More Culture:

April 24, 2017

The Jayhawks, Juliana Hatfield & Tobin Sprout rock Philly tonight

These classic, grunge-era artists take over the region for one night only

You don’t have to break out the flannel and platform shoes tonight even though a retro revival is upon us. 

Monday, April 24 is ‘90s night in the area, but it features recording artists who flew below the radar during the grunge era.

The Jayhawks will play a sold-out show at the Sellersville TheaterJuliana Hatfield appears at Boot & Saddle and Tobin Sprout will headline Johnny Brenda’s.

None of the three critical darlings are bombastic or cliche-ridden like many of the chest-pounders who reigned during the Clinton years. The Jayhawks are arguably the greatest unsung band of the ‘90s. Their baroque amalgam of country, folk, and rock, buoyed by gorgeous harmonies set the act apart from its peers.

“There was nobody else like us at that time,” vocalist-guitarist Gary Louris said. 

“There were bands around the country like Jason and the Scorchers who were playing this style of music, but there was nothing like this in Minneapolis. But the cool thing was that Minneapolis embraced all different kinds of music, and we did well locally. But the record labels didn’t know exactly what to do with us.”

“Hollywood Town Hall,” which was released in 1992, was one of the finest albums of a very strong year. The songs are melodic, poignant and gorgeous. “Hollywood Town Hall” and the follow-up, 1995’s “Tomorrow the Green Grass” sound nothing like anything from that era.

“The Jayhawks are such a unique band and they’ve had such an impact on me,” Seth Avett said after a screening of “May It Last: A Portrait of the Avett Brothers,” last month at South By Southwest. “They don’t get enough credit.”

Kinks icon Ray Davies is so enamored of the Jayhawks that his latest album, “Americana,” which dropped last week, features the Jayhawks as his backing unit.

When College Radio was actually a format, it embraced Juliana Hatfield after the release of her high water mark “Hey Babe.” The 1992 full-length features powerful pop-rock that is personal and provocative. The single “Lost and Saved” was criminally overlooked. “Nirvana” is a paean to Hatfield’s favorite band before the iconic trio’s breakthrough “Nevermind” burst the hair-metal bubble.

Hatfield signed to a major label and scored plenty of MTV play and had a pair of hits: “My Sister” and “Spin the Bottle,” but she never hit pop’s upper echelon. The delicate and complicated singer-songwriter recently recorded as a duo with Paul Westerberg dubbed The I Don’t Cares.

Tobin Sprout is a well-respected solo artist, but he’s best known for his work with Guided By Voices. Sprout was part of the brilliantly idiosyncratic lo-fi heroes when the act was at its sodden peak.

Sprout penned a number of songs, which appeared on such classic GBV albums as “Bee Thousand,” “Alien Lanes” and “Under the Bushes, Under the Stars.” His latest solo album, “The Universe and Me,” is full of celebratory, witty and eccentric indie-rock. Unlike prolific GBV leader Robert Pollard, Sprout has the ability to craft sweet songs. For fans of lo-fi rock, Sprout still loves using the four-track. It sounds like 1994 all over again throughout "The Universe and Me.”

That’s not a bad thing, even though that was before the Internet and cell phones were pervasive. Times have changed, but the desire for the classic sounds of the ‘90s remains.