Veteran O.C. rockers Tranzfusion reaching into Delaware
“Tranzfusion is all about the sound. It is by far the best classic-rock band in the area. Without a doubt, these guys are second-to-none and are the most fan-friendly performers I’ve seen in a very long time,” said Wally Siegfried, a resident of the Bay Forest community.
Siegfried knows what he is talking about. His friends describe him as a classic-rock expert — the kind who would win that “Jeopardy” category hands down. It helps that his dad owned a nightclub in Allentown, Pa., and he grew up in the ’60s and ’70s listening every night to live rock-and-roll before it even became classic.
“If I hear the Rolling Stones now, or Pink Floyd, or Tom Petty, or The Who — I think of an evening with Tranzfusion,” said Nedda Meagher, who is from New York and now lives in Selbyville. “They play the music I grew up with, and their voices are right on — amazing. I’ve followed them for four years, and they have such a loyal crowd that turns up wherever they play. It’s a lot of fun!”
Whereas most avid fans describe musicians by their instruments, Tranzfusion’s fans describe them first by their vocal renditions.
“Bobby does a kick-ass Rolling Stones. Bob becomes Pink Floyd, as well as Jim Morrison. Hank does Tom Petty and Santana. We’re just getting used to Al,” who’s known for his takes on Joe Walsh, Jackson Brown and Gary Moore, “but already we love his harmonies,” said Bill Chapman, a lifelong rock concert-goer who lives in Frankford.
“And I really like it that when they play a particular artist, they will stick with that music for a limited set so you can really get into that groove.” In fact, each of the band members takes a turn on their set by The Cars, matching vocal to original song.
But, Chapman added, “It’s not just their voices — it’s their musicianship that matches each of the original bands that makes Tranzfusion remarkable.”
Tranzfusion is not a band to listen to while chatting with friends. Tranzfusion fans dance. They are on the dance floor from the first beat of Bobby Malaby’s drum until Davis calls an end to just their first set after 2.5 to 3 hours straight of classic rock, and after a brief break, they’re right back at it to close out the night, with fans still filling the dance floor often until 1 a.m. or later.
Amongst them is a dancing fixture — a dapper older gentleman who regularly drives from Rehoboth Beach to hear them play.
“They keep me young,” said Bill Lesniczak.
So what is this phenomenon called Tranzfusion that has been rocking the Ocean City, Md., music scene for 35 years? And why, until March 1 this year, at Harpoon Hanna’s near Fenwick Island, had they never previously played in Delaware?
Bobby Malaby is the band’s drummer and spokesman.
“Basically, we started as teenagers in Salisbury with a band called Just Us. Just Us was me, Bob Davis and Hank Koenig. Then, in 1983, we formed Tranzfusion, along with my brother Tom,” said Malaby. “We played around Salisbury and Ocean City as full-time musicians and stay-at-home dads for about 20 years while the kids were young.”
“When the kids got bigger, it was time for us to get regular jobs. I drive a water truck for Culligans, Hank is a landscaper, and Bob is a reading specialist and teaches special-education in Pittsville. Until recently, my brother Tom, who was our bassist, combined his love of playing with us with his career as a rocket scientist. When he couldn’t get away from work, Al Cook substituted, and now he’s our full-time bassist, as well as being an audio-visual technician. … And now Tom is dedicated to the sounding-rockets program at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility.”
With five-day-a-week daytime schedules, that leaves Tranzfusion with Friday and Saturday evenings to devote to their fans. Literally there are no empty Fridays and Saturdays on their calendar until year’s end. Their regular venues are popular Ocean City nighttime spots, such as the Original Greene Turtle, BJs on the Water, M.R Ducks, Fager’s Island and Beach Barrels, with an occasional trip to Maryland’s Western Shore and Baltimore.
Interspersed on the schedule are various festivals and special events, such as last weekend’s Turtle for Recovery benefit for a local anti-opiate-addition charity at the Greene Turtle in West Ocean City, and a February cancer-charity benefit, Dancing for Diana, organized in honor of Bobby Malaby’s late fiancée, Diana Klick. Upcoming is a performance on June 8 aboard the Harbor Queen on an evening cruise from Annapolis.
“We are known really well in the Ocean City-Salisbury area — and our fans are so loyal, it’s not difficult to pack our schedule with close-by gigs,” said Bobby Malaby. “That’s probably why we haven’t made it to Delaware before Harpoon Hanna’s, which is just a stone’s throw from Maryland anyway!”
The good news is three more Harpoon Hanna’s gigs are booked for the summer, including this Friday, May 3, as well as June 28 and July 12. But most Tranzfusion fans will already have those dates marked on their calendars.
“Our fans are the best,’ said Malaby. “We always knew that; but this past year, the outpouring of love for Hank really proved it.”
Malaby is referring to a house fire on Christmas Eve 2017 at the historic Berlin, Md., home of Tranzfusion’s lead guitarist, Hank Koenig. (For newcomers to the band, Koenig is known as the one who always plays barefoot.)
“Almost immediately, one of Hank’s neighbors started a GoFundMe page, and so many people donated. Then there was an extremely successful benefit at Fager’s Island, which brought out hundreds of people, all ready to contribute. And businesses helped out, too — like when Paul Reed Smith Guitars heard that his guitar cases reeked of smoke, they gave him all new cases.”
There is a fifth member of Tranzfusion. He has been with the band for 30 years and doesn’t play an instrument, yet Malaby said he plays just as an important role as any musician. He is their sound technician, Paul Brunkhorst.
“Our sound has always been very important to us,” said Malaby. “Because we each play additional instruments, and our voices have different ranges, and in one song we can have one or two or all four of us singing, the sound gets complicated. Paul keeps us balanced and sounding good.
“When he is on the road doing big shows with Broadcast Sports International, my son Scott is our backup. I believe having a fully-involved sound technician is what distinguishes us from all the other bands in the area.”
And that emphasis on the quality of their sound is visible, as well as audible. For the last two years, Malaby has been playing most of their gigs behind an elaborate see-through drum shield.
“It isolates the drums’ sounds so the soundman has more control,” Malaby explained. “It depends on the room and is not for outdoor gigs. It’s all about the sound.”
To learn more about Tranzfusion and the band’s schedule, follow them on their Facebook page or go to www.tranzfusionband.com. Tranzfusion is a must-see for all local classic-rock fans. Harpoon Hanna’s on Friday, May 3, from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., may just be the perfect opportunity!
By Christina Weaver
Special to the Coastal Point