“Vegas is just one of those places that is always full of surprises. It’s got such a great kitschy retro vibe,” Kate Pierson says. And if anyone knows surprising, kitschy and retro, it’s the redheaded singer for the B-52s. The Athens, Georgia, band has been topping party-time playlists for almost 40 years, from “Rock Lobster” onward, through videos, movies, world tours and the Billboard charts. Pierson herself has collaborated with artists from Iggy Pop to Sia and recently released several solo projects, including her Guitars and Microphones album. She’s also the owner of Kate’s Lazy Desert Airstream Motel just outside Joshua Tree National Park, which bears the marks of her eccentric personal style. “It’s been a great creative outlet for design, fashion and for shopping,” she says, laughing. Ahead of the B-52s’ three-night run at House of Blues (July 7–9), Vegas Seven talked to Pierson about the band’s diverse fan base, her musical influences and getting Cleopatra up on Caesars Palace’s stage.
The B-52s have always had a diverse fan base. Is it fun to look out and see all kinds of people in the audience?
I’m really proud of the age range of our audience nowadays. It’s not just older people—it’s really a mixed bag. We have a lot of young people. It’s just because of the range of stuff you can look at on YouTube—they just know the history of rock ’n’ roll and can pick and choose. People feel free to dress up; there are always some fans wearing wigs or boas, or costumes or colorful outfits. It’s really entertaining to see people dance, having fun and busting loose. It’s entertaining for us because we try to make it a party. I’m sure some of the same fans will be [at shows] each night. Some of the hardcore fans will make a party of it.
Tell me about your early musical inspirations.
Ever since I can remember, I wanted to be a singer. My father was a guitar player—he played at home, and I took piano lessons, but I just always wanted to be a singer. My dad had a lot of hipster records, Frank Sinatra and all the big-band stuff. I loved Delta blues—I think blues is a big inspiration for a lot of people. The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin, the Mamas and the Papas, Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan came thrashing at me. I mean, there was all this great stuff happening—you could turn on the radio and hear something great.
With the band, when we started, we were inspired by a lot of the classic music. You know, we played African music. We would check out pygmy music, we’d go out in the country in the cow fields and the cows would surround us and bob their heads to the music. We would play Perez Prado, and we really learned a lot of different kinds of music. I love hearing music from all parts of the world, and it’s now so accessible.
You’ve collaborated with so many musicians. Is there anyone who you’d like to work with who you haven’t yet or would like to work with again?
I’d still like to work again with Iggy Pop and Michael Stipe. I did a solo record a few years ago and I wrote a lot of songs with Sia, who is just the most wonderful girl—I love her songs and her voice.
You have a great, distinctive sense of style. Any tips for the rest of us?
Thank you! I’ve run the gamut: I’ve done pants and jackets and corsets and miniskirts and jumpsuits and pantsuits. Sometimes I’ll look at pictures of other rock ’n’ roll women, and that’s always an inspiration. I’ve worked with fashion designers. I’ve worked with Todd Oldham and I’ve gotten a lot of stuff from Julia Gerard, who [owns] Peace Gallery on Melrose [Avenue]. I look at things worn on the street.
The band just did a show in Croatia and [my wife] Monica and I went to Venice, Italy, first, and we stumbled upon this amazing store called Mancini Fiorella’s. She had incredible jackets [and] outfits. … Sometimes you just have to be on the lookout and have your fashion sensors ready—your fashion antenna. What I would advise people is just to be creative and wear something that flatters you.
Would you ever want to do a Las Vegas residency?
We’ve never done a residency anywhere. Most of our [bookings last] one or two nights—it would be great to stay in one place and develop, change every night a little bit and also have a nice cozy “Love Shack” set.
One time we played in Vegas, we were at Caesars, and just by chance, [before] the encore, we had come offstage and there were Caesars people in costume and we invited them to dance on “Rock Lobster.” So we had a little fun [with] some dancers in costumes—Vegas it up a little bit. That’s what’s great about Vegas: There’s nothing too showy, nothing too over the top.
July 7–9, 7:30 p.m., tickets start at $60, House of Blues inside Mandalay Bay, houseofblues.com/lasvegas