No Hot Tub Needed For This Music Time Machine

Pop quiz, hotshot.

Name the last band to perform at the outdoor venue soon to be known as “old Harrisburg Park.”

While our lead quotes Dennis Hopper’s villainous character from the 1994 blockbuster “Speed” – we were trying to throw you off the scent there – Kids In America, the Totally 80s Tribute Band, will be the answer to that piece of future local trivia.

Guitarist Jake Wright. COURTESY TRAVIS LACY

Band members, all of whom hail from the greater Charlotte area, will be the last to take the Harrisburg Park stage at 7 p.m. this Saturday, September 14, in the next-to-last installment of the town’s 2019 Rockin’ The Burg free concert series. Kids In America will perform two days before the recreational facility closes for a 10-month, $10 million facelift. (A renovated Harrisburg Park will reopen to the public on July 4, 2020.)

So, ladies, it’s almost time to dig out your white lacey shirts, line your forearms with black jelly bracelets, and be generous with the Aqua Net because, in case you forgot, hair height trumps all in the 1980s.

And gents, dig out your neon Spandex, squeeze into those sweet Jordaches – and don’t forget to toss that black Members Only jacket over your shoulder – cause it is almost time to party like it is 1985!

A New Sensation

Drummer Mike Graci was the main catalyst behind Kids In America, explaining that he was looking to do something new three years ago and quickly decided that “something new” would actually take him back to his early teenage years.

“I wanted to do an all-80s band,” says Mr. Graci, who now lives in Matthews but grew up on Long Island. “We really bring that 90’s feel and vibe to the stage, so the audience really feels like they’re going back in time.”

Lead singer Natalie Lacy. COURTESY TRAVIS LACY

He quickly recruited singer Natalie Lacy, who comes from south Charlotte via southern California, and was performing with another band that primarily performed 1990’s music. After juggling both gigs for a bit, Ms. Lacy devoted her full attention to Kids In America, a name she picked and, as she explains it, pays tribute to the 1981 Kim Wilde song of the same name.

Rounding out the six-member group are Clay Mull (lead vocals), Jake Wright (guitar), Dave Lickert (keyboard) and Jim Hickey (bass).

“With the 80’s, I can wear costumes, I can be more theatrical,” says Ms. Lacy, who adds that she loves singing tunes made famous by Madonna and Guns N’ Roses. “It’s really a lot of fun. I can get away with pink hair all the time.”

It also helped that there was immediate demand for Kids In America, with Mr. Graci booking shows nearly every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. He estimates that they perform nearly 100 shows a year, from private events and proms – they performed at Fort Mill High School senior prom this past spring – to concerts like this Saturday’s one in Harrisburg.

They Got The Beat

From Madonna and Michael Jackson to Pat Benatar and the Eurythmics, Kids of America’s playlist is an all-encompassing collection from the decade that featured pop, new wave, rock ballads, and more.

They perform songs made famous by the likes of Journey (“Any Way You Want It” and “Don’t Stop Believin’”), Talking Heads (“Burning Down The House”), Blondie (“Heart of Glass), Beastie Boys (“Fight For Your Right”), Poison (“Talk Dirty To Me”), Men at Work (“Down Under”), and dozens of others.

Though they easily can perform up to four hours of all-80s music, most Kids In America shows run about two hours, and those attending Saturday night’s concert can expect about the same.

“What I really like about the 80s is the variety and different styles of music,” says Mr. Graci, who also plays with Chicago Wired, a Chicago tribute band.

And most of that includes get out of your seat and dance music, according to Ms. Lacy.

Lead singer Clay Mull. COURTESY OF TRAVIS LACY

“There’s usually a lot of singing and dancing, all the way up to the last song,” she says while describing a typical Kinds In America concert. “I love watching people get reminded of how great this era was.”

She also enjoys witnessing the surprise of parents, namely those who grew up listing to the music her band performs, when they see their children singing along to songs that are more than 30 years old.

“If anyone wants to know what to expect at a Kids in America show, it is that you’re going to sweat,” Ms. Lacy says. “There’s so much dancing that you’ll work up a sweat.”

Showtime & Ticket Info

The September 14th show starts at 7 p.m. and is expected to run two hours. The opening act, David Domingo, will perform from 6-6:30 p.m.

There is no cost to attend and tickets are not required.

Attendees are encouraged to bring their own lawn chairs and blankets; alcohol and tobacco are prohibited on park grounds. There will also be food trucks – tentatively scheduled for Saturday’s show are Cousins Maine Lobster, Kickin’ Kitchen, KO, and Sticks and Cones – as well as activities for children, including an inflatable and outdoor yard games.

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