due to time, I rarely see anyone unless it’s friends passing through town. But the cost for a big show is ridiculously expensive. Smaller shows not too bad, but even those aren’t cheap for name bands.

Susan B
Member

Hi Fru,
You are way out of my zone with your taste in music but I am very glad to see you writing on here. Looking forward to many, many more contributions. 🙂

JoyB
Guest
JoyB

Hey Susan! Wasn’t there any music that you loved, but your parents hated? It doesn’t have to be from a specific genre. I swear that everything that I ever listened to started some kind of fight, especially with my Dad whose opinion was that anything after The Beach Boys and Jan & Dean was complete and utter garbage.

Mic-Mac
Member
Mic-Mac

Joy, my husband and I were young when we got married. Never had money to go out but both worked while in school and had every Album from those I mentioned above and all of the other greats like Zeplin, The Who. And dozens of others. We had music blaring all the time. My kids thought we were old fashion wit that music. Now it is among their favorite as well.

JoyB
Guest
JoyB

Mic, I’m from a Scottish family, so we’re pretty musical, I have older cousins who are bagpipers and a violinist. A good family friend was an little known but highly respected blues musician and he owned a small club here in Chicago where lots of famous musicians hung out when they passed thru town so I’ve seen Clapton and SRV and BB King in person. Two of the older boys in my neighborhood adopted me and took me with to concerts, so I’ve seen a lot of big rock acts from Judas Priest to Mellencamp to the Ramones. One of… Read more »

Mic-Mac
Member
Mic-Mac

BB King opened for my first concert 1969 to see the Who and Jefferson Airplane. Love him! Saw him when he was at the end of his career with Buddy Guy. I love Chicago and the blues music. And Second City! Thought thats not music.

JoniS
Guest
JoniS

Mic, I only got to see BB once and it was large venue so couldn’t really see him. I say I only saw him once because I went to see him in concert not long before he passed. It was the saddest thing. He was really late which was unusual. And once he got on stage it was clear his condition was not good. He couldn’t remember his songs. He talked through what he did play. His band did great job of trying to cover for him but he was clearly not well and should not have been on stage.… Read more »

homanj1
Member
homanj1

Joni-We’ve seen BB many times. We had reserved seats to take one of our kids and at the last minute he couldn’t go. We had awesome seats. A little old gal named Ruby walked in front of a row of thirty people and sat down in what I knew was my purchased seat. She told us when the black artists came to town, they stayed at her house and she fed them. She had a special relationship with the guy that was BB’s announcer for many decades. After the show, she got a backstage all-access pass out of her purse… Read more »

JoniS
Guest
JoniS

What a cool story. That was really nice she sent you the autograph. Just imagine the stories she could tell! I saw BB with Eric Clapton. It was a great concert.

JoniS
Guest
JoniS

Joy that’s probably the best way to see people is in small clubs or in backstage. Though sometimes you find out your heros are assholes. But you get some of the best stories. The hubs toured with REM and 10,000 Manics as lead guitar tech and pulled security if required. Lots of interesting stories. Not much sleep. Still have various friends in the business. Dearly departed first hubs and I owned a recording studio. So music was and still is very much part of my life. I am just learning of some Scottish ancestry. Don’t have all the details but… Read more »

JoyB
Guest
JoyB

Joni, I’m the oldest and a Daddy’s Girl, and my Dad tended to take me everywhere with him, including on calls for his side business. On a call to check something with the heat at Pop’s club before hours, Dad had me with and Pops always let me hang with him, so I was introduced to Mr Riley Jackson., who I’m told was very taken with my cute, giggling 4 year old self and he played his black, shiny guitar for me. A couple of nights later, after a big fuss, my Dad had me all dressed up and we… Read more »

JoniS
Guest
JoniS

Joy, I love this story! What a wonderful memory. It is great that your Dad let you hang out with him and go on calls. I always loved hanging out with my Dad. Never did anything as cool as meeting Mr. Jackson though. The thing I loved about BB was his smile. It would light up NYC because it was so genuine. You could tell he never stopped loving to play and you can tell that in his music. I’m kind of a guitar nut even though I don’t play so I’m envious you got to be so close to… Read more »

Susan B
Member
Susan B

Not really, Joy. My parents loved the big band sounds and the crooners. However they tolerated, and even enjoyed, a lot of the current music I played at that time. But, it was still music that didn’t shriek at you and it had a beat to dance without frenzy. lol As a teen through the mid sixties, I was into everything they played on the pop and country stations from Elvis to Hank Williams. I also dug the likes of Robert Goulet, Dean Martin, Lena Horne, and Coltrane. I had pretty eclectic tastes…except for the anti-war music that was starting… Read more »

Mason
Member
Mason

Hank Williams Sr. . . my father got me hooked on him. “He’s in the Jailhouse now”.

