The first U.S. television appearance of the Beatles in 1964 on The Ed Sullivan Show made them an instant sensation. Fifty years later, they still are, and they will be celebrated Saturday at the Allen County Public Library.
The annual Beatlefest will bring a roster of young musicians inspired by the four boys from Liverpool at the downtown library’s plaza. Doc West, longtime Fort Wayne disc jockey at WXKE-FM Rock 104, says this year’s concert will feature musicians as young as 11 performing selections of the Beatles’ storied songbook.
One day, we were discussing how it would be nice do a festival with a common theme running throughout it, West says. The Beatles are accepted by a broad aspect of listeners, and they have so much material that can be covered. Part of what we do is try to come up with a new way of doing the show. This year, most have an angle of youth.
The concert, which is returning to the library for the second time, will feature young performers Marnée and Bailey Evans, Soft N’ Heavy and the Beatles 63 Lab Band, in which the musicians range from ages 11 to 14; local bands Juke Joint Jive, the Tone Junkies and the Atomic Sharks will also perform.
It’s fun to see younger bands embrace classic rock. There’s a bit of magic to it because you don’t expect it, West says. Part of the magic of music is when a song comes on, it can make a 60-year-old feel 16 again, and when they see someone who is actually 16 enjoying the music, it makes them feel good. You know the future of rock ’n’ roll is not dying, it’s going to last.
Each band will also bring its individual take on songs. Marnée and Bailey Evans will have more of a folk sound, while the Atomic Sharks, an island-music, ukulele-based group, will have a different sound.
West says the Beatles 63 Lab mostly performs the earlier, more pop-focused hits of the Beatles, whereas Soft N’ Heavy’s psychedelic-blues sound and 19-year-old lead vocalist, Atticus Sorrell, has the soul of a Woodstock performance.
That’s one of the keys of the Beatles. If you listen to the White Album,’ there are 34 tracks on the album, and there’s no song that sounds the same. They drew on different genres, West says. I mean, it was a good pop and rock music, and for the most part, it was upbeat and it was soul-inspiring. It was when life was simple, and when it comes to good music, simplicity is key.
The concert also serves as a precursor for the library’s Rock the Plaza summer series, which opens next week. Norm Compton, manager of the library’s Access Fort Wayne TV station and Rock the Plaza coordinator, says the performance area attracted nearly 1,000 people to the Beatlefest last year, which sparked a return of more people for the summer series.
This year’s lineup are all great bands, and it’s wonderful that we can showcase them, Compton says.
A lot of people come down here and shop around, in a sense. We’ve seen people who are planning a wedding and don’t quite know who they want to play at the reception come and listen to various bands.
It’s a win-win situation. For the bands, they are getting the exposure, and the community benefits from some music therapy. It lifts your spirit, he adds.
While the Beatlefest may be a great introduction for some and great memories for others, West says the concert is a sure way to end a hard day’s night.
You’re going to get pure Beatles music for four hours. You’re guaranteed to get the music you like, and when you go there, you know the person next to you digs the Beatles as much as you do, he says. Part of the buzz is when the crowd starts to feed off itself.