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Fred Schneider
Fred Schneider with two members of B-52, Cindy Wilson and Kate Pierson

Dancing on the beach, interactive installations and a retro hip variety of bands will kick off the debut of the Riptide Music Festival on the Ft. Lauderdale Beach December 3rd and 4th. The festival promises to give the festival goer a full interactive experience. Signature spaces like The Underground Lounge where rockers can discover a new meaning to the underground experience in Fort Lauderdale, the #BITEME Food Court featuring a wide array of locally sourced treats, and an assortment of spectacular interactive installations will create a beach wonderland in December.

One of the bands performing is longtime classic radio and tour circuit favorite, The B52s, named after a conical teased hairdo. This “tacky little dance band” has had major success with hits “Love Shack” and “Rock Lobster” ever since they sprung out of the small club scene of Athens, Georgia and then NYC in the 1970s. Comprised of Fred Schneider, Kate Pierson, Keith Strickland, Cindy Wilson and Ricky Wilson (Ricky Wilson died in 1985), the group formed to play at a party and then realizing they had something special and fun going on, continued to play the club circuit, hitting it big just in time for MTV. Music videos were a perfect fit for the band, whose outrageous 50s and 60s inspired outfits, teased hairdos and energetic dance moves were as much fun to watch as to listen to.

Speaking by phone from his home in New York City, singer songwriter Fred Schneider talked about the bands beginnings.

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“When we played small clubs in the beginning there were tables all the way up to the front where people sat as most bands weren’t dance bands. So we told people just to dance on the table tops! We got lucky with our video for Love Shack, that was our big MTV video hit, we’ve been combining music and film and fashion since the beginning of our career. It good to see festivals adding all those elements in for people.”

Fred Schneider has always had unusual music tastes. “I never really sang around the campfire,” he said. “Growing up I liked Halloween songs and nutty Christmas songs. When I started collecting records, I was into Motown. I was the only kid at the dance that didn’t care to slow dance but was happy for ‘Dancing in the Street’ or something equally wild. Everybody else wanted to neck, I wanted to do the jerk.”

Schneider attended the University of Georgia, he recalled that for one open-ended final project he decided on a whim to write a book of poetry.

“I just sat down and wrote everything that was in my head and I got an A,” he said. “The teacher wrote, ‘I didn’t really understand any of this but I can see that you’re serious.’ Athens was so boring, at the time, it wasn’t the music Mecca it is today. Now, you can see five bands a night. Back then, it was one band on the weekend, and it was usually a fraternity band.”

To fill this musical and cultural void, Schneider and four of his friends——decided to form a band. They named themselves the B-52’s, a southern slang term for the wild bouffant hairdos sported by the band’s two female members.

“And we started playing around at people’s parties … and it took off from there.”

In 1979, the band signed with Warner Bros. Records and released their self-titled debut album, which sold 500,000 copies behind the party rock hits “Rock Lobster” and “52 Girls.” Their 1980 follow-up, Wild Planet, proved to be another commercial success and critical darling, powered by singles such as “Private Idaho,” Give Me Back My Man” and “Strobe Light.” Two further hit albums, Mesopotamia (1982) and Whammy! (1983), established The B-52’s as one of the favorite bands of the early MTV era.

In addition to his long tenure with The B-52’s, Schneider has enjoyed a successful solo career as both a musician and an actor. He has released three solo albums, Fred Schneider & the Shake Society (1984), Fred Schneider (1991) and Just Fred (1996). In 2010, Schneider formed a pop band called The Superions, releasing two albums that same year: The Superions and Destination: Christmas! Schneider has also worked sporadically as an actor in films such as The Flintstones (1994) and The Rugrats Movie (1998).

So what can audiences expect from the current show?

“We’ve been revamping our songs for the show, we play a few from every album, and of course we’ll be playing our hits. Tell the audience to wear comfortable dancing shoes, we want to see the moves! We also have a great lighting designer so our shows look great.”

After three decades as a rock star, Schneider remains busier than ever while recording and performing with both of his bands.

And while he will be in a seafood capital of the US, Schneider won’t be trying any local delicacies. He says he stopped eating crustaceans at age 4 after going crabbing with family in New Jersey and watching them boiled alive. The lifelong vegetarian said in video narrated for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals that he views crabs and lobsters not as seafood but as “sea life.” Schneider got the idea for “Rock Lobster” when a projector displayed images including lobsters on a grill at an Atlanta disco. He said he thought, “Rock this, rock that… rock lobster!”

Dance to it yes, but don’t eat to the beat!

Riptide Music Festival, Powered by Ford, is the biggest two day Alternative & Classic Hits music festival to ever land on the beaches of Fort Lauderdale! Saturday, December 3rd & Sunday, December 4th, presented by 104.3 The Shark, 101.5 LITE FM, 102.7 The Beach, and 790 The Ticket! For complete information about the festival and admission tickets, visit www.riptidefest.com.

Interview with B52’s Fred Schneider who will perform at Riptide Music Festival, the biggest two day Alternative & Classic Hits music festival in Florida

Sandra-Schulman Sandra Schulman is an arts writer, music and film producer. Born in Miami, her work has appeared in Billboard, Variety, Rolling Stone, Ocean Drive, Country Music Magazine, The New York Daily News, News From Indian Country, and Entertainment Weekly. She was an entertainment columnist for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel for 8 years. She has authored three books on pop culture. She currently lives in West Palm Beach with her blue eyed whippet. Sandra Schulman’s column appears weekly. Contact her at sandraslink@gmail.com.
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