By Cathy Carter
© July 18, 2013
When Topper Dandy ties his ascot and slips on his boat shoes, the guitarist for the Richmond-based band Three Sheets to the Wind is transported back in time.
He's taken to an era when men with beards and windswept hair sang of drinking pina coladas and getting caught in the rain. It's the late '70s and early '80s, a time when the nation's radio airwaves rocked us gently with songs about sailing, sunsets and summer breezes.
Welcome to the world of yacht rock, a genre sparked by the popular online video series of the same name. The 2005 show, which spoofed the fictionalized lives of soft rock stars like Michael McDonald and Christopher Cross, was canceled after just 12 episodes, but it inspired a nostalgic musical movement that has yet to drop anchor.
Jimmy Fallon has hosted several yacht rock parties on his late-night TV show, and across the nation a handful of soft rock cover bands pay tribute to the musical style.
Three Sheets to the Wind, which sails into The NorVa on Friday, is one of the more popular tribute acts, thanks in no small part to its playful approach to the aesthetics. Dandy recently poured himself a Jack and Tab for a freewheeling phone chat of all things yacht rock.
You've said that one of your favorite audiences is right here in Hampton Roads.
For whatever reason, Norfolk is really the best when it comes to people just getting into the whole nautical spirit and getting dressed up for our shows. We're always impressed by the number of people dressed up in yacht wear. We see a lot of boat shoes and fake mustaches and people just getting into the whole spirit of the era. Norfolk and the whole Tidewater region, in general, really embraced us from the very beginning.
How can someone incorporate the yacht rock lifestyle into their daily routine?
One part dark rum, one part ginger beer and a lime. That's a good starting place.
If the Doobie Brothers and Toto were to rumble, which band would emerge the victor?
Well, if you're talking hand-to-hand combat, then you have to give it to the Doobies. Not a lot of people know this, but their guitarist, Skunk Baxter, is a judo expert, so they obviously have the advantage.
Besides the music, what cultural aspect of the yacht rock era is poised for a comeback?
I'm going to say macho-ness. America was so much more manly back then. When Richard Roundtree as "Shaft" and Clint Eastwood as "Dirty Harry" were ruling the box office, you knew America was at its best. Now the thing to do is shave your chest hair, pluck your eyebrows and be a guest star on "Glee." I'm so glad I can watch reruns of "Simon & Simon" below deck on our sailboat, the Tranquility, and remember the good ole days.
You were just a kid back then. What's one of your fonder memories of the era?
Certainly you have to admire the ingenuity of metal lunchboxes. Because oil was so expensive due to the (1973 OPEC oil embargo), many of the cheap plastic items we use today were routinely made of metal back then. America was so rich in metal in the '70s that it made sense to protect our sandwiches from the Soviets in all-metal lunchboxes. The fact that they were embossed and further decorated with toxic lead-based paint only made us tougher as a nation.
To what do you attribute the renewed appeal of '70s-era soft rock?
Well, besides the obvious allure of all that chest hair, the music of the yacht rock period provides an escape from the mundane. The music is a guilty pleasure, but honestly we don't really feel that guilty about it anymore.
Cathy Carter, firstname.lastname@example.org
IF YOU GO
Who Three Sheets to the Wind
When 8 p.m. Friday
Where The NorVa, 317 Monticello Ave., Norfolk
More Info www.thenorva.com