Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Fest For Beatles Fans

Here is a first-hand report from Forgotten Hits Field Reporter Shelley Sweet-Tufano, who just recently attended the show in New York.  (We can't WAIT for The Fest to hit Chicago this summer, if only to catch the incredible pairing of Chad and Jeremy with Peter Asher!)    

The Fest For Beatles Fans, for me, is two days of education. Oh, it's for sure fun, but my inner voice is saying, "Someone else agrees with me."; "I never knew that."; "I wondered about that."; and "WOW!" 

The 2016 Rye Brook, NY fest was more than I expected ... and I expected much. You must pick and choose where you will be going and who you will be seeing at these conventions, as an entire hotel is overtaken with opportunities ... so I can only comment on my choices. 

Here they are:  Louise Harrison, Rob Shanahan, Birds of Paradox, Billy J Kramer, Mike Pender, Peter Asher and Chad and Jeremy (two parts), Mark Hudson, Steve Holley, Cellophane Flowers, Mark Hudson (again), and a discussion by radio disc jockeys of Paul's new cd collection.  

Ringo's photographer, Rob Shanahan, presents himself and his work very well. He is as much in awe of his opportunities, and Ringo, as we are. His accessibility has given him opportunity for amazing photos and he seems to have taken advantage of them brilliantly. I did not buy his new book at The Fest, as I learned while there, that my son wants a copy, too. Just decided to connect with Rob online to purchase books, but I did narrow down a selection of Paul and Ringo shots to one that I just must buy while there. If you get a chance to see Rob's slide show of some of his works, and hear him describe the locations you are seeing, you will be well rewarded with insight into the legendary world of The British Invasion.  

Louise Harrison has been criticized as well as supported in her financial gains being George's sister. I am not here for that. Do your own research. I listened to two of her lectures and found her to be grounded on stage, but yes, hawking her band (Liverpool Legends) and books. However, everyone here has something to sell ... except me and my monkey ... so that is not unexpected. History is filled with facts, but it is also perceptional. Each person lives and experiences from their own point of view. Was Louise Harrison instrumental in America helping Brian Epstein? Why not? Why wouldn't Brian want someone close to The Beatles to aid them, and him, in breaking down boundaries? Why wouldn't Louise want to help her kid brother make money in his band? The one thing I found strange was that the same questions were asked by the audience at both interviews. So either they are common (Didn't George play in a band when he visited you in America? ... Didn't George buy a guitar when he visited you in America?) or they were staged. Doesn't really matter. She has a couple books and a couple speaking cds of memories that people may find very interesting.  

I bought Billy J Kramer's book! He signed it and I am thrilled! Its release date is May something, but he brought some to The Fest for predistribution. Billy's voice has grown since The British Invasion Tour. It is bolder and stronger, with much depth. Go Billy!  He and Mike Pender did a couple songs together, and Billy did his big hits and a couple new songs with his band. On separate days, he and Mike Pender did interviews on their experiences, first time seeing The Beatles, the Liverpool sound, and the current development of Liverpool. The basis of every talk this weekend is the effect of WWII on each of these performers and the influence of American rock and roll to help them emerge from their "black and white world".   

Mark Hudson appears in several panels and concerts throughout the two days I am attending. I catch him in one with Mark Rivera, Steve Holley, Jon Cobert, Gary Van Scyoc, and Adam Ippolito and then, of course in his Musicians' Forum. If you have never seen Mark before, you know it. He CANNOT be missed. He is full of energy and displaying every color of the rainbow between his clothing and facial hair. I love it, but wonder if he EVER gets any rest as there is nowhere to hide for a technicolor hyper musician. I bet he glows in the dark! Do you Mark? 

Stories about The Beatles flow like Niagara Falls; vast volumes of non-stop information pouring over the audience. The day Mark's road rage brought apologies from a contrite Bob Dylan; Gary and Adam having John Lennon walk into a rehearsal of Elephants' Memory and ask to join the band; Steve Holley being a "Wing" of Paul McCartney; Mark Rivera with stories of Ringo; Jon Cobert playing keyboard on Lennon recordings and on and on.   

Birds of Paradox perform immediately after.  (Two Elephants' Memory and a Wing included) Beatles songs and solo Beatles songs emerge and I wonder:  If The Fest played a recording in the lobby of EVERY Beatle song and solo song, as well as any songs where they performed back-up, would they need to ever repeat one?   

The Musicians' Forum has Mark Hudson acting as musical director with Billy J Kramer, Jon Cobert, Steve Holley, and Glen Burtnik from the band Liverpool playing and singing a transition of Beatles' music. They are exhibiting not only their own musical prowess, but a knowledge of past, present, and future when it came to The Beatles' writing and performing. Education at its finest! Fun at its core! Music as its passion!  

