Rocking on, remotely: Transperformance reimagines Live Aid to raise funds for schools

  • Americana/roots rock band Lonesome Brothers will be performing as Bob Dylan as part of Transperformance 30: Live Aid.  CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/Brandi Ediss, Courtesy of Northampton Arts Council

  • All-female indie rock band Kalliope Jones will transform into Queen during Transperformance this year.  CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/Northampton Arts Council

  • Experimental psychedelic band Bunnies will be performing as Bryan Ferry and David Gilmore during Transperformance.  CoNTRIBUTED PHOTO/Northampton Arts Council

  • Steve Sanderson, who is the events producer for the Northampton Arts Council, carries an ampersand during Transperformance on Aug. 21, 2018 in Pines Theater at Look Park. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 8/13/2020 9:11:16 AM

Every August, local musicians transform themselves into popular artists and bands during Transperformance, organized by the Northampton Arts Council. But amid the COVID-19 pandemic, artists are moving off of the stage and onto streaming platforms to bring the popular annual musical event to audiences at home.

This year marks the 30th Transperformance, which will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 18 and will include a mix of live-streamed performances and prerecorded ones, says Steve Sanderson, events producer for the Northampton Arts Council.

The council was hoping to bring Transperformance back to its regular venue — the Pines Theater at Look Memorial Park in Northampton — with social distancing and reduced capacity. But a few weeks ago, organizers switched gears to host a remote concert due to an increase in COVID-19 cases, Sanderson said.

“Now we’re completely reinventing it, so it’s twice the work, and it’s a whole new set of challenges,” he said.

This year’s theme is Live Aid, an homage to the July 1985 benefit concerts in Philadelphia and London, which featured a lineup of popular musicians and bands raising funds to bring relief from the Ethiopian famine that happened that year.

Sanderson said the Transperformance Live Aid show will raise funds for arts enrichment programs in Northampton Public Schools.

“We had such a hit last year with Woodstock, and we started looking at models of what other large, iconic concerts would be fun to transperform,” Sanderson said. “It was unanimous across the board, between musicians and staff and tech, that Live Aid would be a fun one to do. It seems appropriate in this day and age to relive it a little bit.”

Some of this year’s Transperformance artists and bands include punk rock group Pajama Slave Dancers as Black Sabbath, all-female indie rock band Kalliope Jones as Queen, indie-pop band King Radio as The Beach Boys, experimental psychedelic rockers Bunnies as Bryan Ferry and David Gilmore, Americana/country artist Zak Dagger as Phil Collins, roots-rock band Lonesome Brothers as Bob Dylan and vintage soul band The Mary Jane Jones as Patti LaBelle.

Frank Padellaro, lead vocalist and frontperson for King Radio, which features a large ensemble that includes up to a dozen musicians, said his band hasn’t been rehearsing in person due to the pandemic. But the group has been using online platforms to rehearse and record each player’s individual parts to transform in The Beach Boys for the event.

“Historically, I’ve used Transperformance to do a crazy high-wire act … It’s not like we’re Brian Wilson’s band, but our hope was to get up there and try to do that,” he said. “Now in the context of how things are doing here, we’re going to try to record it separately. I can’t ask anybody to do anything that they’re uncomfortable doing.”

Mandy Pachios, lead vocalist for the Mary Jane Jones, said her band will be performing their set live at 33 Hawley St. for a live-streamed set. The eight-piece soul band features a horn section, drums, guitar, bass and vocals.

“The challenge has been trying to accommodate how tight we keep our circle and fears of the virus, which we know very well because we’ve been hit,” she said. “Not everybody feels comfortable rehearsing in the same room, so we’ve been rehearsing in sectionals — the rhythm section and the horns outside. So we’re adapting. I guess that’s all we can do. It works for now; practicing outside.”

She added that the Mary Jane Jones’ set will be 12 to 15 minutes, after which they’ll pack up their gear and leave the live-streamed location before another act goes on.

“One of the hardest parts is that one of the reasons musicians enjoy performing at Transperformance so much is that we get to see people that we don’t see otherwise,” Pachios said. “You don’t get to go to other people’s gigs when you’re performing yourself, except at Transperformance. You get to see people that you lose touch with … We’re not having that this time. So, we’re really doing this because we really believe in arts in the schools and do what we can to raise money for the Northampton schools.”

Brain Foote, executive director of the Northampton Arts Council, said in addition to supporting arts education in Northampton Public Schools, Transperformance is also a fundraising event for the arts council to help pay for other events throughout the year such as First Night Northampton.

“We’re going to lose a lot of revenue with ticket sales and the revenue selling food at Look Park’s Pines Theater,” he noted.

To raise additional revenue, the Northampton Arts Council has launched a GoFundMe campaign and is asking for donations to continue its longstanding community arts events.

“I’m trying to replace a lot of that revenue that will be lost,” Foote said. “Instead of charging people to watch Transperformance on Facebook Live, we’ve decided to go on a more donation basis. Hopefully, the community will come together and support this important event.”

Chris Goudreau can be reached at cgoudreau@gazettenet.com.


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