Pearl Jam and Nirvana having done their part to bring alternative edge to 90’s mainstream, Green Day and Dave Matthews Band swooped in just after Neverland and Ten to further atomized the scene. Each at the top of their own alt-genre, Green Day’s Dookie (1994) heralding an era of mainstream pop-punk while Dave Matthews Band “chilled” the mainstream with their seven-times platinum album Crash (1996). Radio is far more diverse these days, and for that we can thank all of the aforementioned. But Bracket Madness means there can only be one Greatest Artist of the 90s. Who should it be?
Green Day started out as just a beloved pop punk outfit from Northern California, eyes heavy in eye-liner and their jackets sewn thick with patches, singing about how “When masturbation’s lost it’s fun, you’re f***ing lonely.” But by the time MTV picked up “Longview” and Dookie debuted on Reprise, all bets were off. They were screaming all those unforgettables through your parent’s televisions and they were winning arm-fulls worth of Grammys, too. Whereas Pearl Jam and Nirvana stewed in their teen spirit, Green Day had fun with it. Billie Joe Armstrong and his crew channeled their angst into catchy three-chord pop punk songs like “Basket Case” and “Brain Stew” that were anthemic enough to inspire sing-a-longs, but noisy enough to keep the parents away. Which was cool. And still is. These days, the guys are producing Broadway plays and sitting as judges on American Idol, but we still hear “Brain Stew” every time we turn on that alt-rock radio station. And to be sure, nary a life change has been let past since 1997 without that ceremonial playing of “Good Riddance.”
Laid back doesn’t have to be so easy. Led by Dave himself on the acoustic guitars and vocals, Dave Matthews Band fold jazz and funk and rock into laid-back rock songs that generally run longer than your average three-minute radio hit but shorter than, say, a full-fledged Phish jam. And so unlike jam bands past, they were able to fill arenas and earn regular rotation on the radio. They are also famed for their long and meandering shows, and the chilled out fans who attend. Like Deadheads before them, DMB fans trade bootlegs of live sets; but they buy the studio albums, too, and so many of them that Crash debuted at number two on the charts and soon thereafter went platinum. These guys aren’t your parent’s jam band, but you’re parents might like them anyways.
[Photos: Getty Images]