Let me praise the two emcees for the weekend: Tom Frangione and Ken Dashow, both accomplished DJs. They keep the stage in the ballroom running at top speed and depth of information. I catch Tom in a panel on Sunday with my friend and co-worker Ken Michaels, handling the tough topic of "Why a McCartney compilation of his solo years, and is it worth the purchase?" The other two panelists are Darren Devivo and Al Sussman. All four have Beatles knowledge and experience that they have shared in print and on the radio. It was a frustration for me to keep quiet here as I have a "working education" opinion and enjoy expressing it. Ken told me they usually open it up for comments and questions, but I have a feeling he told them, "Keep that woman quiet. No audience participation." The only fact I will reveal is that none of us totally agree completely on the musical selections, and none of us would have been able to get it down successfully to 67 songs. Tom's research brought a little over 500 'solo years' McCartney songs.  

Cellophane Flowers is a string quartet and solo vocalist group that knocks those George Martin string arrangements out as if they were spinning silk. I am sorry I don't have names to give you, but maybe a Lapidos family member can assist here. I can picture this group performing in a garden setting at a wedding, art show, or any convention's gathering. They should be surrounded by nature and fresh air even more than a concert stage.  

And finally, it was listed as a "Brand New Memoir and Concert Experience". In reality, it was simply amazing.  
I refer to the two hour / two day Peter Asher / Chad and Jeremy section of The Fest. Peter Asher's production experience added to the talent we know and love from all three of these Brits and made this worth the price of admission alone. I loved every minute of my two days in Rye Brook, but I was wowed by this.  Every person I spoke to, or over-heard in conversation, used the same words and thoughts I have.  It was unexpected, albeit advertised on Sirius radio and websites.  The premise begins as a way to "prove" that Peter and Gordon were indeed a different duo from Chad and Jeremy. There were people so confused in the sixties, that they mixed them up or considered them one duo. 

Well, let's take a look here.  There were TWO folk-rock, guitar-playing British Invasion duos and they each had a tall dark and handsome lead singer with a shorter, eyeglass wearing, nerdy looking chap who sang higher harmonies. Don't get angry at my description. It came from Peter Asher. Personally, I found them all good-looking and talented ... then and now.   

They start at their beginnings, each with their connection to being war babies and what that meant for them personally.  The pictures and videos are presented on the large screen behind them  Their stories progress in school, music and fame. Chad and Jeremy one step ahead in each moment, but Peter Asher always proclaiming, "It wasn't really that we were following them."  Twice I am in tears.  

The first time Chad and Jeremy sing a tribute to a man Peter Asher managed:  James Taylor.  The song?  You've Got A Friend.  To see Chad and Jeremy side-by-side harmonizing this Carole King beauty touched my heart.  Then Peter Asher touched my soul when he sang along with a Gordon Waller video tribute to Buddy Holly. The pick?  "True Love Ways."  "Just You Know Why" booms out in Gordon's broad baritone. Tears ran down my cheek uncontrolled.  Everyone else was feeling the same, but maybe I was the only one weeping. I am pulled into their reunion stories as Chad and Jeremy talk about the PBS special '60's Pop Rock Reunion'.  I went to that when it toured, watched it on TV and bought the video, but not the T-shirt. Peter and Gordon reunited for the 'Concert for Mike Smith at BB King's'.  I could not make that concert but I had a hand in raising money for Mike's custom wheel chair and van.  It came full circle for me.  The show was complete with songs, laughter, sections read from books, interviews, and stories.  Afterward, I told them how much I loved it, and picked up a signed picture of the three of them. 

Thank you to everyone involved in The Fest For Beatles Fans. A Splendid Time Was Had By All. Thank you Lapidos family.  

The Fest For Beatles Fans hits Chicago on August 12th, 13th and 14th ... the official details can be found at the link below (but apparently the performance schedule hasn't been finalized as of yet.)  [I've already talked to Ron Onesti about the possibility of bringing some of these artists to The Arcada Theatre for a follow-up show ... how cool would it be to see Chad and Jeremy, Peter Asher, Billy J. Kramer and Mike Pender of The Searchers performing in the intimate confines of The Arcada Theatre?!?!  No word yet on whether or not he'll be able to pull this off ... but I'm sure the fingers of MANY local British Invasion Fans will be crossed until we get the final yay or nay!]

Thanks for another great review, Shelley ... by the way, Billy J. Kramer is on our Forgotten Hits list ... maybe he'll share a word or two about the experience as well.  (kk)