Thursday, February 14, 2008

I WAS 99x...

See, sometimes I promise a "Part 2" to a post and actually get around to writing it! (It was this or complain about the Radiohead pre-sale for Atlanta being over before I could buy some nice floor seats--this is a perk to having a "grown-up" job that I was not made aware of enough in High School. Probably because it's a tiny percent of people past regular college age--say 23 and up--that go to concerts outside of the occasional, lavish and expensive nostalgia tour de jour a la The Stones.)

96 Rock was actually the first radio station I ever wanted to turn a radio dial to growing up. I can't remember exactly how long ago this was--I was in elementary school--but it was before Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar On Me" took over the airwaves. I know that because I had 96 Rock on my parents' car's preset by that time. Didn't have any idea what the song was about, and probably took the title literally and thought the singer was a tad strange ("why would he want to have sugar poured on him? Won't that attract ants? Cool!") but damn it did rock hard.

But my loyalties would be tested soon after. Blame Tone Loc for that. I'm sure I heard Run DMC at some point, and I definitely remember L.L. Cool J's "I need love" (and even roller skated to it--yes readers, I was born when Jimmy Carter was president, in the 70s and when I realize stuff like this, I feel that age) but Tone Loc's "Wild Thing" was the first rap song I remember going nuts over. Throw in partial blame to MTV for this, as somehow, despite not having cable, I caught the video on MTV. The record scratching was what did it for me. I know this because about 7 years ago when my folks wanted to loan out their LP of The Jungle Book to own of my cousins to play for her kids, they discovered again the damage an aspiring ameteur record-scratcher can do to with a regular turntable and attempts at making "Big Beat Baloo".
(They don't look it, but they're B-Boys, makin' with the freak-freak.)

This was a problem for 96Rock and me. I suddenly liked rap (well, the sanitized, slow-flow rap getting airplay at the time). They didn't play rap. Enter Power 99.7.

They played rap, but they also played tons of other cool (to me at the time) stuff. I remember in particular a late 80s/early 90s Top 5 countdown that included Guns N' Roses and Sinead O'Connor. I also remember GnR's "Welcome to the Jungle" being the first song my folks didn't much like their young son really enjoying.
(I also highly recommend keeping his book away from young, impressionable youths.)

Then, about the same time as the Wayne's World soundtrack exposed a whole new generation to headbanging and the gloriousness that is Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" they started a nightly show called On The Edge with Will Pendarvis. It was beyond cool to me not only because of the music played, but hey, the DJ has the same first name as me! (Again, remember this is tail-end of elementary school/start of grade school me. I'm marginally more mature and grown-up now.)

Power 99 became 99X right as puberty hit me. Que the amateur psychologists with theories about how we could "change together" worked. And keep reading, because there may be something to that...

Seventh Grade was probably the year I first really started identifying with music, and defining myself by the bands I liked. I also got my first guitar then, and promptly went from being one of the smart kids to being the "hiding his smarts because he saw the smart kids get the shit kicked out of them and vainly trying to define himself as the edgy/arty musician/comic book artist-type". Without a love of music or playing guitar, I was just another skinny kid with braces and a burgeoning case of acne wondering when he'd get armpit hair.

With a love of music and playing guitar, all those things were still true, but I had something else to talk about. And when lunchroom discussions of how cool every track on Pearl Jam's Ten, or both Use Your Illusion albums ended, 99X was there to introduce new and cooler (or seemingly new and seemingly cooler) bands.

About a year later, I knew (at least in my head) I was kind of cool, because, thanks to 99X I listened to Stone Temple Pilots, and Soundgarden, and that Danzig song "Mother", and Pearl Jam, and Nirvana was already too overhyped for me.

It was also entering the mid-90s, which is when 99X was really at their peak.

In Spring of '94 one of their DJs had traveled to Australia, either for vacation or to check out the Big Day Out festival there, I forget which. While there he heard a song called "Tomorrow" by a band of barely high school aged Aussie radio contest winners on Triple J (pretty much the Aussie equivalent of KROC, crossed with 99X at their peak, and still pretty cool today) called Silverchair.
(Given what I now know about Australian faunae, this little guy would probably kill you if you touched him barefoot.)
He got a hold of either their demo, or an EP, and started playing "Tomorrow" on 99X when he was back in the states. It blew up, and other songs from the EP (including "Blind" and "Acid Rain" neither of which made Frogstomp, and I paid some $20 to get on the imported four-song "Tomorrow" EP at Media Play or Tower Records). Not only was it a great moment of a DJ sharing some music he'd discovered and found cool, it hit me on another level: here was a band made up by kids only a year or two older than I was. They were on the radio, they had a major label album coming out, Daniel Johns was getting interviewed in guitar player. If he could do it: so could I! I hadn't been playing guitar for long, and wasn't yet ready to play anything like Pantera or Metallica, or copy Slash's guitar solos. But I could play Silverchair.

