Even though only one member still lives in the state, The B-52s will always be synonymous with Georgia.
It’s been 35 years since Cindy Wilson, Kate Pierson, Keith Strickland, Fred Schneider and Wilson’s now-deceased older brother Ricky played their first show in a house across the street from the Taco Stand in Athens. Though they moved to New York two years later, just as their self-titled debut, sporting the weird and wonky “Rock Lobster” and “Planet Claire,” started to gain traction, The B-52s and Athens go together like Springsteen and Asbury Park.
Schneider, though, has vivid memories of the B’s formative years playing around the state.
“Atlanta was one of the first places we’d play, probably in early ’78. We did our first record in Stone Mountain,” Schneider said earlier this week from his hotel room at the Trump Soho in Manhattan. “We moved because there wasn’t any place for us to play [in Athens] and we were ready for a chance. Athens wasn’t the musical Mecca it is today.”
Though Wilson is the only Atlanta resident in the band – Schneider lives on Long Island, Pierson in upstate New York and Strickland in Key West – the city still holds appeal to Schneider, who said he’ll spend about five days in town visiting friends after the band’s Saturday show at the Fox.
The B-52s last album, “Funplex,” released in 2008 and its first new full-length release since 1992, was partially recorded at Nickel and Dime Studios in Avondale Estates and a few of its tunes make it onto the band’s nightly set list.
“We play what we know people will always want to hear, but we want to do some of the newer songs, too. 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. “When we first started out, nobody wanted to be the person to talk to the audience. We’re from an era when you weren’t ready-made for TV and I didn’t have that personality. But I developed it and just said, ‘What the heck. Who cares?’”
While the band will be on the road through September – they’re currently doing some dates with Squeeze, but the Atlanta show will present Already Taken, a band featuring Wilson’s two kids – Schneider already has some secondary projects and appearances lined up.
His comedy/dancepop group The Superions is prepared to release another album – though it might be a one-single-at-a-time scenario – and in September, Schneider will return to Atlanta as a judge for the Divine Rules drag queen pageant.
The show, which takes place Sept. 22 at Jungle Club Atlanta, benefits two causes close to Schneider: the anti-bullying organization I Am Divine Foundation and the animal-friendly Pets Are Loving Support.
After that, it’s time for time off for the B’s, though Schneider hints at a possible New Year’s Eve gig.
In Atlanta, perhaps?
“If a promoter wants to bring us in,” he said, “we’ll be there.”
8 p.m. Saturday. $35-$100. Fox Theatre, 660 Peachtree St. N.E., Atlanta. 1-800-745-3000, www.ticketmaster.com.
By Melissa Ruggieri, Atlanta Music Scene