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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Night of the living ’80s: Ridin’ low and sailin’ away

    I was born in ’88, which hardly qualifies me as an “”‘80s Man,”” but because I have parents I was necessarily raised on classic rock. It was thus that I entered the 30th Anniversary KLPX Fest with optimism this Sunday at the Pima County Fairgrounds and, despite a lackluster start, left with a sufficiently melted face.

    First to take the stage — around 1:30 p.m. — was Great White, a hair-metal and blues rock band notorious for playing Zeppelin covers and belting out quintessentially ’80s make-out ballads. Perhaps it was the fact that the crowd at the Fairgrounds was either too slim or too sober, but Great White’s array of power chords and drug references were met with only mild enthusiasm, even when playing their smash hit “”Once Bitten, Twice Shy.”” Pockets of the crowd were noticeably affected by that ballad of ballads “”Save Your Love,”” specifically the peppy cowboy in front of me who did the boot-scoot boogie while volunteering unintelligible tidbits about marijuana brownies, but overall the crowd remained docile through the introductory set.

    “”Round and Round”” composers Ratt were slated to perform next, but the band canceled, citing an illness, and Eddie Money picked up the slack.

    Again, being born only on the cusp of the ’80s, it would be disingenuous for me to say that Eddie Money isn’t what he used to be — but judging by the singer’s offhand references to serving DUI sentences, “”standing on (his) head”” and hanging out with the boys from Great White “”three rehabs ago”” during inter-song banter, I needn’t say more.

    Money opened unexpectedly with one of his biggest hits, “”Two Tickets to Paradise,”” throwing the crowd off and inspiring a half-hearted sing-along while doing labored heel spins and parodic pelvic gyrations. The crowd became progressively more engaged as the set dug into his catalog with hits like “”Take Me Home Tonight”” and “”Shakin’,”” finally getting a huge ovation for “”Baby Hold On.””

    As the aggregate substance abuse of the crowd intensified, so did their enthusiasm. By the time War took the stage at sunset, patrons were swaying to “”The Cisco Kid,”” singing ebulliently along to a heavily ad-libbed version of “”Spill the Wine”” and initiating impromptu dance parties over a hyper-extended, solo-laden version of “”Low Rider”” that included covers of Black Sabbath’s “”Iron Man”” and Santana’s “”Black Magic Woman.”” The seven musicians delivered a groovy mesh of soul, jazz and blues instrumentation while singer Lonnie Jordan painted stoner-y retrospectives of the ’70s, eliciting boisterous cheers at every mention of drugs, Vietnam, or pop culture in general.

    The final set I stuck around for was Styx, who I had seen once before at the AVA amphitheater with marked satisfaction. When they charged the stage and opened with a blaring, distorted rendition of “”Miss America,”” the crowd around me erupted and I instantly appreciated the merits of the fairgrounds as a venue over the regimented seating chart of the casino.

    With golden locks dancing in the wind, tricked-out synth spinning on a 360-degree pedestal and a full moon rising triumphantly behind the stage while the band kicked out hits like “”Fooling Yourself,”” “”Suite Madame Blue”” and even an epic cover of “”I Am the Walrus,”” the set was an ethereal, unstoppable, rocker’s fantasy. Keyboardist Lawrence Gowan demanded full audience participation during “”Come Sail Away,”” and the crowd gladly obliged. After the encore of “”Blue Collar Man”” and the incendiary “”Renegade,”” Styx sailed away to ongoing cheers from the ecstatic audience.

    Despite the slow start, KLPX Fest was an anniversary celebration like no other — enough to make this non-eighties boy dream of a time not too long passed, if only for a few hours.

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