In the mid-’90s Orange County-based rock bands Lit and Zebrahead were playing backyard parties together, tearing it up in front of intimate, yet rowdy crowds at Club 396 in Fullerton and trusting each other enough to give one another haircuts while maybe not in the straightest frame of mind as they were hanging out at friends’ houses in Los Angeles.

“I have all of these old photos of us when we were like traveling in vans and RVs and we’re just hanging outside of the RVs or these tiny clubs,” Zebrahead vocalist Ali Tabatabaee said during a recent phone interview. “I also found these photos of us hanging out in Hollywood back in the day at a friend’s house and Ajay (Popoff of Lit) is giving me a mohawk and we’re all hammered. He has the buzzers and he’s trying to focus to make my mohawk straight. We were young.”

As both bands found success in the late ’90s with hit songs that took them from backyard parties and RV traveling to more luxurious flight accommodations and slots on big-name music festivals, they hadn’t had the opportunity to play together much since. They’ll reunite for a couple of Southern California shows on Wednesday, Oct. 18 at House of Blues in San Diego and Thursday, Oct. 19 at House of Blues in Anaheim.

“We played so many Orange County clubs with Zebrahead as we were both coming up,” Ajay Popoff said during a separate phone interview. “Then we both got our record deals and we went off to do big boy stuff, but I want to say the last time we played together was like 2001 at House of Blues Anaheim. Maybe we’ve done a festival here or there, but these shows coming up, they’re going to feel like real old school hometown shows because it’s those guys and us. And we have Fenix TX with us, too, so it’s really going to be a soundtrack of our coming up days.”

The Southern California gigs come ahead of Lit, Zebrahead and Fenix TX heading to Las Vegas to be a part of the second annual When We Were Young Festival, which also features Green Day, Blink-182, Good Charlotte, The Offspring, Thrice, Something Corporate, Yellowcard, Simple Plan and dozens more, on Oct. 21-22.

Last year, the massive festival with more than 40 bands sold out three days (the first day ended up getting canceled due to high winds) and boasted an entirely different lineup that was more focused on the emo/screamo scene of the early to mid ’00s. This year’s edition is two sold-out days and has a more ’90s punk and pop punk bend. And it’s not just the old guard showing up to these festivals, there are a lot of young faces in the crowd. Both Popoff and Tabatabaee have noticed the rise in younger fans coming out to see them play, most of them out with their parents who introduced them to the bands in the first place.

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“The kids now are old enough to come to shows and they’re becoming fans not just of the nostalgia, but of the genre in general,” Popoff said. “I also think there are people who just want to go back to that sound of bands from that era and they wanna feel good and escape the times we’re in right now and some of that doom and gloom. They wanna remember what it felt like when they heard these songs on the radio and how it felt to go to KROQ’s Weenie Roast. It was before everyone was sort of so bogged down by media.”

While Lit broke into the mainstream with “Miserable” and the inescapable hit “My Own Worst Enemy” off of its 1999 album, “A Place in the Sun,” Zebrahead hit with its 1998 single “Get Back” and its 2000 album, “Playmate of the Year,” landed on the No. 4 on the rock charts. Zebrehead’s fourth album, “MFZB,” also spawned the single “Rescue Me,” which still pops up in the band’s set lists.

But these guys aren’t just leaning on the past. Both acts have gone on to release several more albums including “Tastes Like Gold,” which came out last year and finds Lit tapping into a bit of that ’99 magic with a modern twist. Since they’re currently touring so much overseas, Zebrahead has switched over to releasing EPs that they crank out in between tours including 2021’s “III” and “II” dropped back in February. Tabatabaee said a new EP should be out by spring.

“We find when we’re home and we write these songs, they’re just more cohesive this way,” he said. “Also, when you’re leaving and coming back (from tour) you’re in a different mindset and have different experiences, so right now we’re working this way where we come home and work on a bunch of songs and finish them. Normally it’s 6-8 songs if we’re working aggressively. It’s more fun to do it this way right now.”

Lit and Zebrahead

When: 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 19

Where: House of Blues, 400 Disney Way #337, Anaheim

Tickets: $29.50 at

Also: 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 18 at House of Blues, 1055 Fifth Ave., San Diego. $27.50-$127.50 at

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