MERCED -- If you were a teen in the 1980s, there's a good chance you spent some of your time dancing to The B-52s' wild tune "Rock Lobster."
The band, known for its outrageous retro costumes and bouffant hairdos, went on to record a slew of songs guaranteed to get the party started, including the hits "Private Idaho" (1980), "Love Shack" (1989) and "Roam" (1990). The performers bring the party to the Gallo Center for the Arts on Sunday as part of the band's 35th anniversary tour.
"We play what we know people will always want to hear, but we want to do some of the newer songs, too," said singer Fred Schneider. "We change the setup pretty much every time we go out so it doesn't get boring. I try to change my stage patter every night so it's not like Cher or Tina Turner when you make it look like you're talking to the audience but you're just repeating the script."
Schneider said nobody in the band felt comfortable talking to the crowd when the group first started out. "We're from an era when you weren't ready-made for TV, and I didn't have that personality," he said. "But I developed it and just said, 'What the heck. Who cares?' "
Schneider, Kate Pierson, Keith Strickland, Cindy Wilson and Wilson's now-deceased older brother Ricky started the group in Athens, Ga., in 1976, playing their first show on Valentine's Day 1977. Soon they were performing their quirky blend of New Wave and 1960s rock in New York City nightclub CBGB and gathering a devoted following. Their attention-getting appearance got them airtime on new video channel MTV.
The group took a major blow in 1985 when Ricky Wilson died of AIDS, but the other members eventually continued on. The performers teamed up with producers Don Was and Nile Rodgers to release the 1989 album "Cosmic Thing," which became The B-52s' biggest commercial success and gained them international fame.
Cindy Wilson took a break from the band for a while to start a family but eventually returned to continue performing. The band's latest album is "Funplex"; released in 2008, it was the B-52s' first new full-length release since 1992.
Earlier this year, the group released the concert DVD "With the Wild Crowd: Live in Athens, Ga." The show aired on PBS.
Strickland said in an interview on the DVD that a career highlight for him was learning that John Lennon was inspired to go back into the studio after hearing "Rock Lobster."
Pierson said on the same DVD that the fans' support has kept her performing all these years. "We see the audience having fun and they're really into it," she said. "I think all of us totally feel it. They're giving back a lot of energy and love to us."
She said it makes her feel good that the band has inspired people. "We've had a longtime message that it's OK to be different, let your freak flag fly. Seeing that that message touched people and you don't know it and seeing it come back to you is really amazing."
Sun-Star news services contributed to this report.
WHEN: 7 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: Rogers Theater, Gallo Center for the Arts, 1000 I St., Modesto
CALL: (209) 338-2100