|Chicago Fest: The More Things Change...|
[Posted by Jude Kessler on Sunday, 08/16/09 3:04 pm] [Permalink] [Full Blog] [Tweet] [Facebook]
Day Three at the Chicago Fest for Beatles Fans: the skies are grey and overcast in the windy city, but spirits are still "happy just to dance" to another, final day of Beatles' music. Already, I'm getting a little misty-eyed about leaving my Beatle buddies. And I'm beginning to reminisce over the events of the past few days.
Some things at Mark and Carol Lapidos's Fest never change. Like them. Year in and year out, they are kind, loving, and wonderful hosts. Yes, they make a living with these events, but you can tell that they do it out of sincere the love for The Beatles, not for mercenary motivations. They rock.
|Me, Joe Johnson and Donnie G|
Then, there's the iconic presence of Joe Johnson and his "Breakfast with The Beatles" roving-reporter-on-the-scene interviews. Joe, and his PR expert, Donnie G, have been doing these shindigs for years. But they're not a bit jaded. They still sparkle as they give Beatles trivia, meet fans from all over the United States, and spend time with new authors like me who really need their reviews. Like many DJ's, who promise reviews (and take multiple complimentary review copies) but then never do a thing in return, Joe never fails to help. He is one of the good guys.
And there's Chicago's own Terri Hemmert, the Fest's MC. Unlike other renowned hosts who barely have time to say a legitimate "hello," Terri greets everyone with warm hugs. She listens to children and adults with the same intensity. She laughs without reserve. She enjoys hosting this event with every fiber in her being. Terri is genuine...and beloved by everyone in the hotel and far beyond.
|Terri Hemmert and yours truly|
And then, there's the Fest staff: young people who were born long after the Beatles broke up, but who dance in the aisles of the Marketplace as the music plays, who know all the words to every song, and who exude the kind of Beatles positive spirit that makes this all work, forty-five years after the fact.
For all of these people, it's easy to drive across country and work in a booth for eleven hour stints. It easy to want to do a good job for them. It's easy to love being at their Fests.
There will be some surprises today, for sure. (Who would've envisioned Greg Hawkes singing "Something" to a ukulele last evening?) But the parts I'll enjoy the most as we wrap up this wonderful weekend at the Chicago Fest '09 are the elements that will stay the same.
Chicago Fest Day 2: Breakin' Every Rule
[Posted by Jude Kessler on Sunday, 08/16/09 12:36 pm] [Permalink] [Full Blog] [Tweet] [Facebook]
The second day of The Chicago Fest for Beatles Fans with madman rocker, Mark Hudson, orchestrating a performance the fans will not soon forget. He opened his set with John Lennon's quirky "Everyone's Got Somethin' to Hide (Except Me 'n My Monkey), and then motioned world famous photographer, Allen Tannenbaum, to the stage for a surprise.
Seems Tannenbaum had phoned Hudson a few weeks earlier, requesting Lennon's favorite oldies hit, "Be Bop A Lula." He'd counted on Hudson performing the number for him. But tonight in Chicago, Hudson turned the tables: he handed Tennenbaum a guitar, and told him to perform the number himself...with Hudson and the rockin' Beatles tribute band, Liverpool, playin' right along. It was breakin' the rules, but it worked.
Then, in an unannounced tribute to Michael Jackson, Hudson performed with Liverpool to do both "Say, Say, Say," and "The Girl Is Mine" in medley. The McCartney-Jackson link brought fans to their feet as they sang along with the two sentimental favorites.
|Fest organizer Mark Lapidos with Mark Hudson|
But the greatest cheers of the night came when Hudson summoned to the stage "the only man he ever loved," his brother, Brett. Brett, who is in remission from cancer looked as great as he says he feels. Brett played a mean guitar on both "Long Tall Sally," and "Working Class Hero," while Mark issued vocals that would've made The Beatles give him a standing O.
The traditional closing song, "Hey Jude" brought us all to the stage for the descant, "All We Are Saying is Give Peace A Chance." Mark and Carol Lapidos, DJ Terri Hemmert, Martin Lewis, Allen Tannenbaum, Bruce Spizer, the incredible Ronnie Spector, the entire loveable Fest Staff, the guest musicians Earl Slick and Greg Hawkes, and I all chanted the familiar phrases we'd love for all these years.
