Totally Tubular Fest Brought the Eighties Back to Inglewood

Eighties package gigs like the Totally Tubular Fest are easy to mock. Heavy on the nostalgia, they generally feature one '80s act after another, often featuring two or less original members, jumping on stage and playing a couple of hits and then jumping off again. There have been a few variations on the theme, at venues such as the Greek Theatre. Richard Blade MCs a lot of them. You know the drill.

So yeah, they're easy to mock. But here's the thing--they're always a ton of fun. The short sets by the early bands is a blessing because, honestly, when you've got the Plimsouls featuring just the one Plimsoul (Eddie Munoz), you really want to hear "A Million Miles Away" from the Valley Girl soundtrack and then wave bye-bye. They played about three at the YouTube Theatre, and that was plenty.

While some of the other '80s shows included hip-hop, R&B and reggae acts (we've seen the likes of Rob Base, Jodie Whatley and Musical Youth), this one focused on synth-pop and power-pop. New-wave and new-romantic. So next up was Tommy Tutone, who teased the imminent arrival of their monster "867-5309/Jenny" single before playing it and leaving. That's song that got them in trouble, because everyone around the country that had that number was forced to change it due to a deluge of prank calls asking for Jenny.

Bow Wow Wow was a different proposition entirely. We were a little confused because of the billing; there are two versions of Bow Wow Wow on the circuit right now, and the one worth seeing is this one, fronted by original singer Annabella Lwin. Usually, this one is billed as Annabella's Bow Wow Wow, so we were delighted to discover that we were presented with the better version here. They were great too. It's so easy to dance to "C30 C60 C90" and "I Want Candy," and Lwin is still the perfect frontwoman -- a ball of manic, joyful energy.

The Tubes are still a proper band, the sort of band we'd happily watch play for two hours, so their handful of songs were both unsatisfying and a joy to behold. Yes, "TV is King," "She's a Beauty," "Sushi Girl" and "Talk to Ya Later" sound amazing. But we could have stood for some "White Punks on Dope" or even a little "Don't Touch Me There." They're just too good.

Men Without Hats surprised us a little. Sure, we were waiting for "The Safety Dance." Sure, "Pop Goes the World" was a hit too. But all of their songs were fun, and the band played great. Modern English played a tight four songs, all of which were similarly impressive. But the big sing-along was unsurprisingly reserved for "I Melt With You."

The most visually spectacular show came courtesy of Thompson Twins' Tom Bailey, and he got the longest set too. That's fair enough, because it was just hit after hit after hit. "If You Were Here" from Sixteen Candles, then "You Take Me Up," a cover of Talking Heads' "Psycho Killer," then "Doctor! Doctor!" and "Hold Me Now." Start to finish, Bailey was magnificent--his deadpan vocals and superb all-female band doing the old Thomson Twins classics justice.

It was hard for Thomas Dolby, alone on stage, to top that. He didn't really try, preferring to dabble at his keys like the mad scientist that he's always been. A tribute to "Hero" David Bowie (with whom Dolby performed at Live Aid) was a highlight, as was the wonderfully madcap "She Blinded Me With Science."

That was it. Time to go home. Until the next one of these crazy, silly, magical '80s nights.

Photos below by Steve Thrasher / YouTube Theater

Photos below by Brett Callwood