Jerry Finley of The Breakfast Club never expected to still be living in the 80s, but that’s what he does each time he steps on stage.
The founder of the 80s tribute group started the band to pay off some debts in 1993 and has continued to play the music from his formative years since.
Finley began his music career in an original music band called Two Pound Planet in Winston-Salem.
“We had a small record deal and sold a few records, but had a lot more debt than we had money from the whole thing,” said Finley, who sings and plays keyboards in the band. “When that band broke up in the summer of ’93 I decided to put a cover band together to make a little money back and pay back the folks we owed money to.”
He saw a television ad about an 80s music compilation and decided to form a band to play that style of music for a couple of months. Six months turned into a year, which turned into two years and so on.
“I didn’t see this thing lasting through the 90s,” he said. “I figured it would fade out. Thankfully, I think it’s because of the decade itself, it didn’t. The music is just so happy. Everyone loves upbeat, happy and positive music.
“Thankfully it has never gone out of style.”
The Breakfast Club will perform many of the biggest hits from the decade when the band returns to town with a 9 pm show Saturday, March 18 at The Orange Peel with locals The Rewind House Band opening the night. The local group promises to get the crowd set for time travel with a set list straight from the 70s and 80s, in line with the songs played on its namesake, Asheville radio station Rewind 100.3. Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 the day of the show.
The Breakfast Club’s band members have come and gone but Finley has remained. The current group includes Davy Ray (vocals, guitar), Tony Williams (drums) and Matt Burns (vocals, bass).
Finley took the time to answer more questions about the band’s music:
the828: How many songs do you perform?
Finley: Typically we do about 45 or up to 50. At The Orange Peel we do a straight through, two and a half hour concert and don’t take a break so it’ll be in the low to mid-40s.
the828: Do you get tired of playing these songs?
Finley: You know, we don’t because every night is different. Every night and every show has it’s own energy. The audience contributes to that and that’s why we love coming to the Orange Peel because the energy from the audience is insane. Every night is different and it’s never the same thing. Yes, occasionally during a song, you’ll go into autopilot a little bit because you’ve played the song so many times.
the828: Do you keep adding songs to your set list?
Finley: We have a set list that we’ll do for two to three months at a time and then we’ll change it up. We’ll listen to fan requests. The setlist has changed dramatically over the last 20 years. It started with the new wave and one-hit wonders, and there’s still a lot of that, but it’s changed over to a lot of the hair metal songs. We touch on some of that and a few other genres of music. People will make song suggestions on our Facebook page and if we hear enough of that, we’ll incorporate it until the show.
the828: Has the age of your crowd changed?
Finley: Our demographic has grown up tremendously. When we first started it was mostly 16 to 30 year olds. The demographic now, the strong portion of it, is 25 to 50 year olds. We’re doing more festivals than we’ve ever done so they are family-oriented. We’ll have eight, 10 or 12 year old kids out there and they know some of the songs. I guess their parents are cooking dinner and listening to an 80s compilation CD or something. It’s neat in that regard, because there are some college-aged kids but it’s not as strong as it was 15 to 20 years ago.
the828: You do private parties and weddings, too, right?
Finley: We’ll do six or eight weddings a year, maybe eight to 10 corporate shows a year and then 15 or 20 festivals or concert series a year. Then the rest of it will be club dates.
the828: Were you a big fan of 80s music before you started this band?
Finley: I was a huge fan. I graduated high school and college in the late 80s so it was a very coming-of-age time for me and music is obviously a very important part of that time of your life. The 80s was a strong influence on me. I’ll still hang out at the pool and crank up my 80s tunes and get laughed at by my kids. ‘Dad, that’s old fart music.’ That’s what I want to listen to when I’m hanging out by the pool having a beer.
the828: What song do you enjoy playing the most?
Finley: Oh, gosh. I don’t really have a favorite. I really don’t. I might say the first song and whatever it is just because the anticipation is there. When that first songs hits, I’ll still have butterflies and nerves and have the anxious energy of what the show will be like.
Jason Gilmer is a national award-winning writer living in Asheville. He spent a decade as the prep sports writer at the Spartanburg (SC) Herald-Journal and has written one book, "Where Champions Play: Spartanburg County Prep Football." He's been writing about the Asheville music scene for several years and contributes to magazines in North and South Carolina.