All, in all, the concert was a rule-breaker, but it was phenomenal. How can Day 3 begin to top Day 2? Hard to imagine. Stay tuned...it's Sunday, but at the Fest, it's not a day of rest.
And the hits just keep on comin' at Chicago Fest 09!
[Posted by Jude Kessler on Saturday, 08/15/09 5:24 pm] [Permalink] [Full Blog] [Tweet] [Facebook]
The second day at the Chicago Fest for Beatle Fans is overflowing wall-to-wall fans and a host of innovative Beatle artists. Just when you think you've seen every Beatle book that's out there and every painting or photo from every possible pose, something completely new and unique emerges.
Take the work of Stuart Shea, who penned Fab Four FAQ (with co-writer, Robert Rodriquez) several years ago. The energetic writer (and devoted Beatles fan) has been busy with a new projects he is premiering at the Fest. Shea has just completed an interesting new work, Pink Floyd FAQ, which looks at the legendary band via fact/trivia listings. Instead of yet another biographical account of the book, Pink Floyd FAQ provides an examination of the band through thoughtful consideration of their accomplishments.
"In the listing of Pink Floyd's most uncomfortable moments," Shea smiles, "was the night that Pink Floyd was booked at Abbey Road Studios in the same room where The Beatles were performing. As young pups with no clout, waiting in the wings while The Beatles finished their session, Pink Floyd experienced the angst of being the 'new guys on the block.' It was one awkward moment."
Artist, Eric Cash, captures moments in time as well. His soulful, insightful oil paintings of The Beatles capture them in candid action, "working the mines" over their instruments, intent on their latest creations. His newest portrait of George Harrison "is no glamour shot," Cash comments. "It's the face of an artist completely locked on his work...and that is the most beautiful picture of all." Cash's art, amazing affordable, can be viewed at ericcashillustration.com.
As Beatle music floods the Marketplace and Ronnie Spector graces the main stage, the fans listen, shop, sing, and compete in the "Sound Alike Contest." The Fest is a beehive of action and opportunity.
More reports coming up! Stay tuned!
Chicago Fest rocks into the wee hours
[Posted by Jude Kessler on Saturday, 08/15/09 8:59 am] [Permalink] [Full Blog] [Tweet] [Facebook]
They're sitting on sofas, lounge chairs, tables, and floors in the Hyatt Regency in Chicago at the Fest for Beatles Fans. The Marketplace had closed for the evening, but the fans - attired in new Beatles tees, belts, and jackets - were still singing the night away on three separate floors.
|Fans with guitars are everywhere|
Up in the lobby, journalist Jonathon Polk (former COO of Capitol Records) talked about his fascinating "Beatles Box of Vision" coffee table book which will come out later this week. All day long, he was selling the distinguished black case designed to hold collectors' Beatles album and CD covers, and now he is relaxing as he discusses "the long and winding road" that took his idea from conception, to planning, to production, to reality. The elegant case, which includes histories of each album - written by Beatles expert, Bruce Spizer - was ten years in the making. And Polk is justifiably proud.
|Ann Bando and your humble reporter|
Late night fans watch as Allen Tennenbaum, whose signature photos of John and Yoko have earned him distinction, sits by the fireplace chatting with Fest Organizer, Mark Lapidos. And lifelong fan, Kathy Kneist from Jefferson City, Missouri, is here again this year with her husband, Tim, and her service dog, Felix. For some, the Fest is a first-time experience. But for others, like Ann Bando, the Fest is a lifelong tradition. Ann, who visited Liverpool for the first time this past year and who saw Dhani Harrison in concert at Lollapalooza, is excitedly sharing her photos of both events with those around her.
Day One at the Fest ends with souvenirs, conversation, and photos. It ends with fans becoming friends. It ends with singing. And you know that can't be bad.
More live coverage from the Fest coming up today! Stay tuned!
