Simon Reynolds’ article in Slate on grunge nostalgia is a good read. Especially the idea that grunge was “the last blast of rock as a force at once central in popular culture yet also running counter to mainstream show biz values.” I agree. The White Stripes might have come as close to that as anyone since then, but in the end they didn’t change much of anything.
But one thing Reynolds gets totally wrong is the idea that nostalgia is something new: “a pop culture increasingly characterized by a compulsion to revisit and reconsume its own past.” In reaction to the weird news that the Reading Festival in England will screen video of Nirvana’s 1992 Reading performance, Reynolds asks:
whether the promoters of Woodstock, or the first Lollapalooza in 1991, would have lowered a giant screen onstage and projected footage of a gig from two decades earlier? The answer is no: They were too busy confidently making history to bother with referring back to it.
Not quite. Who played the penultimate set at Woodstock in 1969? Sha Na Na. That’s right: Sha Na fucking Na, who dressed in gold lamé and covered 50s songs.
As for the first Lollapalooza, two of the nine bands were Siouxsie and the Banshees (formed in 1976) and the Violent Femmes (formed in 1980). Old.
Granted, none of that is quite as ridiculous as interrupting a festival of live music with an onstage screening of a 19 year old video. But still. Nostalgia in pop culture is as old as pop culture itself.
Video: Sha Na Na – At the Hop