Monday, August 16, 2010

Liverpoolooza - Part One

Image taken from Fest For Beatles Fans program.

The 34th Annual Chicago Fest For Beatles Fans wrapped things up last night with an all-star fortified performance by the tribute band Liverpool that in itself was worth the price of a day’s admission. The Fest, which kicked off at the Hyatt Regency in Rosemont with an opening announcement by MC (and WXRT radio personality) Terri Hemmert at 5:00 PM Friday and ran through the weekend, once again demonstrated the drawing power of The Beatles. Various guests shared how much the band had changed their lives, either through personal relationships or via musical influences.

Even with my attendance limited to one day, I was still able to take in a lot of the event’s multiple treasures. I arrived Sunday afternoon in time to catch British comedian Martin Lewis’s interview with author Chris O’Dell, whose book Miss O’Dell reflects back on her days as an employee of The Beatles’ ambitious but ill-fated Apple company. She recalled George Harrison playfully flirting with her, and how she eventually became close friends with his wife. Patti Boyd.

One of the coolest things about Fest For Beatles Fans is an inclusive ambience where well-known musicians, authors, and other performers weave their way through crowded halls and rooms with no hassles. After checking out the O’Dell interview, I wandered downstairs to visit the marketplace, and passed Fest honcho Mark Lapidos conversing with musician/producer/TV star Mark Hudson. A few times during the day, renowned artist and bass player Klaus Voorman walked within a few feet of me. Andy Babiuk, author of the respected Beatles Gear book and founding member of the garage rock band The Chesterfield Kings, was on hand, displaying some of his instruments.

The marketplace was filled with dozens of vendors selling t shirts, bags, wallets, belts, caps, guitar straps, calendars, books, buttons, publicity stills, CDs, vinyl, vintage publications, radio station Top 40 surveys, and just about anything that can possibly bear a Beatles logo or image. One vendor sold official merchandise from the current Cavern Club in Liverpool. My favorite item this year was a small guitar pick tin with an eye-catching, black & white Sgt. Pepper band photo on the top. There was also a t shirt for The Traveling Wilburys that caught my fancy. The oddest thing for sale was a toy from the 1960s that was a board with magnetic hairs that you shook until they found their rightful places on a drawing of the Beatles’ heads. A slogan on the package claimed, “Amuses the whole family.” Not any family I’d want to live next door to.

The Fest also had some impressive, higher end art for sale, including some Rockstore works from Voorman, who started creating unique portraits of his friends The Beatles from their early performaning days in Hamburg, Germany. Eric Cash and Paul Saltzman were among several talented artists and photographers offering their work for sale.

Print and TV model Mike Olie is a sort of Beatles memento come to life. He looks and dresses like a post-Beatles Paul McCartney, and is available to lip synch, or meet and greet at private parties, trade shows, and other special events. I’ve seen Olie at previous Fests, and always thought it would be fun to have this charming impersonator come by when I’m celebrating a birthday with family and friends. At the Fest, he was enthusiastically working the crowd throughout the day.

Hemmert’s onstage interview with former Wings and Moody Blues member Denny Laine offered interesting vignettes from both of the involved parties. Laine revealed that he and the other Moodies had been friends with the Beatles from the very early days. He also recalled visiting a Pirate Radio ship and seeing empty Heinekens bottles floating around it. Hemmert harked back to her first interview with Laine in Chicago when he was still with Wings, and how Linda McCartney helped her remain calm as she prepared to interview Paul.

Coming tomorrow: Pat DiNizio at Beatles Storytellers; The Musicians Forum; Battle Of The Beatles Bands; an Art Contest; People Under The Stairs; and Liverpool Rocks The House with special guests.


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