Some newcomers to this year's Chicago Fest for Beatles Fans
[Posted by Jude Kessler on Friday, 08/14/09 7:22 pm] [Permalink] [Full Blog] [Tweet] [Facebook]
I've found some new friends this year in the Chicago Fest for Beatles Fans giant Beatles Marketplace room.
Hal Pollock's just-released children's cartoon book, Meet the Brittles, chronicles the entire story of The Beatles, using Scouse monsters in Beatle suits to play the roles of John (Riff), Paul (Lefty), George (Mojo), and Ringo (Sticks). Pollock's work, a rhymed poetry-story features 80 Beatles songs in the narrative and moves the story along at a fast and interesting pace.
Children of all ages will love the adventures of the cleverly drawn monsters, created by none other than Beatles-guru, Anthony Parisi and John Beukemann. The book, the first of five in a series by Pollock, is a crowd-pleaser. You can check out th book at www.monsterbooks.net.
Another newcomer to the Chicago Fest this year is talented artist, Russell Walks, who has spent years doing artwork for the world of science fiction. "But I was always a huge and devoted Beatles fans, " Walks commented, "and on the anniversary of John's death, 2008, I started thinking about how I could use my art to commemorate him, to honor The Beatles."
The result is a stunningly-produced new book called The White Album, in its first edition. The collector's coffee table book is unique. Walks went to 12 noted artists and asked them to pick their 3 favorite Beatles tunes to illustrate. Photographer Paul Michael Kane chose "Why Don't We Do It In the Road?" Cartoonist Jamie Snell chose "I Am the Walrus." And classic pin-up artist, T. C. Cor selected, "Tomorrow Never Knows." Each lent his or her own insightful interpretation to The Beatles lyrics, and the result is a book of 36 new works of art that are provocative, thoughtful, and lovely.
And that's it for me for Friday night! Stay tuned, more reports coming up!
Live from the Chicago Fest for Beatles Fans
[Posted by Jude Kessler on Friday, 08/14/09 5:28 pm] [Permalink] [Full Blog] [Tweet] [Facebook]
Hi, it's Jude Kessler, reporting live from Chicago Fest for Beatles Fans '09! All the traditional elements are here this year, and some new surprises!
Rockin' Terri Hemmert, Chicago's #1 DJ, presides over festivities as MC. Joe Johnson of the ever-popular "Breakfast with The Beatles" radio show is on hand to interview fans who stream in from all over the United States. The World's Most Famous Beatles Artist, Shannon, is present with her phenomenal paintings of the lads, and smooth Beatles expert, Martin Lewis, is here, there, and everywhere - one minute interviewing gorgeous Ronnie Spector, the next minute hosting the "Beatles Sound Alike Contest." The familiar elements of the weekend are all in place.
|Me and a special friend|
This year, Bruce Spizer has not only his eight books on the Beatles recordings on Capitol, Swan, VeeJay, and so forth to sell. He has something new and entirely different: The Beatles Trivial Pursuit Game, for which he penned all questions (and all answers). The brand new boxed party game is selling off the shelves at the Fest, and boards are set up in hallways as people rip into it and begin to challenge one another.
The crowds at the Chicago Fest are bigger than ever this year; the economy has not daunted Beatle-land. There is an art show, a dance with music provided by popular Beatles tribute band, "Liverpool," book readings by authors like me (shameless plug for my book Shoulda Been There), and question-and-answer sessions on Beatles facts and history.
|Bruce Spizer and Jonathan Polk, creator of Beatles Box of Vision|
Rocker Brett Hudson, who has been fighting , is back in complete remission, setting the main stage on fire with his brother, Mark Hudson. Rock on! And, the "big event of the weekend" will be the onstage interview with Ronnie Spector, lead singer of the Ronnettes, and wife of Phil Spector, who produced John Lennon's "Rock'n'Roll" album and who was a close friend of The Beatles throughout their career.
The Chicago Fest for Beatles Fans is open to anyone of any age, at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare, running today through Sunday, Aug. 16. As Fest organizer Mark Lapidos always promises, "A splendid time is guaranteed for all!"
More reports coming soon. Stay tuned!