Tales from '90s Rock's Biggest Fans

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Stories from the biggest fans of '90s rock

Tim Wheeler of Ash with fan Dominique Bennett
Tim Wheeler of Ash with fan Dominique Bennett. Dominique Bennett

Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alanis Morissette and other huge names in ’90s rock would have never reached legendary status without the love of their fans. It’s those devotees who flooded record stores, camped out at Ticketmaster outlets and wore their dedication on their band tees. (This writer included— I once owned 15 Smashing Pumpkins shirts, have traveled to Canada just to see them in concert and even had a cover band called Death by Twinkie.)

We spoke with five fans of various ’90s artists who stand out thanks to their tenacity, collections and embodiment of what it means to live for the music. (Email responses edited for clarity, style and punctuation.)

 

Ash fan Dominique Bennett

Location: United Kingdom
Profession: Retail Sales Assistant


Right, where to start? I don't know how big Ash were in the U.S.A., but they were pretty big over here [in the U.K.] in the mid ’90s. They had a single in ’95 called "Girl from Mars," but it was "Goldfinger" in 1996 I fell in love with.

I lived in the middle of nowhere with my parents, so I drowned myself in everything Ash related. I bought everything they were [sic]. I made a file full of clippings, etc.

In early 1997, they did a five-night stand at the Astoria in London, renaming it the ASHtoria. I was 14, nearly 15. I was miles from London— no way could I go. But I was in the fan club, and I wrote to the girl there every week (never expecting a band reply). They had a limited-edition vinyl; I asked would it be possible to have one, as I can't go and I'm a totally huge fan?!

She sent me one.

I was so thrilled, and at the back on the bottom, it read: "Dedicated to all our fans, especially you, Dominique, you sexy thing." I'll get back to that later.

I only managed to see them once while I was a crazy teen: front row, tiny pub, got a set list. Tim [Wheeler, front man] "sweated" on me! And I've still got the t-shirt signed by the band!

Anyway back to the vinyl. I met the band in 2010 after they came back to the town I saw them in as a teenager. I brought the vinyl cover with me, asking Tim who was this Dominique? He said, "Some really weird fan who used to write us really weird letters"

I waved my hand and said, "Hi, that's me."

His reply was, "OH MY GOD, IT’S YOU!"

I've met him since, and he remembers me. I can assure you the teenager in me is DYING! They were my everything growing up and they are still making incredible music!

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311 fan Travis Woods

311 fan Travis Woods and friends
311 fan Travis Woods (center) and friends attend 311 Day in Las Vegas in 2010. Capricorn/Travis Woods

Location: Boston
Profession: Barista
 

Why do you love 311 so much? 

When I was 13 they were the first band that I learned about strictly through word of mouth before they hit the radio and MTV. It was the first time I'd really heard a band combine so many different genres of music I already enjoyed. That and of course they have a well-earned reputation as (a) dynamic live band.

 

Favorite concert moment:

Either meeting the band after a show in Providence, crowd surfing for the first time when I saw them in Lowell, Mass., or a four-way tie between the 311 Day shows I've been fortunate enough to attend.

 

Favorite piece of merch:

Framed poster from my first 311 Day in New Orleans in 2004 

                                            

You knew you were a super fan when:

After the Providence show in '99 it was all over.     

                                                

Anything else you might want to add to declare your fandom?

The coolest part of the 311 fan experience has to be 311 Day. I've been lucky enough to go to four of them ('04,'06, '08 and '10). The night before is always a mass of people in 311 shirts hanging out on Bourbon Street or the Vegas strip, depending on the year. The show itself is a high-energy, five-hour marathon loaded with b-sides, covers and rarities to please the nerdy super fans who travel from all over the country. 

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Weezer and Blur cover band member Glen Reynolds

Glen Reynolds of Bluh and Weener cover bands
Left, Glen Reynolds performs in the Blur cover band Bluh. Right, Reynolds today. Jason Janik

Location: Dallas
Profession: Musician and Salesman

Can you tell me a bit about both projects and why Blur and Weezer mean so much to you?

Well— there were many bands that really blew my mind, but two of my favorites were Blur and Weezer. Both had incredible albums out in the early ’90s (Blur's Modern Life Is Rubbish, Parklife and Great Escape and Weezer's Blue and Pinkerton albums). I think I liked them most of all because even though they were well-known bands, I don't feel like they got the respect they deserved. Blur were one-eighth as big in America as England, and Weezer's second album, Pinkerton (I think their most brilliant one), completely tanked.

Weener (my Weezer tribute) was first— we started that in 1998. It was quite controversial because they were still a playing band, even though they were on hiatus. It was a bit taboo doing it, but the songs were so fun to play. We also had three vocalists, so we sort of turned Weezer into the Beatles, which was fun too. The vocal arrangements were so so good on the early records, and we really polished those.

Bluh (the Blur cover band) was a – how should I say this? – boutique project that was wonderful but short lived. We did most of the early Blur stuff from the albums they did prior to the eponymous 1997 album. We did a terrific job of it, though not many people cared. Bluh always had a sub-200 person following, whereas Weener was generally close to 1,000.

We actually befriended the Geffen folks, who loved us keeping Weezer on the radar during their hiatus. We played their Green album cd release in Dallas and sold records on their behalf. Katia Reeb, the (Dallas-Fort Worth) Geffen person, had gotten me the advance of the Green album, so we learned it before anybody else had really heard it. They did that again for the next record (Maladroit in 2002) after that, too. (Where we played a CD release for Weezer in Dallas).

