You don’t need a DeLorean and 1.21 gigawatts of electricity to travel back to the 1980s.
New Wave Crave brings the scene to clubs and casinos throughout the Reno-Tahoe region.
For those who don’t know or remember, in the 1980s the public didn’t use the internet, hair was really big, hoverboards weren’t real, Berlin had a wall and video killed the radio star. MTV celebrated new-wave bands such as the Psychedelic Furs, English Beat, Morrissey, The Cure and Wang Chung.
“The great thing about the ’80s was the attitude behind it,” said guitarist Justin Doerr, who dresses as Duckie from the Brat Pack movie “Pretty in Pink.”
Onstage, Ducky obsesses over Molly Ringwald, bassist Damian “Bazil” Janssen speaks with an over-the-top English accent. Bishop “B” Bautista plays disco-mod hybrid beats, and the newest member, Marla “Miss X” Richardson, sings and presents the visuals from a suitcase full of props.
“We work hard to put on an actual show where it’s hard for people to look away from the stage,” Janssen said.
“We’ve added black lighting and a neon theme and are incorporating the term ‘Glowing back to the 80s,’ “ Richardson said. “It adds another layer to the dance vibe.”
Doerr has been playing professionally since he was 14 years old, often with his uncle’s band. He would have to be led into bars through back entrances to avoid bouncers at the front door.
“If the bass player didn’t show up or they needed an extra guitar or even keyboards I would always raise my hand and say, ‘Sure I’ll learn 40 songs overnight,’ ” Doerr said.
Doerr played in an ‘80s cover band in Los Angeles before he moved to Reno. He was in a new wave DJ show when he met his future bandmate.
“I saw Damian and he was dressed up like David Bowie,” Doerr said. “I said, ‘Dude, you’ve got to be a musician.’ I told him I wanted to put together an ‘80s band. He said, ‘Do you do David Bowie?’ And I said, ‘Hell yeah.’ Whiskey was involved.”
Bowie’s song “Let’s Dance” (with Stevie Ray Vaughan on guitar) is the attitude and theme song for New Wave Crave.
“When I met Justin, I was blown away that a 34 year-old young man would be so obsessed with ‘80s music but it turned out he was raiding his uncle’s cassette tape collection,” Janssen said. “And liquor cabinet,” Doerr added.
When Richardson met Bautista, she told him she was about to move to Los Angeles to pursue a career in singing and dancing. Bautista convinced her to stay and audition for New Wave Crave.
“It’s been new wave crazy ever since,” Bautista said.
Richardson is a fourth-generation Reno resident. She worked for a decade as a dancer for local productions and abroad. She choreographs the dance moves for herself, Doerr and Janssen.
“We have enough material to play five hours,” Richardson said.
The strategy is that if people don’t dance to a song, New Way Crave will shelve it. They play hit songs familiar to people. But one rather obscure tune, “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles),” by The Proclaimers has become a standard that is played at every show.
The Scottish drinking song includes the verse: “If I get drunk, well I know I’m gonna be; I’m gonna be the man who gets drunk next to you. And if I haver up, yeah I know I’m gonna be; I’m gonna be the man who’s havering to you.”
Bautista said he enjoys playing Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” because it gets “girls to slow dance together.”
“At that point, it’s no longer about the music,” he said. “It’s about taking them back to their fond memories of the ‘80s. Marla and Duckie do it as a beautiful duet.”
The band stretches out of new wave to include ‘80s rock (Billy Idol) rockabilly (Stray Cats) and pop (Madonna). But there’s no hair metal.
Doerr’s guitar playing and the overall musicianship of the band creates an orchestrated sound allowing it to not use a synthesizer, which was a big part of new wave music.
Since forming three years ago there is a cadre of fans who have attended almost every show.
New Wave Crave gets a lot of calls for 50th birthday parties, Janssen said. “Most of the people are dressed more ‘80s than all of us. Well, not more than Marla.”
“We are really focused on a high-energy band show,” Doerr said. “We’re not looking for people banging their heads. We want them to let go of their inhibitions and drink and party and just forget about life for a minute and have a good time.”
And you don’t even need a flux capacitor.
— Tim Parsons
Max Casino, Carson City, Saturday, Feb. 8, 8 p.m.-12 a.m.
TaCo @ Harvey's Casino, Stateline, Sunday, Feb 22, 10 p.m.-1 a.m.
Crystal Bay Club, Red Room, North Lake Tahoe, Saturday, March 7, 11 p.m.-1 a.m.
Carson Valley Inn, Gardnerville, Thursday to Friday, March 12-14, 8 p.m.-midnight