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Those who learned to love music during the ’90s have long stood by and watched their favorite bands’ cultural cachet fade faster than a pair of Eddie Vedder’s jeans. But lately there’s been a glimmer of hope for the alternative nation’s continued relevance. There’s a Democrat in the White House again. Stone Temple Pilots recently shared a bill with the Meat Puppets at Merriweather Post Pavilion. And this fall, several avatars of the slacker era will hit the road in an attempt to indefinitely extend their 120 minutes.
During the early ’90s, Dinosaur Jr. (which performs Thursday, Oct. 8, at the 9:30 Club) were at the vanguard of eardrum-reaming guitar rock. Now, more than a decade after the original trio of J. Mascis, Lou Barlow, and Murph disbanded, Dinosaur is a pioneer again: it was among the first alt-rock groups to climb aboard the reunion bandwagon. Cynical as that sounds, the band’s recent records—2007’s Beyond and this year’s Farm—are on par with anything they did back when long underwear was being worn in public.
North Carolina math-rockers Polvo, performing Saturday, Sept. 26, at Black Cat, also seem to have benefited from an extended break. In fact, the group’s new record, In Prism, finds the band’s musical arithmetic sharper than ever. On the other hand, Sunny Day Real Estate (at the 9:30 club on Wednesday, Sept. 26) doesn’t need a bunch of new songs to get excited about being back on the road. The Seattle-based emo progenerators just rereleased their two best records—1994’s Diary and 1995’s LP2.
Grant-Lee Phillips, who hits Vienna’s Jammin’ Java on Friday, Nov. 20, didn’t need to reunite with anybody or rerelease anything—he just needed to get back on message. After his band, Grant Lee Buffalo, finally called it quits during the late ’90s, the singer/songwriter briefly abandoned guitars for drum machines and keyboards. That sound didn’t hold up so well. But the ethereal Americana that he stumbled on a decade ago—a sort of Neil Young meets Echo & the Bunnyman mish-mash—endures.
If you’re Juliette Lewis, the songs are really beside the point. In the 1995 film Strange Days, the actress played a futuristic alt-rock star who performed in front of hundreds of writhing fans. In reality, these were paid extras writhing for union wages. Hoping to invert that formula, she founded the real-life rock band. Now fans and admirers can lay down a few dollars for the pleasure of seeing Juliette Lewisin person while pretending to enjoy her music when she performs at the Rock & Roll Hotel on Tuesday, Sept. 22. Very meta.