It seems like every day we come across young musicians pining for the “glory days” of the scene, which, depending on what type of music you’re into, seems to range anywhere from 1991 to 2003. But the current wave of ’90s nostalgia has us wondering just how young these musicians actually are. Take it from someone who lived through the ’90s: Being in a band was hard as fuck back then. Here’s why.
1. NO INTERNET
That’s right: No internet. We’re not saying the internet didn’t exist, but the odds of whatever shithole you were playing on any given night having Wi-Fi was next to none. In fact, you probably didn’t even know what the fuck Wi-Fi even was until, like, 2005.
2. NO SOCIAL MEDIA
That means no Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, J-Date, OKCupid or whatever the hell else you use to kill time and/or troll for hookups. Imagine how bored you are when your iPhone battery dies, then multiple that by, like, 15,000. And speaking of which…
3. NO SMARTPHONES
Are there any modern bands whose members don’t rely on their smartphone for everything from music to gaming to texting to actually occasionally making phone calls (but only on Mom’s birthday)? Yeah, these things weren’t even close to existing in the ’90s, so have fun in that nine-hour van ride to Cheyenne, Wyoming. And that reminds us…
4. NO GPS
Ever heard of an atlas? They were these oversized books filled with maps of cities, states and countries. People would use them to navigate from one point to the next. If you misread one, you could end up driving hours out of your way before realizing your mistake. There was no Google Maps; MapQuest didn’t exist until 1996 (not that it mattered, because it’s not like you had a smartphone or internet access to get to it); and Garmin’s first GPS unit cost $2,500 each in the early ’90s—and they were primarily sold to the U.S. Army. So unless your dad was Norman Schwarzkopf Jr., odds are, you toured without one.
5. NO PAYPAL
PayPal didn’t exist until 2000, so if you broke down on the side of the road and needed $700 to get your carburetor fixed in time to make that festival you were driving to, your options were pretty much beg strangers for change, use your bassist’s mom’s credit card or rob a bank. Turning to your fans for e-donations was impossible.
6. NO KICKSTARTER
And speaking of relying on your fans to do everything for you, crowdsourcing sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo are relatively new in the grand scheme of things. Want to pay for recording time? Pick up extra shifts at the grocery store. Those kumquats aren’t gonna bag themselves.
7. NO COMMERCIAL VIABILITY
Save for a two-year window following Green Day’s explosion in 1994, it definitely did not pay to play in a punk band. And if you were dabbling in then-nascent genres of emo, screamo and metalcore, the odds of you making any money off your self-released, silkscreened demo cassette limited to 100 copies were next to none. When AFI’s The Art Of Drowning debuted on the Billboard 200 in October 2000, all the way down at No. 174, it was a huge fucking deal.
8. NO MAINSTREAM RECOGNITION
We live in a world now where a French-Canadian art-rock band wins a Grammy for Album Of The Year and a dude who used to scream on a Warped Tour second stage is landing on magazine covers and making Heisenberg levels of money by simply pressing a button to drop the bass. But in the ’90s, the best you would hope for would be your band to get a review in HeartattaCk—or, if you were careerist, Punk Planet. When Rainer Maria’s gorgeous sophomore album Look Now Look Again made Spin’s Top 20 Albums Of 1999 list, the scene was legitimately shocked that anyone mainstream was paying attention.
9. NO ROOM TO GROW
The punk and emo scene had a pretty thick glass ceiling in the late ’90s, and any time a band got close to tapping a crack in it, the cries of “sellout” were never far behind. The Get Up Kids were heckled mercilessly on their headlining tour in support of Something To Write Home About in 1999 not because they signed to a major label or changed their sound, but because they got a tour bus. A tour bus. It seems so quaint now, doesn’t it?