PITTSFIELD - For the past seven years, Berkshire County cover and party band Static has been the group never to shy away from test-driving a hot dance tune, whatever the genre.
This Saturday, Static will perform its last gig at The GEAA ("The A") in Pittsfield, as its members prepare to go their separate ways to pursue solo and new group projects.
Though they may look more like Pantera --with some members sporting long hair, dark shirts and jeans -- they'll play everything from Big & Rich to The Black Eyed Peas, Def Leppard to Lady Gaga -- "Whatever the ladies want to hear," said Jim Witherell of Cheshire, Static's founder, drummer and lead vocalist.
"The men are going to go where the women are and we've always wanted the biggest following," said lead guitarist and supporting vocalist Fabri Perotti, a Pittsfield native and founding member.
Over the years, Static has found success playing regular gigs in the Berkshires and upstate New York venues respectively, like "The A" and the former Halpin's Grub & Grog in Lenox; the Barrel Saloon in Albany, King Neptune's Bar & Grill in Lake George and J.P. Bruno's Bar & Grill in Glens Falls, N.Y. They've also been popular festival and large-scale entertainers, playing Pittsfield's Live on the Lake, North Adams' Party in the Park, the annual Hinsdale Block Dance and Lebanon Valley Speedway's "Night of Fire," among nearly a dozen other events.
Witherell said Saturday's final gig will be a chance to not only bring together Static members, past and present, but also to reunite with and throw one last big party for their fans. He said they'll definitely be taking requests.
"We're going to play four hours of music, with maybe a 10-minute break in between," Witherell said. The band will donate part of the proceeds to the Relay for Life team, Bryan's Bears, which was formed in honor of Witherell's nephew, Bryan Brophy, who survived an ocular cancer he was diagnosed with at six weeks old.
"Giving back and playing music are the loves of my life. On Saturday night, we're going to play as much music as humanly possible," Witherell said.
The group has rotated through a few members, including founding members Andre and AJ LeBlanc, a father-son duo and bassist Adam Peterson. Along with Witherell and Perotti, the current lineup includes guitarist, lead vocalist and synth mixer Matt Cahill, and bassist and supporting vocalist Matt McKenna, both of Pittsfield. Since the beginning, Witherell's father, booking agent Bruce Witherell of Aries Entertainment, has helped manage the band's promotion and performance schedules.
Despite never setting out to join a cover band, Cahill has stuck with the group for the past five and a half years.
"I do write music and enjoy the creative aspect of that. A cover band is a whole different kind of collaboration," said Cahill. "Even when they asked me to play, I didn't jump in right away. Then I went out one night to see them at the Mill Town Tavern in Dalton, and frankly, I was pretty impressed."
Each current member of Static has brought decades of previous musical experience to the stage.
Witherell brings more than 30 years of experience to the band.
"Since I was about 14 or 15 years old, I've been in cover bands," said Witherell, who used to play in the groups After Dark, and Illusion.
Instead of playing wedding and family party classics, Witherell decided to start Static as a way to play both contemporary and classic Top 40 club hits as interpreted by a live four-piece band.
He said part of the reason Static is coming to a halt is because there are fewer venues in Berkshire County that have the space and means to regularly pay for a plugged-in party or house band.
"There's room for 100 acoustic and solo acts, but only a few places where musicians can really make money because they want to book a band," Witherell said.
Witherell and other band members, who are in their 30s and 40s, are also fathers. So spending time with family on weekends versus hitting the road has become more of a priority. Witherell will continue on at the Mill Town Tavern in Dalton, hosting an open mic night every Tuesday and play in his duo Quarter Life Crisis with Brian Benlien Thursday nights. He also hopes to start a new band in the beginning of 2014.
"We're all going to venture off in different areas," he said.
Perotti has more than 25 years of music experience under his belt, being a former member of the bands.
Perotti said he'll be using his versatile guitar talents after Static to continue with his side project, The White House Staff, which plays lounge music, as well as a Pittsfield-based country-rock band called BANDIT (with Gary Burchard, Larry Botto, B. Joesph Korona and Darren Corbett). Without giving much away, he told The Eagle he's also planning to debut a tribute band project in 2014.
Matt McKenna, who only joined Static this past year when he relocated from Los Angeles, said he's had a great time playing with Static while being back in the Berkshires. McKenna is an accomplished bassist who previously toured internationally with hard rockers House of Lords.
"It's been fun just helping out," he said. "I'm continuing to do session work and recording for other bands, and I'm looking forward to getting back on a tour."
In addition to playing Saturday's final Static gig, Cahill will also debut his solo act Friday night at 8 at PortSmitt's Lakeway Restaurant in Pittsfield. A former member of Uptrodden and Child of Pride, Cahill currently has a couple of side projects in the works, and also hopes to do more original writing and recording.
"It's been a good run with Static, and I give Jim all the credit in the world for organizing us," Cahill said.
"We've all become pretty tight, friendship-wise and music-wise," said Perotti. "For all the guys of Static, I highly respect their musicianship. I think they're some of the best musicians around here, without a doubt. I wish them luck with whatever projects they're doing."