Ohio Players, Berlin To Highlight RetroFest

Three-day Santa Monica, Calif., festival to straddle three decades of music, pop culture.

LOS ANGELES -- Pop music's past will be exhumed for RetroFest, a three-day August event featuring new-wavers Berlin, funkateers the Ohio Players and acid-rockers Iron Butterfly.

The concert portion of the music and culture festival -- set for Aug. 13-15 at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium -- will regress in time, beginning with a plethora of '80s new-wave bands Friday; shifting to '60s and '70s funk, Latin soul and rap Saturday; and finishing up with '60s and '70s rock and pop Sunday.

"It's going to be a unique event -- so much more than just a concert," co-producer Garson Foos said. "We're [hoping] that there's going to be so much going on and so much to do, there's no way you can do it all."

Foos added that he hopes RetroFest -- sponsored by archival label Rhino Records -- will become an annual celebration.

Bands featured on Friday's bill will include Berlin, known for their hit "Take My Breath Away" (RealAudio excerpt) and Missing Persons, whose song "Destination Unknown" (RealAudio excerpt) was a staple of '80s modern-rock radio.

The Sugar Hill Gang, whose 1979 song "Rappers Delight"

(RealAudio excerpt) first brought rap music to the pop charts, and the Ohio Players of "Love Rollercoaster" fame, will perform amid the funk and soul acts in Saturday's lineup.

Sunday's portion of RetroFest will range in style from Iron Butterfly, to '60s pop hitmakers the Turtles ("Happy Together") and soul singer Mitch Ryder ("Devil With a Blue Dress"). Representing the '70s will be bubblegum pop group Bo Donaldson & the Heywoods ("Billy, Don't Be a Hero"), former teen idol Tony DeFranco, novelty act Bobby "Boris" Pickett of "Monster Mash" fame, pop singer Tony Burrows (the voice of one-hit wonders Edison Lighthouse, White Plains and Brotherhood of Man) and Ron Dante, who sang the lead vocals for cartoon band "The Archies" ("Sugar Sugar").

Each day of the event, a number of cover bands will play swing, disco, '80s new wave and country on a second stage.

The retro motif will extend to all aspects of the festival. Attendees may eat food provided by such participating companies as the old-school diner Johnny Rockets and buy collectible merchandise, including lunch boxes, records, toys, posters and clothes, from various vendors.

A selection of cars from television shows of yesteryear also will be on display, courtesy of Barris Kustom Industries. The autos include the Batmobile from the live-action "Batman" series and classic vehicles from "the Beverly Hillbillies," "The Munsters," "The Dukes of Hazzard" and "Knight Rider."

"[RetroFest is] offering people a chance to really celebrate what they love about the music and pop culture of their youth," Foos said. "I think people's favorite music, movies and television shows are typically those they got into in high school through their early 20s. That's why older or retro music has been so enormously popular. Here's a chance to come out and recapture that."

The event will be family oriented, Foos emphasized, adding that kids younger than 12 will be admitted free. The children's area of the festival will include booths with music lessons and toys.

Foos said the original idea was to do an event just celebrating '70s music. But after some discussion, the organizers thought to expand it to encompass the larger scope of Rhino Records' catalog.

Over the course of the Sunday concert, Bo Donaldson & the Heywoods will act as a backing band for Pickett, Dante, DeFranco and Burrows as they perform their hits.

A "big" '60s soul artist is expected to be added to Saturday's lineup, Foos said.

"This should be unbelievable," Donaldson said, adding that he hopes people learn "just how big the '70s are" from the event. "The amazing thing is that the '70s never died, because the music was so easygoing," he said.

Donaldson said he hopes to organize a spinoff tour from the festival.

Rhino has established a toll-free hotline at (877) GO-RETRO (467-3876) for ongoing updates. Tickets to RetroFest are $15 per day.