Joshua Tehee

If you love the ’90s, Strummer’s theme nights capture the nostalgia, positive vibes and music of the era

Jeremy Brownstein and Gina Perez pose inside the photo booth at their ’90s Night event at Strummer’s. The next event happens Friday, April 14 and has a spring break theme.
Jeremy Brownstein and Gina Perez pose inside the photo booth at their ’90s Night event at Strummer’s. The next event happens Friday, April 14 and has a spring break theme.

It’s spring break week, so obviously that’s the theme of Jeremy Brownstein and Gina Perez’ next ’90s Night gig.

“Everyone remembers MTV’s spring break and how ridiculous they were,” says Brownstein, who along with Perez has been hosting 1990s themed parties at Strummer’s every three months for the past two years. The so-called ’90s Night: Spring Break Edition, which happens Friday night, won’t have a guest spot from Jerry Springer, sadly. But it will have two dance floors playing ’90s hits; plus a beach-themed photo booth and a few inflatable beach balls, because there has to be beach balls, right?

Very likely, there will also be a line of people around the corner, dressed up and waiting to get in. The events have consistently drawn big crowds to the club. They popular enough that Brownstein has heard that other Tower District spots play ’90s music on those nights, too, just to cater to the overflow.

“You’ll see people from all walks of life dance and sing at the top of their lungs in unison,” says Eddy Burgos, who does the bulk of Strummer’s bookings. “The organizers have been able to tap in to the playful, self-deprecating spirit of the decade and create a fun non-threatening non-too-cool-for-school attitude.”

Yes, the nostalgia is heavy, Brownstein says. He grew up in the 1990s and has interest in the music and style of the era. He remembers it as a simple time.

“You came home from school and played Super Nintendo. Maybe you watched the Box. Maybe you watched MTV,” he says. “Even politics was a breeze.”

Of course, a sizable portion of the crowd were probably toddlers in the ’90s, Burgos says. So it’s not just about reliving past glories.

“The sights, sounds and posi-vibes keep people coming back for more,” he says.

To that end, Brownstein and Perez handle the music and visuals in the main room, where they take over the stage and play a music video mix on the big screen. It’s mostly pop and hip-hop from the era, though some rock and metal makes the list. Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” does really well, Brownstein says. Limp Bizkit, not so much.

When the pair did its tribute to Selena last year, the crowd sang along to every song all night long, Brownstein says. It was the most popular theme-night, so far. People dressed up. Some even made memorials to the late Tejano singer.

But it’s not all just the hits, either. Burgos holds things down in the bar stage, DJing a set of ’90s deep cuts.

“The decade has so much rich musical history. It’s only fair to pay homage to the many genres that were spawned and arguably peaked in that time frame,” he says. “I’ll throw on golden era hip-hip, brit-pop, alt-rock, ’90s ska/punk, metal, English electronic.”

Of course, he gets to the usual ’90s bangers by the end of the night.

The idea came after Brownstein and Perez stumbled onto a ’90s party in Los Angeles, where these kinds of events happen as often as once a week. There were more than a thousand people at this particular event and they were “printing shirts on the fly, pressing button, taking pictures,” Brownstein says.

He wanted to recreate that vibe in Fresno.

Of course, it’s not the only themed night happening in town; or at Strummer’s. The venue also hosts a night of emo music. Fulton 55 does a monthly Motown Night with live music, and a ’90s-heavy live band karaoke night.

Right now, any money Brownstein makes from the event is going toward a vegan comfort food truck he hopes to open with Perez next year. They have no plans to do the event more often, but there could be a time when it moves to a larger venue. They’re already having trouble fitting in the photo booth. Brownstein could see a large-scale version of ’90 night happening at a place like the Rainbow Ballroom. He jokes with Perez that maybe someday they might even look into a special guest for the night. Maybe not a Jerry Springer status star, but one of the original Power Rangers at least.

Joshua Tehee: 559-441-6479, @joshuatehee

’90s Night