Bee Gees tribute band brings disco back to The Maryland Theatre
It was not only a genre of music or style. Disco was a subculture in the 1970s, U.S., urban nightlife scene. There was the spinning, lighted ball; the extravagant dresses, catsuits and wide-collared leisure suits; dances like “the bump” and “the hustle”; the “four on the floor” rhythms; the sounds strings, horns and synthesizers and affected vocals.
Singer Peter Mazzeo said there is a sizable contingent that misses those days.
“I think the demographic is right, right now. A bunch of years back, you could hear disco on radio stations. That’s changed over the decades,” Mazzeo said during a phone interview with a Herald-Mail reporter. “Now we have this demographic of 50-year-olds, even 70- and 80-year-olds who like to think about going back 30 or 40 years.”
That, he said, is why the New York Bee Gees Tribute Show draws audiences to venues across the country.
“Those people love the disco age. It plays so well. It really does lend itself to a more affluent crowd. People love the music and they buy into it. They come dressed up and want to share their great experiences,” he said.
Mazzeo will perform with the New York Bee Gees on Friday, Nov. 8, at 7 p.m. at The Maryland Theatre in Hagerstown. With a lineup of brothers Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb, the Bee Gees were successful as a popular music act in the late 1960s and early 1970s but especially so during the disco era of mid and late ‘70s with hits like “Stayin’ Alive,” “How Deep Is Your Love” and “Night Fever.”
Known for its three-part harmonies and Barry Gibb’s falsetto, the group sold more than 220 million records worldwide and became one of the world’s best-selling artists ever. Mazzeo portrays Barry Gibb, while Tom Flyntz and Manny Focarazzo perform as Robin and Maurice Gibb respectively.
“We help people relate to a great time in their lives,” Mazzeo said. “I think now is a perfect time for us. That’s why this act is getting even more popular.”
In addition to playing together, recent or former New York Bee Gees members have played with acts including The Alan Parsons Project, Meat Loaf, Queen, Blue Oyster Cult, Herman’s Hermits, Enrique Iglesias and others.
Mazzeo, who was born and raised in New York, said he was “an AM radio baby.”
“There were those great three-minute pop songs of the ‘60s and ‘70s, that pop format you used to hear in those days,” he said. “I was into that type of music. The Bee Gees, The Beatles, and the (Rolling Stones) along with all of those one-hit wonders and all that stuff.”
Mazzeo has been playing music all his life, he said, first on clarinet as a child and then going on to receive formal training. He played for a long time with a group based on Long Island, N.Y., and began to grow tired of it.
“We had been playing the same circuit. I was going to quit and I began to discuss it with my bandmates,” he said. “We said, ‘Let’s look into doing something different. Then the Bee Gees thing happened.”
Tribute bands were gaining in popularity, but there were not a lot of groups portraying the Bee Gees. Mazzeo has “always been blessed” with a three-plus octave vocal range, he said, which lent itself to the sailing styles of Barry Gibb.
“I used to do Frankie Valli and things like that, a lot of songs in a high range. Being able to sing like that helps to separate us from the pack,” he said.
“When I came up with the concept of doing this, it was perchance that, you know, I was growing my hair long and growing a beard and kind of bore a resemblance to Barry Gibb,” he said.
When he put on a pair of round blue glasses, Tom Flyntz looked something like Robin Gibb. The group worked on material, made a video and sent it out to venues.
“Purely by chance, it all worked out,” Mazzeo said.
During May of 2014, they began to perform as the New York Bee Gees. Along with Mazzeo, Flyntz and Focarazzo are band members Tammi Wolfe, Peter Lazos and Mike Flyntz.
All the members have been playing together for 20 years or more, Mazzeo said, with the exception of Wolfe, who joined the group about 12 years ago.
“We are all lifers. We’ve been together for many years,” he said.
Audiences like to hear Bee Gees music as close to the originals as possible, so the tribute band performs all the songs in original keys with “pretty much the original arrangements.”
“We want to give them the best Bee Gees musical experience that we can. We dress like them with a lot of white and sparkles and gold,” Mazzeo said.
With roots in England and Australia, the Bee Gees spoke with accents.
“I’ll start the show speaking in an English accent, then I do it as a little bit of a joke,” he said.
The New York Bee Gees regularly perform at New York venues including NYCB Theatre at Westbury, Resorts World Casino and Suffolk Theater, as well as East Coast tours. The group recently completed a West Coast tour and is currently booking dates in the United Kingdom for next spring.
The show mainly captures the Bee Gees of the 1970s disco era, but delivers songs from every decade of the Bee Gees catalog. It also highlights the songwriting skills of the group. The Bee Gees wrote all of their own hits in addition to writing and producing for other artists including Barbra Streisand and Dionne Warwick. Wolfe performs some of those hits as part of the show.
“It gives people an idea of the great body of work that the Bee Gees accomplished,” Mazzeo said.
Top photo: Singer Peter Mazzeo will portray Barry Gibb in New York Bee Gees tribute band performing at The Maryland Theatre. (By Wayne Herrschaft)