Susan B
Member

Yep…and Poor Ole Kawliga. lol I ’bout wore all those records out.

Mic-Mac
Member
Mic-Mac

Nice to see you back Fru! You are my kids age, I remember the music from those days. My kids were old enough that my husband and I could take off on the weekends and go to concerts. Usually by motorcycle all over New England, but I was more of a Stones, Mellincamp, Thurogood, Clapton, Aerosmith, and Haggar fan. Really glad to be reading your writing.

homanj1
Member
homanj1

Mic-Some friends own Sammy Haggar’s former home in Manhattan Beach. For a few years, people arrived looking for Sammy. Our taste in music and motorcycles is pretty much the same. Seeing Mellencamp in April..

Mic-Mac
Member
Mic-Mac

I am replying from the WordPress mobile app. Will be interesting to see if this works. I love Sammy Haggar. Ya know he wrote I cannot drive 55 after getting stopped for speeding while driving to his upstate NY lake house from Albany airport, or so he told the story on a talk show years ago. I’ve seen Mellencamp several times and he puts on a great show every time

homanj1
Member
homanj1

I’m just trying to LPD back. Oh well. I’ll go by this name for awhile. We just saw a bunch of cool musicians on a cruise. Check out Youtbe for a band called Shinyribs doing Rihanna. They have an interesting take on a Bowie song Golden Years too.

Mason
Member
Mason

“Little Ditty, bout Jack and Diane . . . ” John Cougar, or at least when I was listening to him. Still love his stuff.

Mic-Mac
Member
Mic-Mac

When my kids were young they got goldfish and named them Jack and Diane. To agree to let them have the gold fish the deal was it was their responsibility to feed them and clean the bowl, change the water and all. They took turns cleaning the bowl and changing the water, they would gag and hack and near vomit. One morning we woke to get them ready for school and one of the fish was on the floor dried up and dead. Next thing I heard was the kids arguing over who owned the dead fish. “It’s mine”, “no… Read more »

Miche
Member
Miche

Hahaha!

Mason
Member
Mason

I can relate, I can only imagine the patience and forbearance you radiated during this!

JoniS
Guest
JoniS

“Please tell me why my car is in the front yard. I’m sleeping with my.clothes on…” Lit -My Own Worst Enemy Blink 182 and a few others. I wasn’t huge fan but I like a variety of music and some stuff just sticks to you. Like “please tell me why my car is in the front yard…” Catchy line…and then you start singing over and over. Haha. I’m older so I liked The Kinks but never huge Sex Pistols fan. But I appreciate the bridges burned in the name of punk. My favorite experience going to see a punk band… Read more »

Miche
Member
Miche

Haha…Fru, I have never heard of pop punk or ANY of those songs you mentioned. But I feel ya on the mix tapes and the nostalgia. Lately I’ve been wearing out Collective Soul and Soundgarden’s Black Hole Sun along with Metallica, Guns N Roses and Pearl Jam….which is what *I* was listening to in the ’90s when I was 18-19. Music carries some pretty powerful memories with it. 🙂

Mic-Mac
Member
Mic-Mac

LOL, carries some powerful memories for me as a parent of 18-19 year old young adults. 😂

homanj1
Member
homanj1

Miche-Modern day mix tape is a thumb drive. I was forced to go that way when my new car came without a CD player. I have one with 700 songs on it. Everything from Sinatra to Bruno Mars. Lots of genres. I’m soul, funk, and blues. My wife is is more oldies and Elvis. Something for the whole family in the 700……

Miche
Member
Miche

LPD – most of my everyday music sits on my iPhone, but last month I pulled out my “old” Coby MP3 player from probably a decade ago. I’d forgotten how many songs I crammed on there! Everything from Nickelback to Beatles, Josh Groban to Pachelbel, and KT Tunstall to the Oak Ridge Boys. Endless stream of great music, whoa! I haven’t thought about using a thumb drive, but my new car would probably know how to play it. (And I should probably add Sinatra and Bruno Mars to my collection. I listen to them on Pandora a lot and love… Read more »

georgehand
Member

Fru!!
I absolutely loved this… and I didn’t identify with punk in the least. I fancied musak, elevator music to such a degree that when we moved out of state at my 17 years of age, I took to recording cassettes tapes of musak from the one musak radio station on the radio, for fear there would not be such a station in the next state.
It’s great to read your work again, bro; you def got the fingers for writing.
geo sends

%d bloggers like this: