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The B-52s dance party at Penn's Peak

  • B-52s members (from left) Keith Strickland, Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson perform the band's unique dance rock at Penn's Peak Thursday night. JOE PLASKO/TIMES NEWS
    B-52s members (from left) Keith Strickland, Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson perform the band's unique dance rock at Penn's Peak Thursday night. JOE PLASKO/TIMES NEWS
Published July 16. 2010 05:00PM

If there is one thing certain about The B-52s, it is that wherever they perform, a dance party is sure to follow.

Penn's Peak got a dose of The B-52s' infectious grooves Thursday night, and the crowd kept shaking its collective booty.

Once considered part of the New Wave movement of rock when they first broke on the scene in the late 1970's, the group from Athens, Georgia has endured long after many of their contemporaries have faded.

What the B-52s offer is well beyond nostalgia, however. They continue to provide an irresistible brand of rhythms dressed in some of the campiest pop songs ever created.

The band is named after the exaggerated bouffant hairdos its female members sported onstage, and so opening the show with "Wig", a groove-filled number from the Bouncing Off the Satellites album, was more than appropriate, like laying your calling card on the table when you walk in the door.

Original singers Fred Schneider, Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson all remain with The B-52s, and they bring their own unique vocal stylings and mirthful musical mayhem to the stage. The red-headed Kate played keyboards and blonde Cindy, dressed in a red gown complete with devil's horns, offered percussion in the form of occasional bongo drums.

As for Schneider, his antics help give The B-52s their fun-filled stage appeal. His deadpan vocals serve as punchlines to the songs and help kick them along. He also adds his own musical touches, even playing a glockenspiel at one point.

The B-52s have produced enough recognizable tunes in their repertoire that it would be easy for them to dish out the hits and play it safe. However, they didn't shy away from their newer material, providing five songs from their latest album, 2008's Funplex, which would be enough for a full course in itself.

Thanks to Keith Strickland's primal guitar work, the new songs have the distinctive B-52s' flavor and mesh right with the hits. "No ballads, all the time," quipped Pierson as the beat continued to radiate through The Peak.

The Funplex fare included the title track; the rocking "Hot Corner"; the spacy "Love in the Year 3000"; "Ultraviolet"; and "Dancing Now", certainly an anthem that lived up to its groove.

The B-52s also dug a little deeper to provide some chestnuts from their past. While the bouncy "Private Idaho" is one of their standards and was expected, two other songs from the same Wild Planet album from 1980 were welcome additions. "Give Me Back My Man" was a highlight and a showcase for Wilson's torchy vocals, and "Party Out of Bounds" gave Schneider a chance to join his lady cohorts in donning a wig himself.

Also making an appearance was "Mesopotamia", which Kate pushed along its slinky rhythm, and "Whammy Kiss".

The rest was reserved for the cream of The B-52s' catalog: their two biggest albums. Cosmic Thing was represented by its title song as well as "Deadbeat Club" and its two signature hits, "Roam" (which induced audience members to roam dancing in the aisles) and the mighty "Love Shack", which brought anyone left in his or her seat to their feet, singing along and waiting for Cindy's classic "tin roof rusted" line.

That left a knock-out of a one-two punch from their debut album for the encore. Science fiction camp classic "Planet Claire" and the surf rock derived "Rock Lobster" are where it all started for The B-52s, and as wild as they sounded when they first were unleashed on an unsuspecting music world, they continue to be unlike anything anyone else has created since.

The B-52s have flourished, even surviving the death of founding member Ricky Wilson, because they remain true originals who have a wicked sense of fun to go with their durable dance party.

Opening the show was Supercluster, a seven-piece group that also hails from Athens, Georgia and is sort of a supergroup from that scene.

Like The B-52s, Supercluster has its own unique musical approach, with three females doing the singing and an instrumental base that includes electric and acoustic guitars, violin, woodwinds, tambourines, keyboards and a mandolin. This produced a spacy, hypnotic effect that has been called "Appalachian Wave". It certainly has the same "do it yourself" attitude that The B-52s always displayed.

Supercluster has just released its first full-length album, Wave.

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