NORTHAMPTON — As golden sunlight splashed through trees, some 1,500 people gathered at Look Park on Tuesday for what has become a longstanding celebration of local music.
Transperformance 26 – the annual music benefit for arts enrichment in the Northampton public schools – brought together a cross section of the community at the Pines Theater.
This year, local musicians worked with the theme “Labor Party,” impersonating artists who are in some way related to a job, occupation or type of work.
Brian Foote, director of the Northampton Arts Council, said the theme is particularly relevant because of the Nov. 8 presidential election.
“There is a growing concern among many social classes about income equality in the U.S.,” Foote said, and the Transperformance allowed “local music heroes” to touch on those ideas.
The event is a collaboration between the Northampton Arts Council and Northampton schools’ parent-teacher organizations.
Event hosts dressed as notable work-related characters, such as Rosie the Riveter and Steve Jobs.
Jason Mazzotta wore a blazer, dress shirt, skinny tie, pocket square and slacks as he impersonated vocalist Sam Cooke with the song “Cupid.”
“This is sort of a bonus Halloween with local music,” said Mazzotta, of Northampton, who added with a laugh that the labor connection is found in Cooke’s last name.
“… Like a chef,” he explained. “I don’t think spelling counts for this one.”
Adam Dunetz, of Northampton, said he was “talked off the ledge” of shaving his head to mimic singer-songwriter Bonnie Prince Billy, who is bald.
Instead, Dunetz went with a safe, plaid button-down shirt and baseball cap, joined by an informal crew of musician friends he calls “Adam’s All-Star Band.”
Dunetz has played music his whole life, but is new to the Valley music scene.
He said he chose to share the songs “Horses” and “West Palm Beach” because they are “warm and kind of mysterious.”Warm evening
The evening was also warm, several Transperformance attendees noted with delight.
They danced along as Mister G (Ben Gundersheimer) sang the “funky, swampy blues” of New Orleans singer-songwriter Dr. John. The sound is clearly distinctive of Louisiana, said Gundersheimer, a 2015 Latin Grammy Award winner.
Family friends Lou Davis, Jen Davis, and their children Asher Davis, 13, and Izzy Davis, 11, joined the Whately artist on stage, all wearing “cool suits and funky Mardi Gras beads,” Gundersheimer said. Like Dr. John, he wore a fedora.
Imitating Dr. John made a lot of sense for the labor theme, because New Orleans musicians are some of “the hardest-working,” according to Gundersheimer. “They are legendary for playing all night, seven-days a week,” he added.
From 4 to about 9:30 p.m., the outdoor theater was alive with song.
Maggie Stewart-Smith of Northampton said Transperformance always “feels like a festival.”
Summer days are fleeting for the 13-year-old Northampton girl, who returns to school in one week. She spent the evening visiting with family and the many friends she runs into at Transperformance each year.
Phil Cote, a sixth-grade teacher at JFK Middle School, watched the show with his 9-year-old daughter Isadora Cote-L’Heureux.
“It’s a great way to end summer,” he said, holding his daughter close.
For him, Wednesday morning brings meetings to prepare for next Tuesday’s start of Northampton public schools.
“I can stay up late for a few more nights,” he said with a laugh.
Sarah Crosby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.