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.
Upon arrival on Sunday morning, I was a bit disoriented because the layout was different from the way The Fest has been done for several years. The marketplace was now upstairs and divided into smaller rooms rather than the usual downstairs massive area. I could be wrong, but it seemed like there were fewer merchants this year. But there was still a wide variety of t-shirts, buttons, posters, and other memorabilia for sale.
WXRT air personality Terri Hemmert once again served as MC, and although her mobility was limited due to recent knee surgery, she was at the top of her game during interviews with Peter Noone from Herman’s Hermits, Mike Pender from The Searchers, and Mickey Dolenz from The Monkees. All three gentlemen offered fascinating anecdotes about The Beatles and the music business in general, but Noone and Dolenz in particular, were very funny. Audience members were invited to take part in the interviews, and the questions ranged from insightful to ill-informed. One audience member addressed Noone as “Henry.” Following their interviews, the musicians were available for autographs.
Hemmert was also in charge of the Battle Of The Beatle Bands, in which amateurs and professional musicians compete for the honor of being named the best cover band. Anyone familiar with this competition over the past few years could have predicted that Ringer’s All Starr Band, fronted by a charismatic and talented Ringo Starr look-alike, would win. Still, Elementary Penguins, The Ralleys, and Pisces Fish all came in close.