Huey Lewis & the News first proposed that it's “Hip to Be Square” 31 years ago. They might as well have been singing about the 2017 Gretna Heritage Festival.
Gretna Fest has never aspired to be even remotely contemporary or cool with its music. Family-friendly nostalgia is the focus of the festival, which encompasses multiple stages, carnival rides and games, a German beer garden, an Italian village and other attractions across 25 square blocks of Old Gretna along the Mississippi riverfront.
Classic rock, Southern rock, country and vintage R&B have long formed the fest’s foundation, augmented by indigenous Louisiana music.
But since 2014, Gretna Fest has worked with Live Nation Entertainment’s local office to book talent. Given Live Nation’s vast resources and connections, the festival has featured a more diverse mix in recent years.
This year's Gretna Fest, the 23rd overall, boasts a retro-cool 1980s MTV vibe. Huey Lewis & the News, KISS, the B-52’s and Pat Benatar, all old-school MTV staples, are headed to Gretna this weekend. Tickets at the gate are $25.
In the mid-1980s, Huey Lewis & the News sold millions of copies of their “Sports” and “Fore!” albums. “I Want a New Drug,” “If This Is It,” “The Heart of Rock & Roll,” “Heart and Soul,” “Stuck With You,” “The Power of Love,” “Jacob’s Ladder,” “Hip to Be Square” — the hits just kept coming.
And then they didn’t. But the band has remained a popular touring attraction ever since.
On Friday, Lewis et al are paired, somewhat incongruously, with the Plain White T’s, whose lone, decade-old hit, “Hey There Delilah,” qualifies them as the most cutting-edge band on the Gretna Fest roster. Friday also features local favorites Amanda Shaw and the Honey Island Swamp Band.
As much about the show as the songs, KISS was and is a multiplatform commercial juggernaut that has enjoyed and endured multiple ups and downs.
The band’s initial rush of global dominance ran its course by the end of the 1970s. But in the '80s, the unmasked KISS found fresh life via MTV. A reunion of the original quartet, with makeup, in the mid-1990s also proved hugely popular. A “farewell” tour in 2000 didn’t take, but maybe should have.
As the “hottest band in the land” eventually cooled off, bassist Gene Simmons branched into reality TV and other endeavors to keep the brand alive. He and guitarist/singer Paul Stanley remain the driving force behind KISS, joined by latter-day drummer Eric Singer and guitarist Tommy Thayer.
On Saturday, Canadian grunge band Our Lady Peace precedes KISS on the main stage. Other stages feature G. Love & Special Sauce and south Louisiana's Roddie Romero & the Hub City Allstars, Colin Lake and Flow Tribe.
The B-52's broke out of Athens, Georgia, in the late 1970s with a campy/retro/thrift store chic and a post-punk/New Wave hybrid that was simultaneously bizarre — “Rock Lobster,” anyone? — and irresistible.
Following the death of guitarist Ricky Wilson, the band regrouped for 1989’s “Cosmic Thing.” Fueled by the smash singles “Love Shack” and “Roam,” the multimillion-selling “Cosmic Thing” catapulted the B-52's to the top of the pop heap.
They would never repeat that success, but the back catalog has held up well. After 16 years without a new album, they released “Funplex” in 2008. In the band’s 40th anniversary year, co-founders Kate Pierson, Fred Schneider and Cindy Wilson continue to rock “Rock Lobster” on the road.
Pat Benatar kicked off the '80s with “Crimes of Passion,” the album that established her as one of the decade’s dominant female rock voices. That multi-octave voice lit up such anthems as “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” “Treat Me Right,” “You Better Run,” “Promises in the Dark,” “Shadows of the Night,” “We Belong,” “Sex As a Weapon,” “All Fired Up” and “Love Is a Battlefield.”
All of them featured her husband, Neil “Spyder” Giraldo, an underrated guitarist who is a master of taste and tone. To better reflect Giraldo’s contributions over the years, their enduring act is now billed as “Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo.”
On Sunday afternoon, Benatar and Giraldo precede the B-52's on the main stage. The fest’s final day also includes local throwback New Wave band The Vettes — a Gretna Fest regular — as well as Rockin’ Dopsie Jr. and Marc Broussard.
General admission is $20 per day in advance, or $25 at the gate. Three-day passes are $47.50 in advance or $60 at the gate. VIP upgrades, which include priority viewing at the main stage, are also available. Children 12 and under are admitted free.
A free shuttle to the festival grounds is available from Oakwood Center and from JP School Systems at 501 Manhattan Blvd. in Harvey.
Go to gretnafest.com for more information.
6-7:30 p.m. — Plain White T’s
8:30-10 p.m. — Huey Lewis & the News
3:30-5 p.m. — Remedy
5:30-7 p.m. — Honey Island Swamp Band
7:30-9 p.m. — Jonny P
4:30-6 p.m. — Jamaican Me Breakfast Club
6:30-8 p.m. — Gregg Martinez & the Delta Kings
8:30-10 p.m. — Amanda Shaw
Italian Village Stage
5:30-7 p.m. — Uptown Phunk
7:30-9 p.m. — Louisiana Spice
4-6:15 p.m. — Randy Jackson of Zebra
6:30-8 p.m. — Soul Express
8:30-10 p.m. — Benny Grunch & the Bunch
10:30-midnight — To Be Continued Brass Band
5:30-7 p.m. — Big Story
7:45-9:15 p.m. — Our Lady Peace
10-11:30 p.m. — KISS
1-2:30 p.m. — Ginger & the Bee
3-4:30 p.m. — Colin Lake
5-6:30 p.m. — Flow Tribe
7-8:30 p.m. — G. Love & Special Sauce
2:45-4:15 p.m. — Cha Wa
4:45-6:15 p.m. — The Fortifiers
6:45-8:15 p.m. — Mothership: Tribute to Led Zeppelin
9-10:30 p.m. — Roddie Romero & the Hub-City All-Stars
Italian Village Stage
2-3:30 p.m. — Carlo Ditta
4-5:30 p.m. — The Russell Welch Hot Quartet
6-7:30 p.m. — Flipside
8-9:30 p.m. — Rat Pack Now! Tribute
12-1:30 p.m. — Andy Hymel’s School of Public Music
2-3 p.m. — The Profiles
3:30-4:30 p.m. — Mia Kiley
5-6 p.m. — The Old Bar Stools
6:30-8 p.m. — Boot Hill
8:30-10 p.m. — The Sheik
10:30 p.m.-midnight — Junior Lacrosse & Sumtin’ Sneaky
2-3:30 p.m. — The Vettes
4-5:30 p.m. — Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo
6-7:30 p.m. — The B-52's
11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. — Ryan Foret & the Foret Tradition
1:30-3 p.m. — Rockin’ Dopsie Jr.
3:30-5 p.m. — Marc Broussard
11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. — Paris Avenue
1:30-3 p.m. — Paperchase
3:30-5 p.m. — Chee Weez
Italian Village Stage
12:30-2 p.m. — New Orleans Swinging Gypsies
2:30-4 p.m. — Al “Lil Fats” Jackson
12-1:30 p.m. — Joey Winters & the Rookies
2-3 p.m. — Belle Chasse High School Band
3:30-5 p.m. — Bucktown Allstars
5:30-6:30 — Rebirth Brass Band
7-8:30 p.m. — Aaron Foret Band