Valentine’s Day 2012 will mark 35 years since the new wave band the B-52’s performed their first live show in their hometown of Athens, GA. But in a humorous twist keeping with the band’s sense of the absurd, the group decided to instead commemorate their 34th anniversary by recording their first-ever live CD on that date in Feb. 2011. The result is With the Wild Crowd! — Live in Athens, GA., getting an Oct. 11 release by Eagle Rock Entertainment (a DVD version of the concert will follow in early 2012). The group’s penchant for silliness, wig-wearing and retro-styled music got them pegged by some as lightweight entertainment when they emerged nationally. But in retrospect, their more outrÁ©, ironic and gender-inclusive approach to pop was arguably more pioneering than some of their band’s 1980s peers who were taken much more seriously. We spoke with Cindy Wilson, who has fronted the band since its inception.

What inspired you to want to put out a live CD after all these years?

Well, you know, we felt it was time. We haven’t actually put one out before and we always wanted to do it. We filmed it at an anniversary concert in our hometown, Athens, for our 34th anniversary. It’s our 35th anniversary next year. But it was a huge event, held at the Athens’ Classic Center, so we decided it was a good place to film. It turned out great and we mixed it in L.A. and it’s being released Oct. 11. It’s going to be very exciting to see it come out. I think fans and everybody will love it.

Did having so many fan-filmed videos of the band playing live on YouTube prompt fans to request the B-52’s finally put out a live release?

Yes. We’ve had a lot of requests for that. I watch YouTube daily and it’s like art — the camera’s moving around and everything. But having a professionally-filmed show, we’ve never had that before. So it really is an exceptional thing.

The B-52's, "With the Wild Crowd!"There’s been sort of an uptick in interest in ’80s retro culture amongst twentysomethings recently. Do you find you’re getting younger fans at your shows?

Well, we’ve always had a wide array of people of all ages come to our shows. The people that came to see us in the old days have kids. So it’s really amazing that it keeps being passed around. We get a great crowd — all ages. And its still one of the great fun shows to go to.

How difficult was it for you coming up in the music industry being a band that played music that was different from what was on the radio and had two women as members?

In one way, it was very easy for us because we were a group of friends. It wasn’t like being a hired performer to come in and be in a group. It was a bunch of friends getting together — artists and free thinkers. We’re from a college town, Athens, which was a great place to grow up because it wasn’t conservative. It was a very artistic scene there. So we came up through a more open-minded feeling, and had the sense of having fun and being outrageous and making each other laugh. We were lucky that we kind of came up through an organic situation like that.

What happened when you left Athens to play for a bigger audience?

Well, when we came to New York and people started coming to see us, I’m sure we looked like we were from a different planet. But we started getting an audience there and definitely hit a nerve, so it just became bigger and bigger after that. We were kind of our own thing.

These days, do you hear from artists or bands who tell you that you’ve been an influence on them?

Absolutely. That’s the natural way with music. Your take influences and make them your own. And you bring something that you have to it because of the way it speaks to you. And so, yeah, artists build upon a theme and God bless them, that’s just the way it is. I get artists on my Facebook page from different levels of success that say we’ve influenced them and it’s really wonderful to see. And there are also B52’s cover bands that are really fun too.

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About the Author

Tony Sclafani

Tony Sclafani is the author of “Grateful Dead FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About the World’s Greatest Jam Band” (Backbeat Books, 2013), a somewhat obsessive, 39-chapter that could possibly be quirky and outward-looking enough to appeal to non-Deadheads. Or not. He’s written about popular and unpopular music for MSNBC.com, the Washington Post Express, Relix, and Record Collector and is glad he stocked up on vinyl back in the ’90s when the going was cheap.

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