 

In the '90s (or even today), have you met the bands, amassed a big or rare collection of merch or traveled long distances to see them?

Well, I met Matt Sharp and Pat Wilson from Weezer, and Karl (their legendary tour support guy) even wore my band's shirt in a Weezer home video from 2001-2002.

 

Got any good fandom anecdotes?

Weener had several. Number one: "Hey, you are in that Weezer cover band? You made my friend deaf. He passed out on the PA speaker at the show and lost all the hearing he had in that ear." Number two: A couple got engaged onstage at one of our shows in 1999. Number three: We used to be joined onstage with a girl who did all the female vocal parts from the deep cuts. That girl (Sara Radle) went on to actually be in Matt Sharp's band (the Rentals) for a while!

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’90s Rock fan Kevin Hansen

Kevin Hansen with his concert ticket collection
Kevin Hansen displays a portion of his concert ticket collection. He's been to hundreds of gigs. Kevin Hansen

Location: Wisconsin
Profession: Industrial Designer
Claim to Fandom Fame: Seeing everyone from Alice in Chains to Veruca Salt in concert— multiple times

 

I was fan of rock music from way back. Through the ’80s I was into what's now called classic rock. Mainstream rock was a wasteland then, with the alternative scene still largely confined to college communities or underground. When Nirvana hit it big, it broke wide open. It was a renaissance, with tons of artists trying to make a voice, or trying to cash in. The alternative bands were now heard everywhere, and were touring all the time. I'd be seeing nationally known artists several times a month. Shows were so cheap that going to shows was a better way to find out about a band than buying an album.

One of my most favorite bands is the Violent Femmes. My sister got me into them in the mid-’80s, and I've seen them a couple dozen times in various venues in the area. They're the hometown band [in Milwaukee], so they played the festivals here many times, including the 10 times I saw them at Summerfest. My favorite little band would headline the sold-out amphitheater, for about 24,000 people.

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Nathan Fulsebakke: the man who went the distance for music

90s music fan Nathan Fulsebakke in high school
'90s music fan Nathan Fulsebakke in a high school yearbook photo. Nathan Fulsebakke

Location in the ’90s: Rural North Dakota
Profession: Copywriter

 

It first started with Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun.” Before that, my music collection (cassettes, naturally) consisted of [a] slew of ’90s country artists and a handful of arena rock staples like AC/DC’s Back in Black and Def Leppard’s Hysteria. But after catching the video for “Black Hole Sun” on NBC’s Friday Night [Videos], I was hooked and had soon ordered Superunknown, along with a bunch of forgettable country albums, through the BMG music club. And after that, I was hooked. I wanted to discover more bands like that, but the trouble was, how do you do that in the middle of nowhere?

I grew up rural North Dakota. I was 100 miles from the nearest record store, 250 miles from the nearest radio station that played modern rock music. We lived in the country, so cable TV wasn’t an option, but even if it was, the closest town’s cable TV service didn’t offer MTV. The Internet was still several years away. 

First, I went back to NBC’s Friday Night. But this option was a total crapshoot. They only played about two videos a night, and it went by audience vote (via a 1-900 number), so you were more likely to see an All-4-One video than anything remotely rock related.

Soon after this, I discovered 1-800-MUSIC-NOW, a short-lived business venture that tried to sell CDs over the phone. You could call in, select a genre and they’d play 10-second snippets of whatever albums they were peddling at the time. I would call back over and over, and jot down the names of bands that sounded interesting. I never actually bought any CDs from 1-800-MUSIC-NOW (neither did the rest of the world, apparently. It went out of business in little over a year), but it gave me some ideas on what to buy during those rare opportunities I had a chance to go to a city that was large enough to have a big-box store like Target that contained a halfway decent music section.

During my sophomore year of high school, a major breakthrough in my life came in the shape of PrimeStar satellite dish. One of my good friends’ parents had decided to get a PrimeStar dish (a precursor to DIRECTV) and now, for the first time in my life, I was able to enjoy heavy doses of MTV. I would finish up my job at the local grocery store at around 10 p.m. and go over to my friend’s house and we’d begin watching. It would start with Alternative Nation, which would go until midnight, at which time my friend would call it a night. I would continue to watch as the programming switched over [to] random videos, where my patience was tested with videos from other genres besides my beloved alt rock. At around 4 a.m., my friend’s parents would leave for work. Not wanting to have an awkward conversation discussing why I was up watching Mariah Carey videos at 4 a.m., I would pretend to be asleep. They turn the TV off and walk out the door. As soon as I’d hear their car leave the driveway, I’d fire up the TV and watch for a couple more hours before finally falling asleep.

Soon after this, I was able to save up enough money from said grocery store job to buy my first car. This changed everything. Minot, North Dakota was now just a couple-hours’ drive away. Minot is a pretty forgettable city, but it had an honest-to-goodness record store (Budget Music + Video), which had pretty much everything a ’90s alt-rock-loving teen with disposable income needed: CDs, t-shirts, posters, you name it. No more 1-800-MUSIC-NOW for this guy. I had made it to the big time.

 

Do you or someone you know have the biggest merch collection of a '90s band? Did you inspire a song? Do you run a fansite or zine? Let us know at our Facebook profile and we might feature you in a future article.