The world premiere of “Dare to be Different” at the Tribeca Film Festival Thursday night felt more like a sporting event than the screening of a documentary about the rise and unexpected fall of WLIR, whose importance in the music industry in the 1980s spread well beyond Long Island.
The packed screening room — which turned into a concert hall after the movie, as A Flock of Seagulls, The English Beat’s Dave Wakeling, and The Alarm paid tribute to the Hempstead radio station — erupted in applause throughout the movie. Duran Duran, U2 and Joan Jett drew huge cheers, but so did WLIR DJs such as Larry the Duck, Malibu Sue, Eppy and, of course, WLIR program director Denis McNamara.
“This is your movie,” director Ellen Goldfarb, the Plainview native who worked on the documentary for seven years, told the crowd. Not only because fans of the station were featured throughout the documentary alongside stars the station supported such as Jett and Billy Idol, but because, as McNamara told the crowd, it was their support that allowed the station to flourish.
In the documentary, numerous music executives talked about how support from WLIR’s fans persuaded other stations across the country to play new wave music, especially once the scene expanded into crowds at local clubs such as The Malibu and Spit. (For those wanting to relive the WLIR-influenced club days, Aura in East Meadow is hosting the “WLIR.fm New Wave Reunion” on May 21, featuring Malibu Sue and Larry the Duck, as well as latter-day WLIR DJs Andre and Rob Krush.)
And that common bond continues through this day, especially in the Facebook fan groups that initially inspired Goldberg to take on the documentary project.
“It’s still sad to see it end,” McNamara told the crowd. However, seeing how many people the station, which went off the air due to a dispute with the FCC in 1987, affected, made McNamara proud of what they had accomplished.
Limited tickets remain for “Dare to be Different” screenings at Tribeca Film Festival Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
SETLIST: The Alarm – Marching On/Where Were You Hiding When the Storm Broke?/68 Guns/Strength // Dave Wakeling – Save It for Later/Never Die/The Love You Give Lasts Forever/Mirror in the Bathroom// A Flock of Seagulls – Modern Love Is Automatic/The More You Live, The More You Love/Space Age Love Song/Wishing (If I Had a Photograph of You)/I Ran