The B-52s are a storied lot, the kind of band that requires an understanding of their myth to fully conceptualize them. It is true that this comes with any band that has aged well — or aged at all — but the B-52s, ever the musical equivalent of a shaken bottle of pop (not soda), seem especially tied to their accompanying tale. Type in their name on Google and you’ll get the same story on at least the first 10 pages: The band made its unofficial debut after sharing a Flaming Volcano and playing an impromptu jam; their first scheduled concert was in 1977 at a Valentine’s Day party; they named themselves after a popular Southern beehive hairdo, a suggestion drummer Keith Strickland received in a dream; fast forward decades and several hits later, and they’re still the World’s Greatest Party Band.
Take the conceptual details from that story and you’ve got all the parts of a lounge band that might make a good soundtrack for Scooby Doo — a candy-infused Hallmark holiday, kitschy hair, drunken music-making, dream-weaving. Like The B-52s themselves, the Flaming Volcano is made of four ounces of lemon juice, eight ounces of orange juice, two ounces of light rum, two ounces of brandy, and four ounces of almond syrup, blended together and served in a bowl and topped with 151-proof rum that’s then set on fire.
But all that color and explosion has always belied the real heart of The B-52s: perfectly crafted dance songs (their 1981 collaboration with David Byrne was well-earned) even in the face of break-ups and death and numerous hiatuses. During the recording of their fifth album, then-guitarist Ricky Wilson died of HIV-related health complications; he’d kept his disease a secret, presumably to prevent the rest of the band, including his sister, vocalist Cindy Wilson, from worrying about him. The understandable subsequent hiatus ended with 1989’s Cosmic Thing and “Love Shack.” Put in that context, the ubiquitous single suddenly becomes a lot more powerful, a euphoric and cathartic release from tragedy. These guys are the stuff of legend. And their website’s still dotted with rainbows and constellations.
Where: Adrienne Arsht Center (1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami)
When: Sunday, Feb. 12, 8 p.m.
Contact: Call 305-949-6722, or visit arshtcenter.org