Monday, August 12, 2013

I’ve Just Seen A Fest 2013

Photo from The Fest For Beatles Fans Facebook page.

You could call The Fest For Beatles Fans a celebration with kaleidoscope eyes. The Chicago version, which was held this past weekend at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare in Rosemont, once again offered a colorful variety of ways to look at the most famous rock band in history. The celebrity guests—musicians who performed with and/or were inspired by The Beatles; authors who’ve spent years researching them; and artists and photographers who’ve captured their images—all worked from a different point of view. A screening room showed Beatles-related films, and of course, the fans in attendance all came with their own perspectives.

The wide selection of t-shirts in The Fests marketplace gave fans plenty of choices on how to wear their Fab Four pride, and there were new items to discover. The Record Showcase is a larger-sized frame that simultaneously displays a vinyl  LP’s cover and most of the record itself. The frame provides a UV Inhibitor for protection and can be easily opened to allow the record to be played. Other products emblazoned with The Beatles ranged from blankets to a pair of dice.

The Fest For Beatles Fans also brought artists and authors face to face with the people who would most likely be interested in their work. Rob Shanahan, who is Ringo Starr’s personal photographer, gave an entertaining slide show in the ballroom, and author Bruce Spizer also used a slide show while promoting the digital version of his book, Beatles Records on Vee-Jay. The hard cover version sold out long ago and is difficult to find. Singer-guitarist Greg Kihn autographed copies of his latest mystery novel, the Beatles-themed Rubber Soul, and entertained people in the marketplace with acoustic versions of “The Breakup Song” and “Jeopardy.” Other authors on hand included Larry Kane (When They Were Boys), Wally Podrazik (All Together Now), Jim Berkenstadt (The Beatle Who Vanished), Jude Southerland Kessler (She Loves You), Jorie Gracen (Paul McCartney: I Saw Him Standing There), Judith Kristen (Once Upon A Time In Liverpool), Robert Rodriguez (Revolver: How The Beatles Reimagined Rock And Roll), and Gillian Gaar (100 Things Beatles Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die).

Eric Cash and Georgina Flood filled the Heathrow Room at the Hyatt with imaginative Beatles art on prints, t-shirts, and calendars. In addition to being talented artists, they both share an easy-going and genuine rapport with fans. Freda Kelly, the subject of Good Ol Freda, a new documentary about her time as secretary of the official Beatles Fan Club, also charmed the numerous people who came up to talk with her.   

The musical guests were the biggest draw for most people who came to The Fest For Beatles Fans, and unfortunately, I missed a major chunk of the concerts due to having such a hectic weekend. But I did catch Chad & Jeremy’s performance on Saturday afternoon, and their harmonies on hits like “Summer Song,” “Willow, Weep For Me,” and “Yesterday’s Gone” were still amazingly fresh. Other highlights included an acoustic take on the Jimi Hendrix classic “Purple Haze,” which Chad touchingly dedicated to the memory of a young student who took guitar lessons from him, and a gorgeous rendition of The Beatles’ “I’ll Be Back Again,” for the encore. The British Invasion duo also shared humorous tales of being on American TV shows like Batman, The Patty Duke Show, and The Dick Van Dyke Show.

The B.U.I. (Beatles Under the Influence) Musicians’ Forum is always an entertaining if unruly adventure of improv rock and roll. British writer/producer Martin Lewis, who shares interviewing duties with WXRT radio personality Terri Hemmert, assembles a panel of musical guests, feeds them questions about The Beatles and watches them cut loose. This year, the participants were producer/musician Mark Hudson, Badfinger singer-guitarist Joey Molland, singer-guitarist Billy J. Kramer, drummer Liberty Devitto, and bassist-vocalist Chas Newby, who played with The Beatles on four gigs in the early 1960s. 
As always, The Fest For Beatles Fans wrapped up with a Sunday night concert by the tribute band, Liverpool. These four New Jersey-based musicians nail every Beatles song that lay their hands on, and their range of material exceeds most of their competitors. After an hour of bringing the cheering audience to its feet for songs like “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “Strawberry Fields,” and “Hey Bulldog,” Liverpool followed its annual tradition of inviting some of the musical guests to join them. I had to leave shortly after Molland drove them through “Dixie Blue” and “Day After Day,” in order to catch the CTA and Metra back home.  I may not have been able to see as much of The Fest For Beatles Fans as I wanted to this year, but even a bit was still quite an experience.

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