Awesome Links Press
check us out in the Sept 13 edition of the Maine Switch!
Check out this RAD Total Eclpise cover! You'll get a kcik out of it! Enjoy (thanks to Awesome fan Paul D. for sending it to us!)
Even in a blizzard we get the best comic from Boston giving us props!
* Shout out to my pal Tonya Dalhaus for once again taking me to see
The Awesome friday night after the show! A ton of snow... a parking ban in effect... and the Awesome still managed to pack the club! That's proof of their awesomosity!
Dj Hazard "Communicator" Log date 2005-12-11 3:28 pm
THE BOLLARD reviews THE AWESOME!!!!!
April 25, 2006
The Awesome: '80s music in the flesh. (photo/courtesy The Awesome)
You can dance if you want to...
Searching for an '80s revival in Portland
By Ron Raymond Jr.
Blondie was just inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. On March 18, 2006, Madonna held the top spot on all four Billboard dance charts, and she recently tied a number-one-singles record held by Elvis Presley for over 30 years. The Pretenders just released a career retrospective box set, Pirate Radio 1979-2005. U2 recently won five Grammy awards over the heavily favored Mariah Carey and Kanye West.
Do you see a pattern here? Could it be possible there really is an '80s revival going on?
As host and creator of an '80s radio program called Stuck in the 80s (celebrating 10 years of Sundays this year on community radio station WMPG), it's obvious the '80s never really left for me. But what about the rest of Portland? Have elements of "the decade of excess" returned in earnest?
One could argue that question when considering Saga Communications' WMGX (93.1 FM), a former top-rated Portland station that had dropped to the ninth spot by the fall of 2005, according to Arbitron. Saga recently changed the station's format from light '70s rock to music from "the '80s, '90s and now." The new Coast 93.1, plays the likes of INXS, Madonna and Prince.
This change, though significant, was not enough to convince me a revival is afoot. So for the past couple months, I've been hitting local clubs that offer '80s-themed entertainment. My first stop in late February: The Big Easy, where an '80s cover band called The Awesome regularly performs.
The Big Easy
I had heard about the Awesome, but had never actually seen them perform prior to this gig. Before the start of the show, I met up with self-described "married club-goers" and '80s enthusiasts Mark MacDonald and Bethany Baylies. MacDonald said he'd recently been building up his '80s metal collection, and was pleased about a recent online purchase: Poison's Open Up and Say… Aah! (with the original artwork). Baylies was born in 1979, a time when I was really getting into music and, in my opinion, the year that defined a decade – the next one.
MacDonald praised '80s music. "It wasn't lousy music…. For me, it was the 'Heat of the Moment,'" he said, referring to the Top 10, 1982 hit by Asia.
"There were so many different [musical] styles in the '80s to choose from," said Baylies. "George Michael's Faith was a great album…. You can't say that about Britney Spears."
Formed in Portland during the winter of 2002-2003, the Awesome includes Michael Taylor (vocals/guitar/keys/xylophone), Nate Soule (guitar/vocals), Peter Dugas (keyboards/flute/occasional guitar), Stu Mahan (bass), Katherine Albee (vocals) and Jennywren Sanders (vocals). The band has three different drummers that rotate from gig to gig, though Smange (Andrew Hodgkins), from As Fast As, is The Awesome's mainstay drummer when he isn't on the road with his other band. The Awesome mostly plays in the Portland area, but they've also appeared at clubs in Orono, and have a wedding booked in Massachusetts this fall.
When I spoke with vocalist Katherine Albee, she was quick to assert, "the '90s sucked so bad. You don't hear anyone covering C & C Music Factory!" How true, I thought, as the soon-to-hit-capacity crowd streamed in from the cold. I spotted someone sporting a Les Miserables t-shirt, and a young woman wearing her high school's Class of 1988 t-shirt. People were obviously getting into the spirit.
Dressed in their best '80s fashions, The Awesome opened with Wang Chung's "Dance Hall Days" (a nice way to start), then immediately went into a dead-on version of "(Keep Feeling) Fascination," by The Human League. The set continued with covers of "Head Over Heels" (Tears For Fears), "Don't You Want Me" (Human League again), "Hungry Like The Wolf" (Duran Duran) and a fantastic version of the Stevie Nicks/Tom Petty classic "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around," with Sanders on co-lead vocals.
From there, the band honored a surprise request for the 1983 Matthew Wilder hit "Break My Stride." That led into Laura Branigan's "Self Control," a song I thought most people had forgotten about, but which many audience members sang word-for-word. A cover of INXS' "Need You Tonight" followed, then the band performed the Eurythmics' "Would I Lie to You?" in fine fashion, and did a solid version of "Broken Wings," by Mr. Mister. The first set closed with the immortal Talking Heads classic "Once in a Lifetime" (cowbell included), a number that drew hearty applause.
"You don't have to look cool or dance very well to appreciate the music from the '80s," Baylies told me during the break. "That's cool in itself."
"Electric Avenue" kicked off the band's second set, and the crowd – by now even larger – went berserk. It was as if Eddy Grant was right in front of them. A strong vocal performance of Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger" followed, and the crowd was still going nuts, singing along to what obviously remains a big crowd-pleaser – 24 years after its release. "99 Red Balloons" (Nena) kept the crowd crazed, with Sanders on vocals and some nice xylophone by Taylor.
"Take on Me," a-ha's number one hit from 1985, followed, along with a solid rendition of Madonna's "Material Girl," this one featuring Albee on vocals. The strong performances continued with a version of the "Your Love" (The Outfield); Toto's "Africa" (a pleasant surprise); and Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Want to Have Fun," which got a fantastic reception (the girls there did have fun). Dugas brought out the flute for Men at Work's "Down Under" – a nice touch, combined with some great vocals. Denise Williams' Footloose classic "Let's Hear it for the Boy" (with Albee on vocals) was well received, and a spirited "Things Can Only Get Better" (Howard Jones) closed the second set.
The band came back for an encore, and despite pleas for Journey songs, they chose to cover "Automatic," by the Pointer Sisters. It was the best impersonation of June Pointer I have ever heard. Simply terrific. (Tragically, June Pointer died of cancer earlier this month at the age of 52.)
The Awesome has certainly carved a niche for itself in the local music scene. Vocalist Sanders later told me the response is always positive. People especially love the fact the band dresses in '80s fashions. "There have been a few bras thrown at us, too," she said, then added, "Ladies, make sure you throw them before you dance and get them sweaty!"
When I asked Sanders about an '80s revival, she said she thinks there is one happening, but it's more about fashion than music.
"The '80s never died, just hibernated," she told me. "But if you want to call it [an '80s revival], it happened a while ago. I mean, look at the Avon and Victoria's Secret catalogues. The belts we all threw away in 1990 are back and cost even more! My question is... if the crepe skirts and shoulder pads are all you find now for women, who forgot about the men in the '80s? Where are the skin-tight leather pants, acid-washed jeans with your ass hanging out, and the muscle shirts? I don't see those anywhere!"
MySpace.com is now blessed with The Awesome!