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The Reagan Years to headline HangarFest

September 14, 2012|By SUSAN FAIR | Special to The Herald-Mail
  • The Reagan Years is an '80s tribute band, but members say you don't have to remember the 1980s to enjoy their music.
Submitted photo


Their music is so appealing they've been whisked to exotic locations for private shows, and they've been booked to perform for VIPs so important they were under gag-order not to talk about them.

 They are the Maryland-based '80s tribute band The Reagan Years, and on Saturday, Sept. 22, Hagerstown will have the chance to get in on the fun when the band plays the third annual Discovery Station HangarFest.

So what can you expect if you go to see The Reagan Years at HangarFest?

"A real concert experience," said Sy Seyler, drummer and vocalist for the band. "We're not just a cover band. It's an event."

A glimpse at the band's YouTube channel shows concert-goers participating in The Reagan Years experience with big smiles on their faces, singing along and swaying to the familiar tunes.

The Reagan Years — or TRY as they're sometimes known — was, ironically, inspired by the angst-driven music of the 1990s. 

In the mid-'90s, Seyler and Karen Ellison, now keyboardist and vocalist for TRY, were in a working band playing original music — and not enjoying it very much. 

"We were doing well, but it was pretty thankless," Seyler said. "If you remember, with the music in the '90s, there was the heavy influence from Seattle and grunge music. It was somewhat depressing."

But Seyler noticed something interesting: local radio stations had begun doing "retro-lunch" programs of '80s music. This nostalgia for the not-so-long-ago '80s inspired Seyler. 

"The '80s music —  it was hard not to be happy listening to a song called 'Love Shack' or 'Walking on Sunshine,'" he said. "There seemed to be this cult backlash of '80s music and I thought, 'Hey, we ought to do an '80s tribute show.'"

Soon The Reagan Years — a band that plays tribute to the '80s in all its upbeat and beat-heavy glory — was born. 

Today, part of the fun of seeing The Reagan Years is the fact that they not only take requests — they encourage them.  

Seyler said "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey is the bands most-requested song. 

"The thing we hear the most is ‘Wow, you guys sound just like the record,'" he said.

And it seems you don't have to remember the '80s to enjoy TRY.

 "That's the part that's most surprising for me," Seyler said. "I see children from age 9 or 10 to people in their late 60s and up. People bring their teenagers. And you see everybody out there singing along. This music really transcends decades."

Comprising The Reagan Years with Seyler and Ellison are Glenn Riley on guitars and vocals, Jody Lewis on bass and vocals, and Michael Leigh, lead vocals, acoustic guitar and harmonica. All were in high school or college during the '80s, Seyler noted.

While several band members are full time musicians, others hold day jobs. Among TRY are a corporate trainer, a quality assurance tester for a tech company, and a house painter. But all still manage to make TRY a priority — a commitment that has paid off well in fun and adventure.

"We recently went to Hawaii," Seyler said. "A corporate client flew us there and we played shows on a beach."

The band has also enjoyed high-profile gigs like playing at the Ronald Reagan Centennial Celebration and opening for '80s idols Eddie Money and Survivor. 

But it's not the travel and celebrity that make The Reagan Years fun for Seyler and company.

"It's the energy that's the fun part of it," he said. "We get to do really fun things and it's really happy music. People come to see us to have a good time."



If you go ...

What:  The Reagan Years at the Third annual Discovery Station HangarFest

When: 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 22. Band begins at 7 p.m.

Where: Rider Jet Center, 18539 Henson Blvd., Hagerstown

Cost: $15; VIP tickets $50. Tickets are available through Discovery Station and the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Contact: Discovery Station at 301-790-0076 or info@discoverystation.org and the CVB at 301-791-3246

More: Learn more about The Reagan Years at www.thereaganyears.com

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