Looking Back on the Last Era: The 2000s

Looking back at the last era… the 2000s

Andrew Olson

Reader Weekly

As we approach the end of the year it seems difficult to believe that the first decade of the new millennium is coming to an end. Last week we talked with some of the people who made Duluth what it has been over the last ten years musically. This week we will look back at the National scene.

When people talk about the past decades there is always something that defines the era. In the sixties it was Vietnam, Beatles, protesting, Dylan, and JFK being assassinated. The last decade was filled with its own tragedies like 9/11, Katrina, and two wars that haven’t ended yet. We also elected our first African American President and can no longer think of life without Google searches, text messages, or speedy internet access. The Banks abandoned reason and followed the corporate model to fleece America of its retirement and home equity, but they also consumed themselves in the process. We stand at a precipice, looking ahead to what our prospects will be, seeming to care very little about the future.

And then there was the music of the 2000s.


The musician who owned the decade hands down was Jack White. He revived a sound and defined a generation. From 1999-2008 it was The White Stripes, 2004-2008 The Raconteurs, and 2009 it was The Dead Weather. This isn’t even mentioning other various side projects (Loretta Lynn) and bands who have covered White’s music to create careers of their own (Joss Stone).

White’s latest band The Dead Weather played a raucous show this past summer inDenver, Colorado. After the concert there were a few young high school kids hanging out and waiting by the band’s tour bus. They talked of how they had just started to get into Jack White a few years before and how they revered him as a god today. In Salt Lake City on the next evening there were a different set of young high school guys who came running out from behind the building saying they had just waved to Jack White and he waved back. They went back to that area and got autographs from the rest of the band on a drumhead they stole by reaching through the bars to the band’s equipment. They were too young for the 21+ show and had climbed up a fire escape to listen at a door above the stage.

These situations give hope for the future of rock and roll. Jack White is also featured with Jimmy Page and The Edge of U2 in the film It Might Get Loud (came out on DVD December 22nd). He is a living incarnate of someone like Jimi Hendrix and anyone who wishes they would have seen someone like Hendrix play while he was alive must see him play as soon as possible.

The rock bands that defined the era like Jet, The Strokes, The Hives, The Vines, System of a Down, Sparta, The Killers, Evanescence or Mars Volta came on strong, but faded too soon. There also were the jam bands like Phish, String Cheese, Dave Matthews, and many others who ruled the festival circuit and were huge draws. We learned of the Burning Man Festival, Bonnaroo, Coachella, and even saw Lollapalooza return despite the burning of Woodstock in 99’.

The top female artist of the decade would have to be Alicia Keys, but when looking back it seems like women owned the past decade. Then we have the whole thing of emos becoming screamos, but who knows what will happen next with that genre? Shinedown and Saving Abel were great to see in Duluth this past year and had more attendees than I can remember seeing at an outdoor concert up here in some time… So there is a base that is strong.

For pop music, which hit new highs and new lows, the take over of America by American Idol created Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood. The complete dismantling of MTV and VH1 and their reemergence as reality dating show networks has shown that TV has hit rock bottom as a whole. TLC began as a channel to learn about humans and science, but now it focuses solely on reality shows about huge dysfunctional families. Even the History Channel went from documentaries about George Washington to ones about gangs living in on the rough streets of WashingtonDC. Why even have cable any more?

The pop artists who owned the past era were the performers like Beyonce, Gwen, Kanye, Justin, Outkast, Luda, Avril, or Pink. They sold more Cds and downloads than any band ever did and each defined their own moment. The past few years have seen the takeover by Lady GaGa, Black Eyed Peas, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus and Rhianna. Britney Spears was teetering on Anna Nicole territory for a while, but there needs to be a cut off of who was big in the nineties and who washed up in the era.

While reading through Rolling Stone and their top decade articles it was disturbing at how they would knock something on one list and revere it in the next. It also seems odd that many artists that they claim define the decade are ones from previous eras.

Take Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Green Day, U2, or many others who magazines claim defined the last ten years. I can kind of accept Radiohead, even though they define the mid-to-late nineties to me, but they did release a couple decent albums early in the decade. They also became innovative with internet releases of songs and an entire album.

It feels strange to think that another decade has passed and a new one has just begun. Imagine life without Myspace or finding your oldest friends and family on Facebook… Or when you were found on Facebook by people long forgotten.

It really feels that during the early part of the new century local bands were the music everyone was into. While the mainstream music scene was still hanging onto nineties artists like N’SYNC and Christina Aguilera most people turned to their local scene and made it a very healthy environment. When The Strokes, Hives, Vines, and White Stripes first became known nationally there was hope for the future. Then came a rock revival with Queens of the Stone Age and Foo Fighters, keeping the torch lit.

In most British magazines The Strokes, White Stripes, Queens, and other rock bands rule their lists of the tops. American magazines focus more on Beyonce, Kanye, Bruce Springsteen, and other mega-stars. Both scenes gave us great music and great memories. One band that seems to be growing in popularity nationally this year is Dr. Dog. They’re right on the cusp of breaking big, and songs like “Hang On” are instantly charming and catchy.

Locally there are bands like The Acceleratti, Cars & Trucks, Black Eyed Snakes, and Stel and Lefty that are going strong this year. You can catch most (or portions) of them on New Year’s Eve Night at R.T. Quinlin’s, Pizza Luce’, and Thirsty Pagan Brewery.

Visit www.thefountainheads.com for all of Andrew Olson’s articles.