On Aug. 1, 1981, MTV was officially launched with the airing of a video for the Buggles' new-wave, synth/pop song "Video Killed the Radio Star." Who knew that fateful night the fledgeling TV station would create a new dynamic that changed not only the music industry, but also pop culture as we know it. Since then, '80s new-wave bands have ridden off into the sunset, but just as its fashions, they're back—and with a bang.
These days, bars and taverns are featuring nights devoted to '80s new wave, and radio programs are dedicating their air time to totally '80s playlists. Depeche Mode, U2, the Cure, Nine Inch Nails, Social Distortion, Echo & the Bunnymen, and Morrissey are still selling out arenas and stadiums, and shows such as the Like Totally '80s Festival are bringing the sound back to the masses.
Last summer, Sellout Productions CEO Scott Tucker and No Limits Marketing's Vanessa Turbay teamed up to put on the first Like Totally '80s Festival in Santa Ana. With great name bands, including '80s icon Dramarama, and support from local radio stations Jack FM and KX 93.5 in Laguna, the event was a grand success. According to Dramarama's John Easdale, Tucker and Turbay were tapping into a market that was long ignored in Orange County, and that first fest would be the beginning of a very successful run. We may want to call Easdale a prophet, as similarly themed festivals are now popping up everywhere.
Of all the types of festivals Tucker and Turbay could have invested in, why did they choose one devoted to '80s bands? "The music and the genre and the lifestyle that came out of the '80s takes me and my friends back to high school," Tucker says. "The resurgence of the '80s is only a bonus."
Another bonus is moving the event to Surf City. "I was born and raised in Orange County," Tucker says, "and . . . to be able to do these festivals in Huntington Beach, my hometown, makes going to work a great day."
Among the icons this year is the original lineup of Berlin. Expect Terri Nunn to sing works that helped to define the MTV generation: "The Metro," "Sex (I'm a . . .)," "Masquerade," "No More Words," "Pleasure Victim" and, of course, "Take My Breath Away," a song that is forever part of our cultural DNA. (If you're in the right age group, you are right now picturing Tom Cruise in Top Gun.)
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Also performing is A Flock of Seagulls, led by the dynamic Mike Score. Their signature hairdos were as well-known as their hits, including "I Ran (So Far Away)," "Space Age Love Song," "Wishing (If I Had a Photograph of You)" and "Telecommunication." Missing Persons—featuring Dale Bozzio, a staple of Southern California new-wave resurgence—will likely play "Destination Unknown," "Walking in L.A." and "Mental Hopscotch."
You can also catch Bow Wow Wow's charismatic front woman Annabella Lwin, and skank the night away with Jerry Miller and his ska/soul band, the Untouchables. And there will be outifts that don't come around too often anymore, such as B-Movie, the Reflexx, FARRINGTON + MANN of When in Rome UK, Men Without Hats, Nick Richards of Boys Don't Cry, and Debora Lyall of Romeo Void, among others. Once again hosting this '80s spectacular is radio legend Richard Blade.
For fans of '80s new wave, it's time to break out your spandex and Day-Glo outfits, tease up your hair, and get to this must-see event. You could reasonably argue, in this new wave of retro-cool, festivals saved the video star.
Like Totally '80s Festival at Huntington State Beach, 21899 Pacific Coast Hwy., Huntington Beach; www.liketotallyfestival.com. May 13, 11 a.m. $20-$70.