Sounds Local

Sounds Local: Transperformance goes ‘Beyond Bob’

The only good thing about summer coming to an end is the arrival of the annual Transperformance concert at the Pines Theater at Look Park in Florence.

Held the last Tuesday of August for the past 23 years, this end-of-summer bash, in which local musicians transform themselves into their more famous musical counterparts, is always one of the most enjoyable shows of the season. This year’s Transperformance XXIII, presented by the Northampton Arts Council and the Parents Teacher Organization of Northampton, will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 27 and will begin at 4 p.m. and conclude around 9:30. Proceeds from the show go to support arts enrichment programs in the Northampton schools.

Each year, the show has a specific theme and the musicians perform the music of an artist that somehow ties into that theme. Past themes have included “Oy Vegas,” “Royalty” and “Food Groups.” This year’s theme will be “Beyond Bob,” which means that all performers will be playing the music of a musician named Bob. There are a lot of Bobs in pop music history, and these are just some of the local musicians performing and their ‘“Bob” identities:

Philip Price as Robert Goulet, Heather Maloney as Joni Mitchell (real name Roberta Anderson), Dave Houghton and Friends as the Grateful Dead (Bob Weir), Rusty Belle as 1960s Bob Dylan, Young@Heart Chorus as 1970s Bob Dylan, Lux Deluxe as Devo (Bob Mothersbaugh), Lord Russ and Friends as The Cure (Robert Smith), The Original Drunk Stuntmen lineup as Led Zeppelin (Robert Plant), and so much more. There will be 23 acts in the lineup.

This year’s Transperformance is a bittersweet affair as it is the last one that Bob Cilman, the executive director of the Northampton Arts Council, will be at the helm. Cilman, who has held the position since 1989, has been involved with Transperformance since the beginning. He plans to retire from the job on Sept. 15.

“I’m a little sad, but satisfied that Transperformance has been such a staple of what we do,” he said about this being his final show.”I can imagine still being in Transperformance, just not producing it.”

The first-ever Transperformance concert was called “Woodstock: Peace.” Cilman said he can’t even remember who came up with the original idea, just that the idea came out of a group meeting. He never thought it would turn into such a long-running and successful event.

“Frankly, we just hoped to make it through the first year,” he said. “The second year was a bust (“Beyond Karaoke”), but by the third year we really hit our stride. It has been a blast ever since.”

A blast indeed. The show is known for its many inspired performances and for the sense of fun that the performers, and hosts (which include local radio personality Monte Belmonte) bring to the event. Some of the musicians choose to do a credible imitation of a performer (think Heather Maloney’s spot-on performance of Amy Winehouse last year), while other don crazy wigs, campy costumes and whatever other silly props they can scrounge up. Overall, it’s a fun, family-friendly event that you will not want to miss.

A few things to know before you go: Look Park is located at 300 Main St. in Florence. Advance tickets are $8, and $10 at the door (seniors 65 and over $5), kids 12 and under $3. Advance tickets can be purchased online at or at Cooper’s Corner, Main St. in Florence. Look Park does not allow any pets, beverages or coolers into the Pines Theater. Food and drink vendors will be present. Do bring a blanket or low-back chair to sit on. Be prepared to pay a $5 special-events vehicle entry fee at Look Park unless you have a season pass. In the event of rain the show will be held on Wednesday, Aug. 28. If rain is predicted for both days, the show will be held at the Northampton High School.

The Demographic and The Dire Honeys at the Arts Block

When I saw that The Demographic and The Dire Honeys were sharing a bill at the Arts Block on Friday night, Aug. 23, at 8 p.m., it seemed like an odd pairing. The Demographic are a two-man band — guitarist Tom Pappalardo and drummer Sturgis Cunnigham — who play a loud brand of rock in the manner of The Pixies, Dinosaur jr and Nirvana. The Dire Honeys are three women — Mia Valentini, Vanessa Kerby and Lena Schmid — who play a not-so-loud brand of old-timey Americana music that utilizes fiddle, mandolin and guitar.

But when I discovered that The Demographic were going to be performing a rare acoustic show, the teaming of these two groups not only made sense, it made good sense.

“The Demographic is normally a loud-rock thing, but for this set I’m playing acoustic and Sturg is playing his suitcase drum kit (which is exactly what it sounds like),” explained Pappalardo about the show.

The Demographic formed in Northampton in 2009. Pappalardo and Cunningham had previously worked together in the band No Shadow Kick, so when Pappalardo decided that he wanted to do something with a bunch of songs, he had written he called on his old friend. The two discovered that the duo format worked well and that with Pappalardo playing his guitar through two amplifiers and Cunningham playing a full drum kit, they could make a lot of noise. The band favors short, sharp songs that get right to the point with a quick bite. But don’t let that trick you into thinking that they are a punk band. This is a band that writes melodic, catchy songs and slips in lots of sludgy guitar, and even some country, into their music mix. They have released two EPs: “Verse Chorus Curse,” and earlier this summer they came out with “Listen Close.”

The Demographic don’t play out a lot because are both band members are busy with other projects. Pappalardo is a graphic designer/illustrator and cartoonist. You may be familiar with his cartoon strip “The Optimist” that appears in the Valley Advocate. He will also be performing at Transperformance this year with the band Unicorn, playing the music of The Replacements. Cunningham is an in-demand drummer who works with Martin Sexton, MC Frontalot and others.

Performing acoustic is something new for the band, and even though they are unplugging, don’t expect this to be a laid-back show.

“We’ve only played acoustic once before, so it’s a relatively rare occurrence that we’re trying to do a bit more,” said Pappalardo. “Less stuff to carry! We’re very excited to be playing with The Dire Honeys.”

Judging by the crowd’s response to the band’s performance at the Green River Festival, local audiences are excited to see the Dire Honeys. This up-and-coming trio released a new five-song self-titled EP last month, so don’t forget to grab a copy when you are at the show.

The Arts Block is located at 289 Main St. in Greenfield. Advance tickets are $7 at the door and available at Admission at the door is $10.

Sheryl Hunter is a music writer who lives in Easthampton. Her work has appeared in various regional and national magazines. You can contact her at

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