It was a minute past the golden age of nineties alt-rock when legendary bassist and alternative nation godfather Mike Watt had Eddie Vedder issue a stern warning that “the kids of today should defend themselves against the seventies.” (“Against the 70s,” from 1995’s “Ballhog or Tugboat.”)
Fortunately for Le Tigre’s mustachioed bassist-gone-DJ JD Samson, and NYC cool merchant Lauren Flax, Watt issued no such warning against the nineties. And now, after cranking up Peabody’s WABAC Machine for the very successful U.N.I.T.Y. 90s Dance Party in Brooklyn, the duo are set to take their recent-yet-retro party on the road, with their Chicago appearance at Buddha being the first outside of New York. And no, there was no typo, we are talking about a party that honors the nineties—the era that ushered in cuffed jeans, Cross Colors and Color Me Badd.
“The party is so unpretentious because people are embarrassed, usually…but we embrace it,” explains Samson. Flax agrees.
“I actually used to hate some of these songs when they came out, like Chumbawumba or [Semisonic’s] ‘Closing Time.’ God, they really used to play it at closing time when it came out—and now we do,” laughs Flax. “I love it.”
The theme of the night is a decade, not a genre, and Samson describes the game plan so far. “I feel like we start off with slow jams and move to R&B, and then hip-hop and dance.”
“New jack swing,” Flax interjects, “[then] alternative.”
“Hole and Rage [Against the Machine] are a big hit late in the night,” agrees Samson.
The very mention of the word “alternative” brings up more musical acts and a discussion about nineties MTV VJs like Matt Pinfield, Dr. Dre & Ed Lover, Kennedy, Jesse—hell, even Adam Curry. Getting back on track, we talk about Samson’s continued activity as a DJ (proving her motivations are more than just another rockstart-turned-DJ dalliance) and her love for pleasing and entertaining her fans and community.
“I won’t stop making people enjoy themselves as long as I live,” she says. Yet it was Flax’s idea to join her in doing a night honoring perhaps un-coolest decade in the hippest of NYC neighborhoods in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Populist playlists trumped chin-stroking elitism—and it worked. “I just think it’s time people didn’t think about the coolness factor to their dancing and singing. If we all know the words and feel them, then we all win,” Samson continues, citing “Rhythm Is A Dancer” as a guilty favorite.
So is there anything that the duo won’t play?
“‘Black Velvet,’” chimes in Flax. “I will NOT play that. I might play ‘I Touch Myself.’”
“I’ve been known to play that horrible ‘Cotton Eye Joe’ song,” adds Samson. (Duke Shin)
The U.N.I.T.Y. 90s Dance Party feat. JD Samson & Lauren Flax drops in on Outdanced! at Funky Buddha, 728 West Grand, (312)666-1695, on February 12, 10pm-2am. $5, rsvp to firstname.lastname@example.org for free admission before 11pm.