Hop into your DeLorean, fire up the flux capacitor, pack your best parachute pants and go back in time when That 80's Band plays hits from the big hair decade in a free concert 7-10 p.m. tonight at in Wentzville.
The five-member band has a working repertoire of about 100 songs, from A-Ha to ZZ Top. The first thing fans have to understand when they request a song is it had better be from the years when Ronald Reagan was president, Michael Jackson and Madonna topped the charts and Eddie Murphy was the biggest box office star on the planet.
"It has to be from the ‘80s," said guitarist-vocalist Dave Evans, whose stage character is Izzy Furreal. "We’re very disciplined about that. There are a lot of bands around town who say, ‘We’re an ‘80s band,’ but they can’t stick to it."
In addition to Evans, the band includes guitarist-vocalist Jeni Harris as Valerie Girl; bassist-vocalist Jeff Peterson, whose character is Mick Fly; keyboardist-vocalist Dan Elze as Dan Duran; and drummer Dave Held, also known as Johnny Swatch. For the band, many of whom grew up in the ‘80s, choosing a style of music when they formed in 2003 was an easy decision.
"At the time this band started, everyone thought it would be a cool idea to do an ‘80s tribute band," Evans said. "We liked the music and the style of the era. So we put it together ... and it took off, it did really well. Better than anyone expected, really."
From the stage names, big hair and ‘80s style costumes to props, including large Rubik’s cubes and a giant swatch, the band strives to re-create the feel and look of the era.
"The ‘80s were really big about image and showmanship, and we are too," Evans said. "That’s why we go to great lengths to make it as appealing a show as possible."
The audience appreciates the effort.
"We have a great reaction," Evans said. "We are primarily a dance band. People like to get out and have fun and dance. I think that’s kind of what the ‘80s were about. It was a happy time. It was just fun music. People really relate to that."
The costumes and hair foster such a complete transformation that the band members are sometimes able to travel incognito off stage.
"At some gigs where we have a dressing room, we can actually go on our breaks, put on our street clothes and walk around, and no one knows who we are," Evans said. "We get asked sometimes if we work for the band, if we’re roadies or whatever. We say, ‘Oh yeah, we know those guys.’ We like to have fun with people."
Performing live is what That 80's Band members enjoy the most.
"Music is just what we all do," he said. "All of us have been doing this for a long time. It’s kind of what we were born to do--to perform and play music. We’ve all been in several bands. Every time, it just doesn’t get old. We get up there and we get into character, and it’s just fun."
They don’t even mind playing the same songs all the time.
"Nothing beats being on stage," Evans said. "If I’m up there and I have my guitar and I’m playing music and people are enjoying it, then I’m happy. I think we all feel that way. It’s what we love to do, and we do it as much as we can."
The band typically plays one-hour sets with breaks in between, but Thursday will likely feature two sets of about 80 minutes each. A partial list of songs reads like a who’s who of the ‘80s music scene, with A-Ha’s "Take On Me," "Come On Eileen" by Dexy’s Midnight Runners, Bananarama’s "Venus," "I Melt With You" by Modern English," Rick Springfield’s "Jessie’s Girl," plus hits by Billy Idol, Pat Benatar, Michael Jackson, The Bangles, The Go Go’s, Journey and John Cougar Mellancamp.
If you remember it from the '80s, chances are the band plays it, which makes requests simple to oblige.
"We’ll throw ‘em in if at all possible," Evans said of requests. "Usually, most of the time, the requests we get are already on our list. I would say, seven out of 10 times, we were planning on playing that anyway. We tend to play the most popular songs that people want to hear."
The toughest part of re-creating the ‘80s comes at this time of year, when the heat and humidity soar.
"Some of these outdoor gigs, when you’re wearing black outfits and these crazy wigs, it can get hot in a hurry," he said. "Some of the outdoor, summertime gigs can be brutal. You gotta stay hydrated and pace yourself."
The audience response helps.
"We really feed off of that," Evans said. "We depend on them as much as they depend on us to have a good time. We’re really interactive."
The ‘80s were a blast for most people, and so is reliving the music. But the parachute pants never really go farther than the stage these days.
"It’s fun, I mean, now," he said. "You do it for fun. You want to change at the gig though. You probably don’t want to go out after a gig and go shopping or something like that."