As someone who grew up in the ’80s, I greatly appreciate the music of the time, and have long been impressed with how D.C.-based band The Legwarmers capture the style and uniqueness of that era.
From the electronic drum kit to the checkered vans and skinny ties, the Legwarmers relive the ’80s with audiences whenever they take the stage.
Taking on the alter egos of Roxy Rio (vocals), Chet (vocals/bass), Johnny (guitar), Gordon (guitar), Lavaar (drums), Pondo (keys) and Clarence (tenor sax), the Legwarmers deliver some of the best ’80s music on the East Coast, and bring audiences back in time with all the favorite tunes from the decade. There’s even a backstory for each of the characters’ bio on their website.
Cathy DiToro, who performs as Roxy on stage, has been playing in cover bands around the DMV ever since college, and was recruited to be part of the Legwarmers more than eight years ago.
“The band has been around for about 20 years but they were looking for a new female lead and it was totally life changing for me,” says the singer, who was born in 1985. “I’ve always wanted to make a living doing music and I didn’t know how I would be able to do that here, but I was able to quit my day job and go full-time with them.”
A typical Legwarmers concert will feature a set list that includes a diverse collection of songs such as A-Ha’s “Take on Me,” The Bangles’ “Manic Monday,” Blondie’s “Call Me,” Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” and Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine.”
“There are certain songs and artists that have to be played; people get annoyed if we don’t play Journey, Bon Jovi, Madonna,” DiToro says. “While we only do one song per artist, we will mix it up and do different songs.”
Popular artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Pat Benatar, Prince, U2 and many, many more also get the cover treatment.
“It’s the nostalgia factor that audiences resonate with most,” DiToro says. “That’s one of the most powerful feelings, whether it’s a site, a smell or audibly for the music. The ’80s had lasting power musically as a decade, and people want to hear the stuff they connected with when they were in high school, which is one of the most influential times of one’s life.”
The Legwarmers don’t just relive the music, but take people back in time with costumes, props, and even what they say on stage.
“We do a really good job of creating an experience for them and we take what we do really seriously,” DiToro says. “We have a lot of fun with it, and that comes through, which has helped us have a lasting power in the area and keeps us selling really well.”
Upcoming shows in the DMV include gigs at the State Theatre on Aug. 19; in the new Loudon Station Metro on Aug. 26; and Rams Head Live in Baltimore on Sept. 9. The band will also travel to Norfolk, Dewy Beach, Philadelphia and do a lot of private events all over the country.
“We travel and play all these cool rooms,” DiToro says. “We put on a really high-energy show and you can tell we’re excited about what we do. We bring fun and memories to people, and what more could you ask for.”
Although she was only 5 when the ’90s started, the singer had older siblings who taught her the ways of ’80s music, and she credits them with helping her become a fan early in life.
“I connected with music at a really young age,” DiToro says. “My mom’s a piano teacher and my dad plays guitar and my whole family sings. I was like that weird little kid who could remember all the words to songs off the radio, and my earliest memories of music are the ’80s—the stuff my brother and sisters liked.”
So, performing in an ’80s band is special to her because of her history and ties to the music.
Being a member of the Legwarmers has also allowed DiToro to concentrate on her original stuff more because she doesn’t have to worry about that day job anymore. And she’s also part of a 2000 tribute band called So Fetch.
As a solo artist, recording under DiToro, she’s opened for SmashMouth and Letters to Cleo, playing ’90s alt-rock inspired tunes. She also runs a nonprofit for women in music, which is a passion for her.
“I want to pay it forward and help other people break into the music scene, because my journey has been pretty cool,” she says. “People think that going full-time in music isn’t possible, but we live in an area where it actually is.”
For more information on the Legwarmers, visit www.thelegwarmers.com.
Pictured at top: Photo by Mike Stone