Transperformance 2011: Royalty Graces the Stage
BY DAVE MADELONI
NORTHAMPTON — If our city were to crown a King of Transperformance, it could easily bequeath the throne to either King Radio or Lord Russ.
Both have had absolutely majestic performances year after year, and each has nobility etched right into their name.
This year’s “Nohobility” Transperformance — with its emphasis the Kings, Queens, Princes, and Dukes of pop music — is a perfect match for the pair.
After a four-year hiatus, Lord Russ will be steering his re-formed Aloha Steamtrain into The Pines Theater and will morph into Freddie Mercury and Queen, while Frank Padellaro will offer King Radio’s talents toward interpreting the radio-friendly Lindsay Buckingham and Fleetwood Mac.
King Radio’s sets are consistently the highpoint of the annual 5-hour extravaganza. Over the years, Padellaro has meticulously reigned over the likes of Glen Campbell, Elvis Costello, The Animals, The Beatles, Paul McCartney, ELO, Steely Dan, Blood Sweat and Tears, The Bee Gees, the Pixies, and last year, The Flaming Lips.
I asked Padellaro where the muse of King Radio and Fleetwood Mac meet.
“King Radio was originally conceived as a band that would explore a very wide array of musical styles with the unifying factor being songs with a defined catchy melody. Whether it had had rock guitars, or dissonant horns, or whatever, the songs would all have a melody your grandmother could hum,” he said. “Fleetwood Mac is more of the same. They have great songs. The arrangements have lots of little parts, that while not complicated on their own, weave together in a really complicated way”.
To further complicate matters, this year King Radio has invited The Florence Community Band to join on a song. “The only time we’ll hear it all together at the same time is on stage during the show. Will it be a success? I honestly don’t know, but it will be a blast for the musicians and the audience, and we’ll see you at the bottom of the roller coaster!”
Lord Russ (aka Russell Brooks) has been on a personal rollercoaster of his own lately, with a move to and from Florida, marriage, opening a dog grooming business, and a new solo album cooking in the oven.
Before his excursion south to The Sunshine State, Brooks and his band stole several Transpo shows with their exquisite renditions of The Beatles, Iggy Pop, The Guess Who, Harry Nilsson, The Moody Blues, T-Rex, and Engelbert Humperdink.
One transformative Transpo memory of mine happened in 2001 when Lord Russ absolutely nailed Jim Morrison.
Brooks recounted some of his more special memories of past performances.
“There are so many memorable moments for me. Among them have to be riding my motorcycle onstage to start our set as the Guess Who…. and slicing my chest with a trick knife and covering myself with fake blood and peanut butter as Iggy Pop is hard for me to forget,” he said.
“But perhaps my most memorable moment may have been performing as the Moody Blues and singing my favorite song “Nights In White Satin” while everyone oohed in wonder as a shooting star blazed across the sky above the stage. That was magical.”
LuxDeluxe as the Rolling Stones
Part of the magic of Transperformance is how it introduces emerging talent to the community.
“I get a kick out of seeing the newer bands and fresher faces” said Padellero. “Every year, all the bands do a great job, but there are always a couple where the material really seems to mesh with the band, and the result is nothing short of magical. I felt that way when I saw the Drunk Stuntmen do Pink Floyd, The Aloha Steamtrain as The Moody Blues, Henning (Ohlenbusch, of School For the Dead) as the Monkees, or the kids from PVPA (Pioneer Valley Performing Arts High School) as Joe Cocker.”
One of those PVPA kids is Ned King, lead singer of the red-hot LuxDeluxe, who was not yet born when the inaugural Transperformance took place 21 years ago. This year he might be in line for a coronation when he and his cohorts take on Sir Mick and the Stones.
“When Transperformance came around this year there was no doubt in my mind about what band to choose” said King, who had a brilliant turn as David Byrne last year. “Everything I equate the Stones with — hard work, awesome songs great live show, longevity — this is what I envision for LuxDeluxe. It’s a challenge for me. Anybody who knows anything about frontmen knows that Mick Jagger is king. I think that Jagger could work a space no bigger than a coffee table better than anybody, and that’s a difficult thing to imitate.”
Fans of the Artist Formerly (and currently) Known as Prince, might disagree. Transperformance veteran Jose Ayerve is thrilled to be chosen to channel the Jagger-esque carnal charisma of “The Artist”. But he is worried about what to wear: “Wardrobe-wise, it’s been a continuous challenge; long purple jackets are hard to come by these days, I haven’t even found the right wig yet!”
The Northampton Arts Council presents Transperformance 21 on Tuesday, August 30, 2011, 4 – 9:30 p.m. Gates open at 3 o’clock at Look Park.
For more information visit the northamptonartscouncil.org” target=”_blank”>Northampton Arts Council website.