Eighties dance nights are a tradition stretching all the way back...well, to the '80s. Whether you're a 21-year-old feeling nostalgic for a time you never lived through, or a crimp-haired, stone-washed new-waver who never got over the Talking Heads breaking up, the music of the 1980s spans cultures and generations to bring the he-men and she-bops out on the dance floor.
Lately, Denver has been lacking the drum-machine glory of '80s dance nights; thankfully, Ginger Perry and Lipgloss co-founder Michael Trundle (aka boyhollow) have come to the rescue with That '80s Night, their new night at Beauty Bar. We recently chatted with the two DJs about the glory of one-hit wonders, the dread of Lady Gaga and why the '80s are a genre unto themselves.
Westword: How did the idea of a strictly '80s night come about?
DJ Boyhollow: It was Ginger Perry who originally started it -- I came down to the first one on St. Paddy's Day, and she asked if I wanted to do it with her. I'd been wanting to do an '80s night for some time, and I was like, "Shit, let's do it!" Because there isn't really a solid '80s night in this city. DJ Rockstar Aaron used to do one at Rock Bar -- but it wasn't strictly '80s; he would throw on a lot of modern stuff. He didn't play the new wave and R&B from the '80s.
I play a lot of '80s songs at Lipgloss, and they all have done really well -- but I try not to drop more than two or three of those, at the most, in a night. Because then that's all people will want to hear, and I like playing more of a variety. I like having freedom at Lipgloss -- but to have a night where I play only '80s, it's fun for me, because that's one of my favorite genres of music.
Eighties nights have been going on for a while, but there has been a lack of them in town lately; did you want to fill a gap that was missing in Denver with That '80s Night?
Ginger Perry: Kinda -- I love '80s! It's fun, people always dance so hard to the '80s.
Could any decade work as a retro dance-party theme, or is there something special about the '80s?
GP: Well, if you build it, they will...
MT: I think any decade could be special -- you could always do a '60s or a '70s or a '90s theme -- but I think the '80s was the last generation where Top 40 was delivering some really solid music. It wasn't all these corporate-created, diva-type situations. You had the Cars and the Talking Heads. And I graduated in 1990, so this was my music. And, you know, people really don't do '60s nights or '70s nights -- but they do '80s nights. When you say the '80s, people automatically know what you're talking about. If you say "I'm going to do a '90s night," people are like "What is that? What are you going to play -- grunge music?" The '80s had a really consistent feel.
What music do you have in store for That '80s Night?
GP: I never reveal my playlist -- zing!
MT: Oh, some Depeche Mode, some New Order, Men at Work -- and then the one-hit-wonder stuff like Peter Schilling's "Major Tom (Coming Home)."
How does putting on a dance night at Beauty Bar compare with Lipgloss at La Rumba?
MT: I think it's a different crowd. At Lipgloss, we don't get a lot of walk-ups; people don't show up randomly at La Rumba and say, "Let's see what's going on here." People who come to Lipgloss are coming for Lipgloss. So they usually have an idea of what they're getting into. Whereas at Beauty Bar, we have a fair amount of people that just show up, because Beauty Bar is just a place to go, even if they don't know what the music will be or what's going on.
And that's what's exciting about doing an '80s night there. Almost anyone who walks into that bar without knowing what the night is will be happy with an '80s theme. That's the power of the genre. If you're doing a hip-hop night or a dubstep night or an electro night, a certain amount of people are going to be like, "Nah, this isn't what I wanted to hear tonight." I have a hard time imagining the majority of people feeling that way about an '80s night.
What is it about the '80s that are so culturally transcendent? Is it just nostalgia?
GP: The '80s had such a strong influence on EDM that I think it's always going to be something people go back to.
MT: A lot of it is nostalgia. But it's such a broad-reaching genre. People that are into electro don't necessarily like rock. People don't tend to cross genres -- they like what they like. But the '80s, man...people love the '80s. Well, maybe not everybody, but most people. But I think a majority of the people who come to this night didn't listen to '80s music in the '80s.
I don't think anyone under the age of thirty can say they listened to this when they were teenagers. But they remember hearing these songs when they were little kids on the radio, and there is that love for what seems, from that perspective, as a more innocent time. And it's just great music. It's the only decade of music that is its own genre.
How does that music differ from what is made today?
MT: I don't particularly care for Lady Gaga and Rihanna and all these Top 40 artists -- it all kind of sounds the same. They've gotten the pop thing into a formula. And I don't feel like that was the case in the '80s. And that's why there were so many one-hit wonders back then. You don't really see as many one-hit wonders anymore: An artist will become big and then put out forty albums, and every song on the album is a single, because everything is so produced and so commercially crafted.
Whereas with the one-hit wonders, it was bands that just had one really great song and then you never hear from them again. Like how many people could name an A-ha song other than "Take On Me"? They may not know the name of the album or even the name of the band -- but they can sing every word of that song. And you don't really see that as much anymore.
That '80s Night has advertised itself as an event where guests should "dress appropriately." What does that look like for you?
GP: I don't care what people dress like, as long as dancing is the most important part to the crowd.
MT: Well, I was kind of a death-rocker back then and still am. So I'll probably just dress how I always do -- in black.
Are there any other themes that you'd like to tackle for a dance night?
GP: F yes! The roaring '20s! That party would be a blow! People would be so zozzled, it would turn into a petting party!
MT: There are some, but nothing I'd like to do once a month. I like to have freedom -- like at Lipgloss, I play everything: '80s, '50s, new stuff. But I would love to do a one-off post-punk night, lots of Joy Division, the Cure, that sort of thing. Maybe a goth-y type thing some night. I would love to do a disco night. But I don't know how successful those nights would be. With an '80s night, people immediately know what it is -- it speaks for itself.
Follow Backbeat on Twitter: @westword_music
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.