B-52s conversation, concert kick off Trojan Family Weekend on McCarthy Quad

Band members share their thoughts on social activism before a lively set that kept Trojans on their feet

October 13, 2017 David Medzerian

Trojan Family Weekend got off to a rocking start Thursday as USC welcomed The B-52s to the University Park Campus.

About 3,500 students and parents, faculty, staff and alumni joined “the world’s greatest party band” for a conversation and outdoor concert on McCarthy Quad. The event was part of the Visions and Voices series, the arts and humanities initiative launched in 2006 by USC President C. L. Max Nikias when he was university provost.

Audience at B52's concert
Faculty, staff, students and parents enjoyed the performance at McCarthy Quad. (USC Photo/David Sprague)

In a pre-concert conversation with Professor Tara McPherson of the USC School of Cinematic Arts, band members Kate Pierson, Fred Schneider and Cindy Wilson discussed everything from their unique persona (starting out, they didn’t realize how weird they were) to their fashion sense (they shopped at thrift stores because they didn’t have any money).

The musicians also talked about their personal take on social activism. “We don’t have one particular charity,” said Pierson, noting they have supported issues from climate change to AIDS awareness. “We go where we are called.”

B-52s onstage in conversation before show
Kate Pierson, Cindy Wilson and Fred Schneider talk about their fashion sense and more with Tara McPherson, left. (USC Photo/David Sprague)

And they talked about their collaborative, if unconventional, writing and recording process. “I couldn’t hear what Cindy was saying,” Schneider said, “and I said, ‘Your what?’ And Cindy said, ‘tin roof — rusted.’”

The evening was not without its poignant moments: Thursday was the 32nd anniversary of the death of original band member Ricky Wilson, Cindy Wilson’s brother. The group dedicated “Summer of Love” to him during the show.

dancers in B52 audience
Rocking on with The B-52s. (USC Photo/David Sprague)

Just before the start of the hourlong set — a hit-filled trip from “Planet Claire” to “Rock Lobster,” with a stop at the “Love Shack,” of course — the band offered one bit of advice.

“If you’re a writer or a musician, and you think an idea is too crazy, write it down — or record it,” said Schneider, to which Pierson added: “And wear a wig.”

kids dancing at B52s concert
Kids also had fun at the concert. (USC Photo/David Sprague)