DJ Jazzy Jeff, Sisqo and more played their hits.
DJ Jazzy Jeff - Photo by Erica Thompson
Being nostalgic for the 1990s is cool right now, at least for the niche group that attended 90sFest at Columbus Commons on Friday, Sept. 16. Although the crowd didn't exactly pack the lawn, the event delivered on its promise of a totally engrossing time warp through music, fashion and activities.
Co-Founder Marc Weinstein said he drew inspiration from people like Warped Tour Founder Kevin Lyman when he helped form 90sFest in 2015.
"[Lyman] created something that was a brand first and really about the experience that was brought to the table," Weinstein said. "We're trying to make 90sFest just like that; it's about the fans first."
One thing '90s fans are obsessed with is Nickelodeon, and the brand dominated the fest. Attendees had their picture taken with TV characters, including a cardboard cutout of Reptar from "Rugrats" and the main character from "Hey Arnold!" - aka "football head" - who walked around the event.
The television network-based fun didn't end there. People signed up to get "slimed" as if they were characters on "Double Dare," and giddily raced through a "GUTS"-inspired obstacle course - complete with the Aggro Crag mountain. Two competitors included Mike Dombrowski and Rochelle Nevedal, who participated in season 26 of "The Amazing Race." They drove from Michigan to cover the event for a radio station. Nevedal said she fulfilled a childhood dream by participating in the Nickelodeon challenge.
Attendees showed up in their best and brightest '90s fashion. Plaid, pleated skirts and fanny packs were some of the most popular options.
But the nostalgia was fueled mostly by music, which is always a point of contention between generations touting their era's superiority. And discussions of authenticity were brought up by some of the artists themselves.
"If I could bring back anything from the '90s, it would be real singing and dancing," R&B artist Sisqo said backstage.
When asked the same question, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony's Wish Bone said "real lyrics."
If opening act RATM2 was striving for authenticity, it came pretty close; the band impressively mimicked the sound of Rage Against the Machine. Impersonation would have been a huge feat for the next band, Saved by the 90s, which instead put its unique stamp on a multitude of songs like the Spice Girls' "Wannabe" and Ginuwine's "Pony."
The first non-cover act was DJ Jazzy Jeff, who excited the crowd by spinning through classics like his and Will Smith's "Summertime," Arrested Development's "People Everyday" and, of course, the "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" theme song.
Host Pauly Shore showed up sometime after Jazzy Jeff, more than a little late and a little less than sober. However, he proved to be funny and entertaining, especially when he attempted some aerobics during the #90sFit segment. He also shouted out the Short North.
Like DJ Jazzy Jeff, the other artists put on a great show, and delivered exactly what the fans expected of them: their hits. In fact, each act had one massive song the crowd couldn't wait to hear -"Everything You Want" from Vertical Horizon, "Thong Song" from Sisqo, "Crossroads" from Bone-Thugs-N-Harmony and "All for You" from Sister Hazel. There were some appreciated bonuses, like Sisqo's rendition of "Billie Jean" - and execution of a mean Moonwalk - and Bone Thugs' tribute to Tupac.
After starting last year solely in New York, 90sFest has grown legs in 2016, adding stops in New York, New York, Columbus, Ohio, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
"I could see us doing a much bigger event with multiple stages by genre, and I think we'll be on the road next year, hitting a lot more cities," Weinstein said.
And as for future artists?
"I'm just letting Will Smith know - I'm putting him on blast - that he could be the headliner in every 90sFest going forward," he said.