Saved by the ‘90s ride bygone radio waves
Who among us can resist a solid ’90s singalong sesh? It can be a bit shameful, belting out “Say it Ain’t So” with one arm wrapped around your buddy, the other swaying your beer in the air like it’s a lighter. But there’s something about the decade’s pop music—from Alanis to Britney—that allows us to set ego aside in favor of upbeat, neon-lit nostalgia.
Danny Finerman was living in New York when, around 2009, he predicted a trend. The styles of the 1980s had come back around, and he expected the ’90s were on deck.
“I said to my friend, ’Dude, the ’80s are awesome but the ’90s are better,” he remembered. You could say he saw it coming just around the riverbend.
Before velvet chokers and grungy Angela Chase vibes were cool again, Finerman and his friends Alex Rossiter and Nat Esten launched Saved by the 90s as a karaoke band. They soon dropped the audience component to become a party band playing covers from the era. It was successful, selling out clubs in New York City, so when Finerman’s day job moved him to California, he saw an opportunity to start a West Coast branch of the band. They launched the Northern California band in 2015, and today, six branches of Saved by the 90s play concerts and parties nationwide.
Their lineup includes the staples of any self-respecting ’90s pop cover band: Third Eye Blind, Foo Fighters, Spice Girls. Bobby Burns, bassist for the Northern California band, taught himself bass, guitar, piano and some sax as he grew as a musician in the punk scene. The band stays true to the original sound of the song, but even as its members are like caricatures in their bright, cartoonish ’90s gear, he said personal style comes through.
“I think everyone eventually adapts their own unique playing style, and I believe mine comes out a bit in every song, however, I try not to branch out away from what is necessary for the particular song,” Burns said. “Some of my personal favorite songs are ’Basket Case,’ and I really like some of the No Doubt stuff because the bassist is amazing.”
Some songs naturally lend themselves to the party atmosphere Saved by the 90s is going for (I see you, “Wannabe.”) Others, Finerman said, take some revving to keep the energy up.
“A perfect example is ’My Heart Will Go On,’ the Titanic theme song,” he said. (Swoon.) “So we start it off kind of nice and slow, and toward the end of the song, it almost turns into an ’80s hair metal-like ballad.”
Even with work, some of the decade’s greats don’t work with the vibe; you won’t find Tracy Chapman or Elliott Smith at this party. And as much as Nirvana set the stage for 1990s rock, even their most mainstream songs aren’t always a great fit.
“We did try to play Nirvana’s ’[Smells Like] Teen Spirit’ a couple of times,” Burns said. “But we can’t seem to play that, because every time we do, a huge fight breaks out in the crowd.”
Recommendation for those attending a Saved by the 90s show: Don’t be a dweeb. Revisit your favorite shows of the ’90s to brush up on some hella dope slang.