It’s been a few days since The Fest for Beatles Fans ended and I’m still glowing from the experience. If you are a fan of The Beatles and you are able to come to Chicago in August (or NY in March), I urge you to check out this 3 day long Beatles party extravaganza.
What is The Fest? Think of it as a weekend long Beatles master class + amazing live music by one of the best Beatles tribute bands ever + special guests + all the Beatles merch you could ever want + a way to meet like-minded music fans who both know and appreciate that music can change the world.
The Fest takes place at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare Hotel right off the Rosemont Blue Line. Rosemont is a 'burb just a little north and west of the Chicago city limits, right by O'Hare Airport. If you want some ideas about places to visit and eat nearby, check out my post about Rosemont by clicking here!
I honestly didn't know what to expect when showing up at The Fest, but the first thing that struck me was that this wasn't your usual "convention". The rooms were spread out all over the hotel, so you could wander around at your own pace. There was the Apple Jam Stage, the Ashram room, the Main Stage, the Act Naturally Stage, the Beatles Art Museum, the Paris ballroom where you could meet special guests like Peter Asher, Billy Kramer, or Louise Harrison (to just name a few), the Official Fest Store, the "Love" Marketplace where collectors and vendors sell their collectibles and guest authors are signing their books, and more. What worked well for me was looking at the schedule of events beforehand and picking a couple of things I definitely wanted to catch, and then spending the rest of the time just following my instincts. That's how you discover some great surprises, like when I stumbled upon a presentation by the author of the graphic novel, The Fifth Beatle (Vivek Tiwary) speaking about the transition of his graphic novel into an upcoming TV series.
I spoke with Daniel Abriano, Social Media Director and Event Planner about what brings people back year after year to The Fest. “Aside from the incredible live music, events, and activities, there's a special sense of community. I can attest to this since I was a Fester every year long before I was a staff member, starting back in 1988 when I was four years old. The jams that break out all over the Fest truly are special, and for many, it's their one chance per year to catch up with friends they've made at the Fest.”
As a first time "Fester" one of the major highlights for me was the possibility of getting to meet George Harrison’s older sister, Louise Harrison -- an almost 85-year-old feisty and passionate woman who was eager to share about her life and her brother’s life. “Lou” is a part of the Beatles’ history few people know about, as she was responsible for a lot of promotion and making contacts in America prior to the “invasion”. Now she manages a Beatles tribute band (but not the one playing at the fest) called the Liverpool Legends. I saw Lou speak in front of a large group on the main stage and later in a smaller much more intimate group in the “Ashram Room” about growing up with George and their spiritual beliefs.
I ended up meeting Lou and I was so thrilled that I got to hear her speak on subjects like her father’s influence on she and George when it came to religion, and her own beliefs as far as overpopulation, environmentalism, and compassion. In the Ashram room discussion, she told us she was losing her voice, so she asked the group of about 20 of us to scoot around her in a circle. When asked if she ever sensed George's presence since he passed, she paused and said she knew she could share with "this group of weirdos" because we would "get it". She explained when she found her band, the Liverpool Legends (they were called American English in those days), she felt that she had an immediate connection with the fellow who plays George in the band. She said she felt a warmth around her and while he was playing "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", and she had a feeling that maybe George was finding her another brother. This was not long after he passed away. Since then, this fellow has indeed become like a brother to her. It was quite clear that she and George were cut from the same cloth.
Another ginormous highlight was seeing all of the incredible live music. From jam sessions in the downstairs hallways, to a battle of the bands, to the fantastic tribute band, Liverpool, this fest brought Beatles music alive like I’ve never heard it before. Here’s what Daniel Abriano had to say about The Fest's house band. “Hearing Liverpool play live each night is the biggest thrill for me. There are many tremendous Beatles cover bands out there, but Liverpool is the cream of the crop. And they bring it every single night. I was born well after the band broke up, so Liverpool is the closest I'll ever get to experiencing the Beatles live. And they do them justice.”
As I’m sitting here finishing up this article with Beatles music playing in the background, I’m finding myself with a newfound appreciation for their music and am definitely looking forward to the fest next year.