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Discover the ’80s for the first (or second) time
By Thomas Crone - Photo by Thomas Crone
Posted On: 05/31/2006   


Since this column is certainly surfing on the nostalgic tip, we’ll give a nod to the calendar of the old Bernard Pub. On it, each month, promoter John Green would note the club’s slogan: “Everything old is new again.” That was true in the 1980s and is true again today, with those very 1980s as the new reference point.

These days, whether you’re looking to hit a club or are simply flipping down your radio dial, plenty of options exist for: a) reminding yourself of songs gone by; or in the case of many listeners, b) enjoying some amusing oldies.

Here’s a quick rundown on some of the weekly highlights that’ll take you back a couple of decades.

“Medication,” Mondays, noon to 2 p.m., 88.1 KDHX: Host Pat Wolfe doesn’t exclusively play the music of the 1980s, but there is a strong New Wave component to his weekly show, which not only plays the hits of yesteryear, it also updates listeners on the music made by the tastemakers of that era. For example, if you liked The Smiths back in the day, you’ll get a dose of the new music by the band’s songwriters Morrissey or Johnny Marr, too. On occasion, Wolfe has extra fun by making a theme of a week’s broadcast. Like many programmers on the station, he’s good for a special Christmas or Halloween episode, but it’s just as fun when he plays music by bands starting with the letter “A” or other
neat tricks.

With a great radio voice and a smooth-but-far-from-cheesy delivery, Wolfe’s got a professional show on a station devoted to highly individual tastes. His style comes across weekly, with an emphasis on acts that came close to star status but fell short. For fans of groups like Let’s Active, Guadalcanal Diary, Aztec Camera and other college-radio favorites of the ’80s, this show’s an absolute must, a lunchtime treat that seldom disappoints.

“Scene of the Crime,” Mondays, 10 p.m. to midnight, 88.1 KDHX: While Wolfe focuses on groups that held a certain mainstream appeal in days gone by, Jason Rerun’s show later on Mondays focuses on that specific wedge of bands that wedded hard power pop with punk rock. Pulling from what’s considered a near-legendary home collection of hard-to-find recordings, Rerun’s show calls on cassettes, 45s and good old 12-inch vinyl to fill 120 minutes of catchy, two-minute pop blasts. A crunchier show than Wolfe’s, Rerun’s doesn’t veer too far from the original time period he mines so successfully, namely the late ’70s and early ’80s.

The only problem with the show is that the energy level is so high, listening to it in the waning hours of Monday night doesn’t make for a restful night’s sleep. If your toes tap into Tuesday morning, blame him.

The Dollar Bin, Wednesdays, 10 p.m. to 3 a.m., The Upstairs Lounge, 3131 S. Grand Blvd., St. Louis: Moving into the club scene, you can’t talk about an ’80s night without a glance in the direction of DJ Kenny Kingston, whose “Dollar Bin” concept has successfully made the switch from Washington Avenue’s late, lamented Lo. Spinning both original hits and remixes for a few years now, Kingston takes the 1980s concept and fast-forwards it a touch, claiming all sonic territory between 1985 and 1995. And while there’s a solid rock base to his material, Kingston opens it up, throwing in hip-hop and commercial pop songs with abandon.

Since the age of his crowd suggests they’re not going to remember the radio of that era anyway, it’s a body-moving gambit that works – in a room that doesn’t take a lot of people to turn into a party atmosphere.

Super Sake Happy Fun Time Extravaganza, Wednesdays, 10 p.m. to 3 a.m., Rue 13, 1313 Washington Ave., St. Louis: Back on Washington, Rue 13 offers the first of two retro nights per week with this late-night spin that promises “total madness.” (The emotion, not the band, though some Madness may, in fact, creep into the mix.) As the title of the evening suggests, there is a bit of sake on site and Wednesday means a generous discount on its purchase. Even though this is a big room, there are plenty of amusing little corners of the venue to discover, including the sushi bar.

That ’80s Club, Fridays, 9 p.m. to 3 a.m., Rue 13: Without a doubt, this year-old weekly event’s become the biggest live retro event in town, with DJs Clockwork, Westwerk and Rob Gordon growing a rapidly increasing following now that the concept has hit the right venue. Evolving from Carnaby Street (Britpop/Mod) spins, That ’80s Club is unabashedly radio pop-based, with all the hits from the era, so don’t feel bashful about asking for A Flock of Seagulls, Devo or Duran Duran.

What’s perhaps the most notable thing here is the crowd’s age. As hinted at earlier, these club nights often bring out a young-ish set. The Friday partiers at Rue 13 are just on the plus-side of 21, many of them decked out for evening, with everything from checkerboard Vans to prom dresses on display. If you go on the early side of the night and the room seems something less than packed, wait till after the midnight hour, when the dancefloor is a crush of bodies grooving to New Order and The Cure. The group will also soon launch London Calling, a punkier version of the night.

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