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Lew-Port reunion idea turns into successful summer concert event

Sat, Jul 18th 2015 04:35 pm
Spirit of the 80's
Spirit of the 80's

Spirit of the 80's returns with Stan Ridgway

By Michelle Hosie

Special to the Sentinel

When some members of the Lewiston-Porter Class of 1987 started talking about plans for their upcoming 25th reunion in 2012, they thought, "Do we really want to pay upward of $50 for a sit-down dinner?"

Someone said, "What if we got a band we used to listen to in high school to come to town and play a show for us?"

And the seed was planted.

When the Class of '87 realized this concert could raise money, members got in touch with the Lew-Port Alumni Association. In a blending of generations, the first "Spirit of the 80's" concert featured international recording artist and new-wave snyth-pop band The Spoons of Burlington, Ontario; Don Berns, formerly of Toronto radio station CFNY; and The Mirrors, a band that hadn't played together since members graduated from Lew-Port in 1987. Old friends and former classmates were brought together again, many reminiscing about all the concerts they went to back in high school - including the Spoons - the songs they had forgotten they loved and the memories that accompanied them.

Alumni volunteered, and graduates from Lewiston-Porter and other area schools, mostly from classes of the 1980s, came from all over the world. The money raised went to the L-PAA scholarship fund and other L-P programs. The organizers met their goals and exceeded expectations.

It was quickly decided this must happen again.

That tiny seed of an idea had grown into a successful event and was feeding on new ideas and enthusiasm as people talked about past parties and school dances. Some compared notes on how many articles of CFNY gear (buttons, stickers, beach balls, Frisbees, plastic mugs) they had collected, with others claiming to still be in procession of these items.

CFNY was the pioneer for alternative radio, playing new music that wasn't on other local stations. It was the first place '80s teens heard the Spoons, Images in Vogue (who played the second Spirit of the 80's show in 2013), and the Forgotten Rebels (who played the third show in 2014.) Berns even said when he took on-air calls for song requests, contests and comments from the U.S., they were almost always from Lewiston or Youngstown.

Now, those same former listeners of "The Spirit of Radio" are returning to their hometown each summer knowing that " '80s Weekend" will be when everyone is in town.

This year's Spirit of the 80's will be held Aug. 7-8 at Academy Park - on the same weekend as the Lewiston Art Festival. It will open with a couple of more intimate performances. Folks from The Silo will be grilling food and serving beer, wine and other beverages. Limited seating will be available; bring a lawn chair if you'd like.

The Friday show begins at 7 p.m. with Tony Petrocelli of Lewiston Music on acoustic guitar. Petrocelli plays songs from a wide range of artists spanning many decades.

Next that evening is Stan Ridgway, whom '80s music fans may recognize as the front man for Wall of Voodoo (their most notable song was "Mexican Radio"). Ridgway began his solo career in 1983 when WoV broke-up. He plays many instruments, including guitar, piano and harmonica.

He collaborated with Stewart Copeland of The Police on a song for the soundtrack to Francis Ford Coppola's film "Rumble Fish." "Don't Box Me In" was released as a single, and the video was often played on MTV.

Ridgway had always been interested in making music for film and television, and is now credited with several scores and title songs. His website calls him a "sound alchemist" and quotes him as saying, "Music is more than just chords and notes to me, it has the ability to make pictures in the mind."

More than just a singer-songwriter, Ridgway is credited as a great American storyteller, singing tales that might remind you of a Steinbeck novel. He sings about the Everyman in a way not too unlike Randy Newman or Johnny Cash, with the soul of Tom Waits or Leonard Cohen and the dark and twisted sense of humor of David Lynch or even Quentin Tarantino.

Concert coordinators urge everyone to come and check out this unique show, even if you graduated in the '60s or '70s.

A very small committee of volunteers works all year to make Spirit of the 80's worth returning home for. While likely still in its infancy, the event has grown into the music festival that now features two nights of national headlining acts. It collaborates with the Lewiston Art Festival and Music is Art, which was founded in 2003 by Buffalo native and Goo Goo Dolls bassist Robby Takac.

•For more on the Aug. 8 shows featuring The English Beat and The Toasters, check out the July 25 issue of the Sentinel. To purchase tickets, or for more information, visit www.theSpiritOfTheEighties.com.

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