Back in the days when the M in MTV stood for music and not “More Ridiculousness,” there was a show called Club MTV.

Club MTV was the channel’s modern update on American Bandstand, featuring a room full of young people dancing to the latest dance music hits. The show was a key part of the channel’s schedule, with Downtown Julie Brown serving as host. Club MTV was basically a watered-down corporate version of a big city dance club, but it was on TV with songs I knew from the radio and I was only a kid so it was very cool. This is how I thought people dressed and danced, and “wubba wubba wubba” was just something English people said.

Besides being a launching point for The Real Housewives Of Beverly HillsCamille Grammer, the show was also a home for songs that were club hits, but not necessarily mainstream radio hits. Songs like Jomanda’s “Got A Love for You” and the Soup Dragons’ “I’m Free” found airplay here while the other MTV shows played the more mainstream hits. Would the KLF’s “3 a.m. Eternal” have gone from #94 on the Billboard Hot 100 in June to #5 by September if not for Club MTV? It’s certainly possible because that song is great, but it must have been a big help.

There was this moment in the early ’90s when dance felt vital and important, like it would take over the world. Everything was upbeat, everyone had moves, and I was convinced that not being able to dance like Brian Austin Green would lead to my ultimate downfall in the world of dating. This is why you never let a nine-year-old watch 90210.

Club MTV was the hottest, coolest thing back then, so I can only imagine how hot and cool a Club MTV Summerfest show was, but I’d really love to go back to July 2, 1991 and find out.

1991 was the second year that MTV ran a Club MTV tour around the country, with the 1990 iteration headlined by Paula Abdul, Information Society, and Milli Vanilli. Call me “Cold Hearted,” but I think the lineup that came to the Marcus Amphitheater during Summerfest 1991 was far better:

• Bell Biv DeVoe: Fresh off dominating 1990’s Billboard chart with the 4x platinum-selling Poison, BBD served as the show’s headliner.

“Poison,” the song, is one of the great party anthems of my life and would be the highlight to see live. The beat is unforgettable, all the kicks and snares imprinted on my brain, and the harmonizing is incredible. The lyrics are rather misogynistic and awful, but most people barely realize that now.

• C+C Music Factory: The definition of early ’90s dance music. They were touring in support of Gonna Make You Sweat, which spawned four Billboard Dance #1 hits. On a warm July day, that album title was not just a clever name.

If is to be believed, C+C Music Factory did less than 60 concerts in their heyday. By 1995, original member David Cole passed away, and Freedom Williams left the group to pursue a solo career. These combine to make this one of the most “you had to be there” shows in Summerfest history.

C+C Music Factory was one of the biggest bands of 1991, Gonna Make You Sweat sold over five million copies, they were all over the radio and MTV, they did this Club MTV tour, and then it was over. This version of the band would never exist again, those heights would never be reached again, and if you weren’t at this concert you would never see them like this again. [Editor’s note: You can see the current version of C+C Music Factory at Summerfest 2024 on July 6.] It shows how fleeting it all can be, another one of life’s mysteries that make you go hmmm.

• Gerardo: Yes, the “Rico Suave” guy.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Gerardo thanks to that song being an early favorite of mine, as well as his appearance in Can’t Buy Me Love. A Milwaukee Journal Sentinel interview with Gerardo, conducted by Mark Wallington, was published ahead of the show on June 28, 1991. The interview was very, let’s say, enamored with him.

Picking Latin superstud Gerardo out of the crowd of young performers set for Summerfest’s Club MTV show on July 3 won’t be tough. He’ll be the one with pants unbuckled showing off the white Calvin Klein undies, a bandanna over long black hair and, of course, a serious lack of shirt.

Is it getting hot in here?

With a lede like that, I might have to go back a few days before this was published to make sure I get tickets.

• Color Me Badd: “I Wanna Sex You Up” was a contender for 1991, but forget about that. Imagine seeing those brightly colored suits in person!

I could never be a person who complains about pop music these days because I want more than anything to go to an old Summerfest to hear this, “Do Me!” and “Rico Suave” from a shirtless Gerardo.

• Tony! Toni! Toné!: Probably the strangest fit on the bill. “Feels Good” matches the vibe, but most of their songs are pure R&B. I’m sure they were great, though.

Fun TTT fact: Their debut single “Little Walter” features Sinbad, who played Walter Oakes on A Different World. Honestly, a missed opportunity not to re-release this during Breaking Bad‘s run.

• Tara Kemp: She might be the least remembered on this list, but “Hold You Tight” is one of the best songs of any artist on this bill. As YouTube commenter @DNSKansas put it nine years ago: “This song was the bomb when I first heard in May 1991. Can’t get it out of my head.”

The sets were short and to the point. C+C Music Factory played for 35 minutes, enough to play all their hits and not completely burn out the crowd. Gerardo played for 20 minutes, enough time to sing “Rico Suave” five times. Perfect.

There is something to be said for a concert where a band plays a bunch of deep cuts and takes the audience on a journey. There is something else to be said for concerts where you hear all the songs you want to hear and that’s it. That something is that it seems like fun.

The idea of those “I Love the ’90s” concerts has always been appealing to me, but I’ve never been able to shake the feeling of how much cooler they would’ve been in the ’90s. In a way, that’s what this Club MTV tour was. A ’90s nostalgia tour taking place in real time. Before grunge and Nirvana had to come around and ruin it all.

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About The Author

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Vince Morales is a freelance writer and recovering Miller Park Drunk. He lives in Bay View and spends way too much time worrying about Hangman Page.