By Rob van Alstyne
By Zach McCormick
By Emily Eveland
By Jack Spencer
By Michael Madden
By Reed Fischer
By Emily Weiss
By Emily Weiss
Do the Eighties Really Want to Hurt Me?
WHAT IS IT about the 1980s that would make anyone want to relive them? Why revisit the most soul-killing decade of the century, the age of Zubaz and leg warmers, crack and AIDS, Reagan and Bush? Perhaps we need to dissociate the epoch from its mindlessly hedonistic soundtrack.
Many already have. "Eighties music strikes me as a lot more ditzy," offers 18-year-old Allison Hawley, a singer in Totally '80s: A Rad Review, the 25-minute medley performed several times every day except Tuesdays at Valleyfair. "Everything is more serious now. That was just the era then. I'm just guessing--I was, like, five."
True, there's nothing precious about the revival of leopard-print Top 40--The Wedding Singer is no Big Chill. And Totally, a show performed by six college-age singers and a live house band, is as tongue-in-cheek as its source material. Highlights include Milli Vanilli's "Girl You Know It's True," performed by two men who come out of the wings in baseball hats and fake dreadlocks. Still, anything would be a relief from the excruciating Billy Joel portion of the show, or the rendition of my personal nemesis, "Mickey."
Totally's tank-top Broadway approach is reverent compared to the ultimate local expression of Eighties nostalgia writ live, the new local cover band Saved by Zero. Formed some months ago by members of the disco tribute group Boogie Wonderland, the six-piece band takes its name from a Fixx song, and its Sunday-night gigs at the Fine Line are more new wave than Totally, though no less silly. Singer-guitarist "Ean Scratch" tells me in an affected British accent that he hails from "Moorsex," England, "as opposed to Lessex, darling." He looks like a nerdy Sid Vicious, complete with dog collar and Union Jack tee. Female bandmates wear typical waver gear: big hair, neon skirts, slouch boots, and mesh tights.
The Zeros live the part, even if their audience doesn't bother. One Sunday night, during the group's cover of Modern English's "I Melt With You," a couple starts swing-dancing. When I ask one beaming 21-year-old fan why she digs the set so much, she confesses she isn't familiar with all the songs. "It would be fun to party with these guys," she says simply, reminding me why these sorts of bands get formed in the first place.
For baby busters, the appeal of Saved by Zero's Less Than Zero time warp is no less basic--or base. "These are finely crafted pop songs that we 'got lucky' to," explains Scratch. "It's a little bit different than an original band who just comes out and plays their songs and you have to think." (Miki A. Mosman)
For more information onTotally Eighties, call Valleyfair; (612) 445-6500. For Saved by Zero, call the Fine Line; (612) 338-8100.
Nostalgia, Popcorn, and Poetry
With its paneled walls, disco ball, and web of Christmas lights, the backroom of Java Noire feels like a basement rec room crossed with Greg Brady's attic. It's the perfect space for the Seventies dance night, Popcorn and Lemonade, held Wednesdays from 11:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. in the newly opened café (2917 Lyndale Ave. S.). As DJs Nathan and Aldric spin recession-era funk classics, you get the uneasy feeling someone's parents might walk in the door at any moment and tell them to turn that racket down.
On Wednesdays, black-clad hipsters sit in front of the café and watch for the wearer of the most extravagant retro ensemble. Most merely evoke suppressed memories of the countless brown cords Mom used to make me wear as a kid. Inside, wallflowers patiently wait for the dance floor to fill. But aside from the occasional wince-inducing skip on a dusty record, the atmosphere is smiley-faced and mellow. The café actually does serve popcorn and lemonade, along with Seventies candy staples such as Pixie Stix and pink bubblegum. "There was just something about the Seventies," says proprietor Anika Lee Robbins. "We all got along."
Robbins, a former KMOJ morning-show host, refurbished the onetime Colby Cleaners storefront in March, opened Java Noire in May, and kicked off Popcorn and Lemonade on June 23. The party is the café's biggest draw, but she also wants her business to fill a void in the Twin Cities poetry community, particularly for young people, who are usually excluded by liquor and curfew laws. So on Friday, August 6, the café features Expressions, a poetry and DJ night hosted by Channel 9 anchor Robyne Robinson. DJs include Code Blue and Bionic. (Jessica Hampton)
For more information on Java Noire events, call (612) 822-6559.