Silverchair and 99X combined forces to put together an Atlanta Big Day Out in fall of '94 as well: it was my second ever concert (I'd seen the odd bill of Candlebox opening for Metallica the summer before I started high school) and it was my first "festival show." In addition to Silverchair, we got to see The Ramones, it was the last tour appearance for Shannon Hoon and Blind Mellon, and I'm pretty sure some other cool bands were on the bill too.

It was also the first show where the fun and social experience of a large concert--and the joys of lawn seats--really hit me. I went with a group of about four kids, all of us freshmen, who would eventually get together and form a lousy garage band. But while wandering around the lawn we ran into a bunch of other familiar faces--including this older girl in my chemistry class I had a bit of a thing for, who I talked into sharing her beer with me--and even some of my old neighbors I hadn't seen in years. In the years since I was a mainstay at Big Day Outs, and would insist on lawn seats for almost any show at Lakewood.

Best time had at a Big Day Out: a rainy afternoon in the later 90s, in which my skinny ass, with lots of help, did a decent job in a large, muddy mosh pit to the unlikely musical backdrop of Poe, and later, the Replacements...followed by great sets from the headliners: Beck and 311. The whole thing probably cost all of $15 bucks.

Best line-up: While I dug that Beck/311 double bill, the best line-up I saw was years later, when Big Day Out moved back from the Conyers Horse Park to Lakewood--but with a locals only stage and side stage. They had David Ryan Harris's new (at the time) band Brand New Immortals, and my future buddies Left Front Tire on the local stage, Deftones and Incubus on the side stage, and Green Day and Stone Temple Pilots on the main stage.

The downside to that massive thing was I was struck by how it didn't feel as fun as the earlier big day outs. My group kept getting split up, and while I ran into some other familiar faces, the Huge Group Getting Together and Having Fun vibe ended for me with the 98 Big Day Out over in Conyers.
(And I was primarily in Conyers to see these guys play this song, which the the soundtrack to my picking which college to attend.)

And if I couldn't make it out to a show, or, my folks wouldn't let me (this happened more in the middle school years), or if I couldn't get time off from work, 99X broadcast a lot of these shows live (sometimes even with cursing, and without commercials.)

For years I treasured the two cassette tapes I recorded Pearl Jam's summer '94 show at the Fox Theater on. Years later, when they gathered a ton of bands (including Collective Soul and Marvelous 3) at the Atlanta Raceway for a huge show, I was able to at least hear on the radio the great cover of "I will follow" with Butch Walker and the dude from Eve 6 helping out Collective Soul on vocals. (By the way, I highly recommend all old-school fans head over to and check out the live audio they have of this, and other shows.)
(And in this photo, Mr. Walker gives a lesson in stage presence while Tobias Funke hides in the lower righthand corner.)

Every Sunday around 9 or 10 they'd have a Live X and we'd get at least an hour of live music from some cool band. And if I plugged my headphones in (so the folks couldn't hear) later on I could listen to the Pleasure Dome (and now we get back to the whole puberty thing). It was like a local version of the Dr. Drew show more or less. They had Yvonne Monet (who was best known for playing dance music on Saturday nights) and Dr. Roger Libby, and, as public school sex education was teaching me nothing beyond "when the teacher asks for any questions, it doesn't mean she'll actually answer any of them" it was this one radio show that helped me realize "wait, you won't go blind if you do that," and "wait, sex isn't necessarily bad or evil outside of marriage," and "wait, girls are horny too?"

The glory days of 99X for me were a lot like the stories above: I slowly learned to be less of a conservative headcase, and got to rock out to some great music (plus some music that hasn't aged as well, but I can say I never saw Limp Bizkit live in my defense.)

I saw Silverchair and wanted to be them. I felt very cool seeing a local metal band called Sevendust tear up the local stage at Music Midtown before they'd blow up nationally. And I remember Butch Walker inviting 20,000 people to come by Smith's Olde Bar after he was done playing--and Butch and several hundred people doing just that (including yours truly.)
In short: 99X cared, 99X was worth listening to, 99x Rocked. And the will be missed.

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