Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey | Photo: Courtesy

Promising a journey back through the energetic 1980s music scene, the Totally Tubular Festival comes to the Santa Barbara Bowl on Friday, June 28, with a hit parade lineup that includes: Thomas Dolby (“She Blinded Me with Science”), Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey (“Hold Me Now”), Modern English (“I Melt with You”), Men Without Hats (“The Safety Dance”), Bow Wow Wow (“I Want Candy”), The Tubes (“She’s a Beauty”), The Plimsouls’ Eddie Muñoz (“A Million Miles Away”), and Tommy Tutone (“867-5309/Jenny”).

Tom Bailey graciously Zoomed in for an interview from his home in London to share a few tidbits ahead of the Totally Tubular tour, which launches in Seattle before winding its way through various spots in the U.S. and Canada this summer.

How did this particular grouping of musicians come together? Do you share a bill with them often?  

Strangely enough, I’ve hardly met any of them before. But Thomas Dolby, who’s the co-headliner — I’ve known him for half a lifetime. But weirdly, although we played on an album together over 40 years ago, we’ve never actually been on the same stage. So, it’s a kind of idea that we’ve talked about so many times over the years, and it never happened. So now we’ve got a chance. And that’s one of the things that made me jump at this opportunity.

Even though they label it a festival, it’s really a big concert. How much time do you get to perform?  

Obviously, the weird thing is that the more bands are on, the less time we get. I can’t predict playing for a couple of hours or anything crazy like that. It’ll be a “greatest hits” set with a few surprises. Describe it that way.

With a full set, you have your rhythm, and you can play certain songs and set the pace. How does that compare to coming out sort of full blast?  

You’re right to say that it’s very different and, and it’s something that musicians are kind of twitchy about. We notice the difference between 45 minutes and 50 minutes and a couple of hours. … With a longer set, of course, you can construct a more interesting narrative arc with a whole program with some dips in the middle. With a short set, you just go bang, bang, bang, basically, and the thing is, of course, fans get disappointed if you don’t play the hits that they really like. And these days, weirdly enough, you can find out quite scientifically about what people are expecting, because you can see the number of streams of your songs. You can see even in specific regions and areas and cities, so the managers and the agents say, “You’ve got to play that song. Because it’s a big streaming hit in Santa Barbara,” or whatever, you know. So, to an extent, our hands are tied by that information.

That’s interesting. I always wonder about what it must be like to write a song when 19, 20, 25 years old and then years, even decades later, people want you to play it. It is hard to fire up for?  

I guess it depends what the song is, you know. I’m lucky in the sense that I don’t find any of my more requested songs irritating. The thing is, you can contemporize for yourself. I mean, as an artist, you can say, “How do we make this fresh?” And that’s partly a personal skill that you’ve got to develop. But hey, I’ve got a little trick too, which is that my band — all of whom are female, by the way. Some of them weren’t born when those songs were released. So that means that they’re not acting out of any sense of nostalgia about it. To them, it’s fresh. … And that’s a wonderful resource for me, because it’s not like, “Here we go again, guys; one more time around the block,” right? It’s a fresh situation.

That’s great. I can’t wait to see the show. 

I’m looking forward to Santa Barbara. … I love it [touring]. I mean, some people don’t. I can certainly get exhausted by the whole thing. But I actually quite like being on a bus with musicians and traveling around the states and saying where we’re going next, you know, and enjoying every night and getting an emotional connection with an audience in a new town every night. It’s a fabulous thing. I mean, who wouldn’t want to do that? —Leslie Dinaberg

See the Totally Tubular Music Festival on Friday, June 28, 4:45 p.m., at the Santa Barbara Bowl (1122 N. Milpas St.). See

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