Sounds Local: The B-52.O’s bring the party to Ten Forward

  • The B-52.O’s, a group of Franklin County-based musicians, will be playing the music of the B-52’s at Ten Forward in Greenfield on Sunday, Dec. 11, at 6  p.m. The show was originally scheduled for Dec. 3 but was postponed due to illness. CONTRIBUTED

For the Recorder
Published: 11/30/2022 4:21:51 PM
Modified: 11/30/2022 4:21:37 PM

“Love Shack,” “Rock Lobster,” “Roam,”… If there’s a party going down, someone is bound to break out one of these songs by the B-52’s. The iconic band from Athens, Georgia, broke into the music world with their 1979 debut that revealed a sound mashing up surf guitar, ‘60s girl-group vocals and New Wave. It wasn’t only the band’s music that was different. The beehive wigs and retro clothing worn by singers Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson also set them apart and helped make the B-52’s the patron saints of oddballs everywhere. The group is currently wrapping up its farewell tour (with Northampton-based musician Ken Maiuri on keyboards), so you won’t be catching them in concert anytime soon.

You can, however, check out the debut of the B-52.O’s, a group of Franklin County-based musicians who will be playing the music of the B-52’s at Ten Forward in Greenfield on Sunday, Dec. 11, at 6 p.m. (The show was originally scheduled for Dec. 3 but was postponed due to illness.) The group features members from such bands as Home Body, Old Pam, Fleetwood Whack and Good Wives. This show is a fundraiser for Pioneer Valley Regional School, raising money for a student trip to Puerto Rico. Big Destiny, Holy Basil and DJ Dutch are also part of the lineup.

The project is the brainchild of musician Vanessa Brewster, who has played in various local bands, including cover bands Fleetwood Whack and Patsy Clone.

She has wanted to play the music of the B-52’s for years, and finally, the time is right.

“We did Fleetwood Whack five or six years ago, and I knew then that I wanted to do the B-52’s,” said Brewster in a recent phone interview. “This past summer Haley and Eric (Haley Morgan and Eric Hnatow of the electro-pop band Home Body) got married and going to that wedding and doing karaoke, plus it being post-pandemic, made it feel like it was time to get another band together and do the B-52’s.”

Brewster is a fan of the band and especially loves the harmonies created by singers Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson.

“I also love that The B-52’s are like ‘anything goes’ and that they are strangely retro and ahead of their time at the same time,” she added. “And right now, I’m just thinking about the Q Club shooting, and I want to support and represent queer culture, so it feels even more right to do this now.”

In September, Brewster started assembling the band, which includes Gray Maynard on bass, Chris Sella on guitar, Perry Huntoon on drums and Mary Collins on vocals.

Brewster knew from the start that she wanted her friend Haley Morgan to be part of this project. Morgan had never played in any other band besides Home Body. Still, she jumped at the opportunity to sing vocals with this group.

“I am usually too tied up with Home Body’s touring schedule, but the stars aligned for this,” Morgan said. “Vanessa has been floating the idea of doing a B-52’s cover band for years now, and they have always been one of my favorite bands. I was really excited when she proposed the idea for doing this in the fall because I just got married in September and finally had some time to rehearse with other people.

“They were the first band I saw when I was 5 years old. We had a CD of their ‘Cosmic Thing’ and I would spend hours listening to it,” Morgan said. “I just love how vibrant of a band they are, and I could tell they were artsy weirdos before I realized that’s what I wanted to be when I grew up.”

The band is currently having a great time rehearsing and deepening its appreciation of the B-52’s as they learn songs.

“It’s been good medicine to be playing music with friends especially after the pandemic,” said Morgan who has only played a few Home Body shows in the past year as the duo work on material for an album they plan to record this winter. For Brewster, this is her first time playing music since COVID hit.

Unlike other cover bands whose goal is to duplicate the music of their famous counterparts note by note, the B-52.O’s are more about celebrating the music and having fun playing it.

“We share all the parts and it’s whatever feels right for the song,” said Brewster, who will play keyboards and sing. “I sing Kate, Cindy and Fred sometimes.” (Fred Schneider is the male vocalist in the B-52’s.)

“What’s been really juicy for me about this project is being able to harmonize with Vanessa as the other vocalist and trading Fred’s parts, too, and thinking how to make his vocals work with what we are doing,” added Morgan.

“I really appreciate how the B-52’s don’t have rules for themselves and we have inhabited that spirit of trading different personas and parts within the band. We are the B-52.0’s so it’s not going to be exactly like the recordings of the B-52’s, but I feel it suits where we are in the world where culture feels a lot more fluid, and it’s great to work with musicians who are able to have that flexibility with their talent and their voices.”

As mentioned earlier, the B-52’s looks are a big part of their brand and the B-52.O’s will not let that aspect of the band slide. “We’ve been talking about shoes and outfits since this started,” said Brewster with a laugh. She said she is going to bring the the Kate vibe, Morgan will be going for the Cindy look, and Collins will take on Fred.

And while this is about having fun, let’s not forget that it also raises money for a good cause.

Brewster is the Spanish teacher at Pioneer Valley Regional School in Northfield and she is taking some of her students on a trip to Puerto Rico in February. They have been working hard to raise money for the expedition.

“We have been fundraising non-stop, selling raffle tickets and cookies and coffee and pies,” Brewster said. “People have probably seen us all around at places outside of Foster’s. Anything we could do to raise money, we’ve been doing it.”

The money being raised at this show will help the students who cannot cover the additional costs after fundraising.

So come and dance the mess around and help out a good cause. Who knows what the future of the B-52.O’s will be? They only have one other show scheduled and that is New Year’s Eve at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield.

“When Vanessa brought us all together we were under the assumption that it would be a few shows, but we are having so much fun I wouldn’t be surprised if we perform a few more times,” Morgan said.

This is a 16-and-older show. Admission is a $15 to $25 donation.

Benefit show for Healing Harmonies

In other benefit news, there will be a fundraiser for Healing Harmonies, a choir group for individuals with communication challenges due to diagnosed neurological conditions. This event, called “Sing and Swing,” will take place at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield on Tuesday, Dec. 6, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The show will feature the Butterfly Swing Band, soprano Shelley Roberts and members of Healing Harmonies choir.

Healing Harmonies was started by Amanda Bernhard, a speech language pathologist at Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield, and Lisa Sommers from University of Massachusetts Amherst. The two started the group because of the results of research conducted at UMass Amherst and the observed benefits of singing for individuals with neurological disorders that affect communication.

“We quickly realized that singing with others could benefit many other groups in similar ways, whether to improve their voice, articulation, language, cognition or social interaction,” said Bernhard.

The group was meeting virtually due to the pandemic but recently returned to in person. The group is raising money to help it continue to meet and rehearse in-person.

Tickets are $15 to $30, sliding scale.

Green River Festival weekend passes on sale Saturday

Music is the perfect holiday gift for that special someone on your shopping list. On Saturday, Dec. 3, you can head to The Parlor Room, 32 Masonic St. in Northampton, and purchase Green River Festival weekend passes with no fees.

The 2023 festival will be held June 23 through 25 at the Franklin County Fairgrounds. The lineup will be announced sometime in the new year.

You can only purchase these no-fee tickets in person. Day tickets, parking passes, and camping and RV passes will go on sale at a later date. The weekend pass is $125, the VIP weekend pass is $75 and the student weekend pass (with a current student ID) is $95. Festival merchandise will also be on sale. To make your shopping even more enjoyable, some Signature Sounds artists will be performing: FREEMAN at 2 p.m., Ali McGuirk at 3 p.m. and Twisted Pine at 4 p.m.


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