Despite "Hazy Shade of Winter" temperatures, the Newport Dunes turned smoking hot Wednesday as the Bangles took center stage during the annual fireworks show.
The Bangles were on their Bitchen Summer tour promoting their latest album, Sweetheart of the Sun, released last fall. After an eight-year break, the band reunited to create an album reminiscent of 1960s folk rock, a la the Mamas and Papas, but with a pop spin that will have you singing atop your surfboard while balancing a banana daiquiri on your head. The carefree tracks are a breath of fresh sea air among pop music's current flotsam and jetsam.
"The musical thread that runs through this record [has us] really wearing our influences on our sleeves ... blatantly showing our love for '60s folk rock, Southern California pop rock, psychedelia ... the reasons that we started this band," said Bangle Vicki Peterson.
The influences cited by Peterson include the Beatles, Mamas and Papas, Byrds, Beach Boys, Buffalo Springfield and Led Zeppelin.
"A lot of pop music today is drawn on the '80s sound. It's funny for me to listen to that," Peterson said.
Sweetheart of the Sun was a long labor of love.
"It took us almost four years to make this record and a lot of that was scheduling," Peterson said. She and Susanna Hoffs have home studios to make recording vocal tracks easier.
The Bangles, whose hits included "Manic Monday" and "Walk like an Egyptian," all live near each other in Los Angeles and have remained close since they started the band. "We are all like sisters, all the good and bad that comes with that," said Peterson.
What does Peterson love most about July 4? "It's National Cheetos Day," she said.
At the Dunes, temperatures stayed in the 60s most of the day, but the cool weather didn't bother the band or visitors.
"I lived in New Orleans for 10 years and I love storms. It's a little cloud cover today, but it couldn't be more beautiful," said Peterson.
Before the show, there were lines to rent kayaks and paddle boards, tons of RV parties in the RV park, and the beach was packed with families enjoying Independence Day.
The crowd was tame compared to last year, according to one Newport Dunes employee: "I think it's because the Fourth falls on a Wednesday and everyone has to go back to work tomorrow."
The Bangles, like other '80s girl groups (such as the Go-Gos and Bananarama) were style makers similar to Lady Gaga and Katy Perry today. "I don't know if you are really aware of it if you are in it," said Peterson. "I was teasing my hair like Jane Fonda in Barbarella. I was still trying to emulate 20 years previous."
"The 80s had a silly playful feel to it. It was a great time. It was a great time to be a woman, to be playing music," said Peterson.
"I try to encourage young girls to play the drums and guitar. It's the best job in the world," she added. "There is something about an all-female band that is different. It's a sisterhood feeling, like being in a club, and it's fun."
You can check out the tracks from Sweetheart of the Sun at TheBangles.com and follow Peterson via @VickiBangle on Twitter.