Jessica, Carol, Michelle and Mark Lapidos are anything but your run of the mill family. For 34 years, they have been coordinating The Fest for Beatles Fans, which took place, at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare Hotel, August 13-15th. The psychedelic bus on the cover of the program is only a teaser for a whirlwind of events that lovingly capture the essence of the band whose charisma and melodies have astoundingly cultivated a multi-generational fan base.
WXRT’s iconic DJ Terri Hemmert, a long-time afficionado, has emceed the event since its inception and greeted the fans warmly, calling them the “heart and soul” of the festival. Surrounding the lower level, swarms of guitarists, a few fiddlers, definitive drummers of all ages, and, of course, singers engaged in dusk til dawn sing-alongs that included material from “Meet The Beatles”, “A Hard Days Night”, “Abbey Road,” and the double-disced “White Album.”
Lapidos joined the fun about 3 am Monday morning, performing “Here Comes the Sun,” after having tended to the last-minute details of packing up equipment and bidding goodbyes to performers. A new face at the fest, Gary Wright (“Dream Weaver”) who co-wrote “To Discover Yourself” with George Harrison, and repeat guest star, Mark Hudson, decade-long producer for Ringo Starr, and currently, Aerosmith, both contributed heavily on the evening stage and in panel discussions.
Klaus Voormann, artist and guitarist, came in from Germany, and Denny Laine and Danny Seiwell, both former members of “Wings” performed a number of hits; most memorably “Mull of Kintyre”, co-written with McCartney. Former Wings guitarist Laurence Juber played an afternoon Saturday concert as well.
14 groups participated in the “Battle of the Beatles Bands,” though youthful “The Bugs,” who sang the poignant “This Boy” ran away with the number one slot. Beatles scholar, Martin Lewis moderated panel discussions, in which the guest artists used their instruments to illustrate historical points; whether it was to explain how Little Richard influenced John Lennon or how Bach inspired Paul McCartney.
“Liverpool” is an exceptional Beatles tribute band and a mainstay of the event. Drew Hill, Glen Burtnik, Chris Camilleri and John Merjave invited all guest artists up on stage, the last evening, and the exuberant Hudson sang hits like “Long Tall Sally” and the more serene “Working Class Hero” to throngs of enthusiasts. Vocalist/instrumentalist Gary Wright sang his hit, “Dream Weaver” which he wrote after being enraptured by spiritual liturgy.
Nicole Nigh won the art contest for her diaroma comprised of “peeps” which she had organized to replicate the album cover of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” A number of other highly-detailed sketches of the four musicians were beautifully crafted and acknowledged by the judges.
Authors were in full force as well. Bruce Spizer gave insights into the famed “Paul is Dead” rumors, Andy Babiuk, (The Chesterfield Kings), fielded queries about his work, “Beatles Gear” enticing many of the instrumentalists in attendance and Jorie Gracen, photographer, shared a slide show from “Paul Mc Cartney: I Saw Him Standing There.” The enthusiastic Judith Kristen, talked about her true story, “A Date With A Beatle.”
Essentially, the weekend was a fantasy come true for any Beatles lover wanting to acquire more knowledge of their idols or simply wishing to enjoy the vast material that they have produced.
But, the burning question which remains is: will these devout and dedicated fans, of all ages, get by, a whole other year, without a litle help from their friends?