The B-52s in Redding: They’ll Party Like Rock Lobsters – & Tidy Up, Too

“We’ve never been a typical rock band. That’s pretty obvious.”

So says Keith Strickland, a founding member of the B-52s, and he’s right. Few typical bands have been able to stay together for 35 years. For further proof, consider how they started, forming in October 1976 after some drinks at a Chinese restaurant in their home town of Athens, Ga.

There’s also their name, which is a nod to the Southern slang for the wild bouffant hairdos that were popular then. Or the fact that they took a 16-year break from songwriting because they just weren’t feeling it. But here’s what clinches their untypical status: bona fide rock stars are known for trashing hotel rooms; The B-52s, who are billed as the world’s greatest party band, make a habit of tidying up before they check out to help the housekeeping staff.

There was one exception, Strickland said in a recent phone conversation. “We were at a gig and the dressing room was an RV. We hadn’t eaten all day and the promoter hadn’t provided a meal. All we had was donuts. I remember we all started throwing donuts around the Winnebago. They were these cream-filled donuts, and it really made this huge mess.

“We looked around and felt really guilty, so we cleaned it all up. That’s the kind of band we are,” Strickland said.

Their meticulous nature aside, the B-52s are still a rock ‘n’ roll band at heart, as some 20 million record buyers will attest. If you’ve never been to a party where somebody didn’t put “Rock Lobster” on the stereo, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve never been to a party.

If that’s the case, or if the chance to hear it live along with dance classics like “Love Shack” has some appeal, make plans to be at Redding’s Cascade Theatre at 7:30 pm Tuesday. Tickets, priced from $44 to $64, are available at the box office, by calling 243-8877, or by visiting www.cascadetheatre.org. Chico-based Hyde-A-Bed will open.

Strickland, who started as the band’s drummer but switched to guitar after the tragic death of founding guitarist Ricky Wilson, said the band is looking forward to its visit to the north state and will be more than happy to oblige its longtime fans.

The B-52s. Photo by Joseph Cultice.

Does he ever tire of playing the older hits? “No, not really. When you’re performing, you know what your audience wants. We know there are about six songs we have to do and the rest are interchangeable. Some of our diehard fans who have been with us from the beginning will bring up some obscure songs and we can’t always do ’em.

“Our set is pretty balanced between the old and the new. I never get tired of doing ‘Rock Lobster’ or ‘Private Idaho’ or ‘Roam’ or ‘Planet Claire.’ They’re good songs. That’s why they lasted. And they’re a lot of fun to perform.”

Adding to the fun on stage are the three musicians who accompany the B-52s on tour. Doing some of the musical heavy lifting is bassist Tracy Wormworth (who was a member of the ’80s New Wave band The Waitresses before a long stint with Sting), drummer Sterling Campbell (a longtime member of David Bowie’s band after working with Cyndi Lauper and Duran Duran) and keyboard/guitarist Paul Gordon, who also spent time with Natasha Bedingfield and the Goo Goo Dolls.

“There’s nothing worse than going to a concert and the band is not into it,” Strickland said. “We really enjoy it. I love performing. We have a great band. They’re just terrific musicians and so much fun to play with.”

Although heralded as one of the pioneers of the New Wave bands, Strickland said the term never quite resonated with the B-52s. “I think the first time I heard it, we were playing at CBGB’s in New York. I was talking to some friends and asked ‘what does this term ‘New Wave’ mean?’ It’s such a journalistic invention. None of us considered ourselves new wave. We didn’t consider ourselves punk either.

“We just considered ourselves rock ‘n’ roll. I think it was a term the media just tagged on to our generation of groups. It didn’t mean anything to me and didn’t mean anything to any of us. It was kind of cool to think of it coming from the cinema movement, but in that period of music, everybody was trying to do something new. Everybody was trying to be distinctive and try new things. It was a very exciting time.”

What: The B-52s in concert
When: Tuesday, Sept. 6, at 7:30 p.m.
Where: The Cascade Theatre, 1733 Market St, Redding, CA 96001
Cost: $44-$64 (click here for tickets)

Jon Lewis is a freelance writer living in Redding. He has more than 30 years experience writing for newspapers and magazines. Contact him at jonpaullewis@gmail.com.

A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Greenberg, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment. Views and opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of anewscafe.com.

Jon Lewis

Jon Lewis is a freelance writer living in Redding. He has more than 30 years experience writing for newspapers and magazines. Contact him at jonpaullewis@gmail.com.

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