M80 Party Band: A Retro Fit for ’80s Night at Joe Pop’s

By Sarah Hodgson | Jun 26, 2019
Photo by: Lexi Schnell

Ship Bottom — At Joe Pop’s’ ’80s Night, sport a neon fanny pack, scrunchie, cropped crew neck or leg warmers and you might just get your cover charge waived – a fair trade for tasty drink specials and decade-friendly entertainment. The Ship Bottom shore bar takes ’80s Night seriously, as does last week’s featured act, M80, a retro party band specializing in synth-heavy, new wave covers.

The stage was colorfully set with vibrant scarves wound and knotted around instruments and mic stands like tropical snakes. The musicians, who’d been fiddling with wires in street clothes just moments before, emerged from a side door at show time, bounding toward the stage in ’80s rocker quintessentials: metallic sneaks, chunky jewelry, sunglasses and headbands.

Perhaps the most overtly ’80s band member was the bass player Les Eckhart, who wore a black and white checkered shirt, a neck bandana and what appeared to be goggles on his head. One of two lead vocalists, Leighann Burke wore black, high-waisted shorts and a white mesh top with red accents to match her crimson-dyed locks. Her fellow vocalist, Bryan Harmony, complemented her in a white jacket, red skinny jeans, black sunglasses and leather fingerless gloves. Drummer Jose Matos and guitarist Shane Stoneback opted for all-black attire, dark sunglasses, leather cuffs and silver rings.

In contrast, the most conservatively attired was Ryan Kofron on keyboards, sporting a button-down, a tie and a combed hairdo. TLDR – the band’s aesthetic was on-decade.

M80 has been an active ’80s cover band for 14 years, the lineup changing every now and again to receive fresh artists. They play over 120 shows a year together and have performed in 13 states and six countries. Named and branded in homage to MTV, M80 members pride themselves on the exactness and vigor with which they perform throwbacks.

“We try to bring as much raw energy as possible each night,” said Harmony. “Also, everything you hear is real. M80 is one of few professional bands not using tracks.”

Live ’80s music has a way of resurrecting outmoded dance moves like the cabbage patch, the snake and variations of Courtney Cox’s signature moves in her “Dancing in the Dark” debut. On Saturday night, patrons of all ages were partaking in dancefloor shenanigans, swinging their elbows and singing along to era favorites from the likes of Bryan Adams and Loverboy. M80 opened their first set with a fitting rendition of “Working for the Weekend,” which sent Generation X’ers and Millenials mingling, singing and dancing beneath the kaleidoscopic bar lighting.

Burke’s voice was a nostalgic blend of the decade’s most beloved frontwomen: Madonna, Belinda Carlisle, Cyndi Lauper. She aced “99 Red Balloons” and “We Got the Beat,” her songbird, high-range vocals filling the roomy bar with retro joy. Harmony’s grunge vocals were an appropriate ode to the era. Belting hits from Flock of Seagulls and Kenny Loggins, he added energetic tambourine-banging and mic-swinging elements to the sets.

When they’re not performing themed nights at Jersey Shore bars, M80 is traversing oceans to entertain active duty military personnel. “We love going overseas to perform for our troops, especially during the holiday months,” said Harmony.

So what do the next 14 years have in store for M80? “I hope we’re around that long,” said Harmony. For more information about M80 and their upcoming shows, visit their Facebook page @M80PartyBand.

— Sarah Hodgson


Setlist Snippet:

  • “Working for the Weekend,” Loverboy
  • “I Ran,” Flock of Seagulls
  • “99 Red Balloons,” Nena
  • “Footloose,” Kenny Loggins
  • “Goodbye to You,” Scandal
  • “Sunglasses at Night,” Corey Hart
  • “We Got the Beat,” The Go-Go’s
  • “Summer of ’69,” Bryan Adams
  • “Relax,” Frankie Goes to Hollywood
  • “Sweet Dreams,” Eurythmics
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