The Players: Britney “Left Eye” Aguilera (Mara Hitner), lead vocals; Suge White (Joseph DiLeva), bass, vocals; Chazz Starr (Pancho Burgos), keyboards, vocals; Wayne Grohl (Jon Poli), drums, vocals; Mookie Blaylock (Flint Mavis), guitar.
Material: Flannel, torn jeans, heroin—they’re all back in style. And now there’s a band performing ‘90s radio hits at clubs in L.A.? Cut. It. Out. Giving boy and girl bands, one- hit wonders and gangsta rappers their due props, Hit Me 90s came into being after the bandmembers’ former group, an ‘80s covers band called Mara & the Big Rockstars, ran its course. A decade into performing together, they haven’t lost sight of their singular and simple goal: having fun.
Musicianship: The five musicians who form the group could easily use prerecorded tracks as a crutch, but they actually bring live instrumentation to the stage. Whether it be good fortune or good strategy, the songs Hit Me 90s chooses to cover—Britney Spears’ “... Baby One More Time,” blink-182’s “All the Small Things,” Nine Days’ “Absolutely (Story of a Girl)”—require minimal musical skill. That is hella cool, because it gives guitarist Mookie Blaylock, bassist Suge White, drummer Wayne Grohl and keyboardist Chazz Starr that much more freedom to goof around.
Performance: Hit Me 90s put on a quintessentially interactive show; indeed, without the audience dancing and singing along to songs like “Tubthumping” (Chumbawumba) and “Gangsta’s Paradise” (Coolio), their gigs might get rather...err... awwwk-ward. Fortunately that wasn’t the case at Saint Rocke, where the group played its first gig in front of a sizable crowd. The band spurred the crowd into action and further amused it with a TV theme song medley, a modem dialing up, a pager “accidentally” going off and other interludes/skits. Sadly, lead singer Mara Hitner (dressed as Spears during the show) told Music Connection later on that she had been suffering from a cold, which would explain her limited vocal range that night.
Summary: Music lovers keen to hear their favorite ‘90s songs in an interactive setting might be more inclined to hit a karaoke bar than see a band take a stab at re-creating them. Also, it’s nearly impossible to imagine Hit Me 90s releasing an album—after all, what would be the point? And it seems equally unlikely that any extensive touring would be in order, at least in the immediate future. But as a novelty group, sure, it works.
– Kurt Orzeck