The Abbey Road on the River has made a tradition out of celebrating the Beatles on Memorial Day weekend with live music, fans and bands from all over the world to celebrate the music of the best band ever – The Beatles and this year’s was no exception, according to Olivia Anne Morris Fuchs who attended. This year, the festival focused on the celebration of the life of John Lennon in the year that would have been his 75th birthday. There also were tributes to Rachel Blanton who so endeared herself to the musicians and fans of Abbey Road on the River Festival with her mastery and leadership of the strings who add such beauty to the music of so many of the bands, she said. The festival features the world’s best Beatles tribute bands.
“The 2015 Festival began with an outdoor luncheon concert hosted by WAVE3 News, a corporate sponsor of the Abbey Road on the River Festival, on Thursday, May 21, at the KFC YUM! Center,” Fuchs said. “Two fan favorite bands, The LSB Experience from the Netherlands and Classicstone Ensemble from Columbia, S.A., entertained a large crowd on the Pad at the KFC YUM! Center to begin this Music Festival.”
LSB Experience featured a combination of harmony and acoustic guitar. The group later presented a beautiful Crosby, Stills and Nash set to showcase their harmonies. “Classicstone Ensemble presents show stopping vocals and theatrics to add to their musical excellence,” Fuchs said. “They were a freshman band of 2014 and became an immediate favorite. They enhanced that status in 2015 with their many Beatles sets, their Queen show, and the final main stage concert of the Festival, Pink Floyd with Phil Kenzie.”
Fuchs said Julia Baird, half-sister of John Lennon, and one of the owners of The Cavern Club in Liverpool, entertained fans with enchanting and seldom-heard stories about John, their childhood and the early years of The Beatles. “Her presentation was made even more immediate by the musical mastery of John Keats of The Cavern Club interwoven into her talk. She was a delightful addition to the festival, an immediate fan favorite and was seen dancing to the music herself.” Also, from The Cavern Club was The Rockits. “Indeed, at each show, this band rocked it,” Fuchs said. Among other speakers at the Festival were Beatles associate Tony Bramwell and author Bruce Spizer.
Very early Saturday morning, Dennis Ledford of Nervous Melvin & the Mistakes gave guitar lessons. “Dennis not only demonstrated and teached those who wish to bring their guitars, he explained why the musical charts for so many Beatle songs were inaccurate,” she said. He played the charted notes and chords, then plays what he has worked to learn are the actual notes and chords played by The Beatles.
The big shows of the festival were Thursday’s Concert for Rachel (Blanton), Saturday’s The Orchestra with former members of Electric Light Orchestra, Sunday’s Bruce in the USA by Matt Ryan and The Beatle Years concert in which BritBeat, The JukeBox, Studio Two, Hard Days Night, Meet the Beetles and Union Jack British Invasion Band performed an era of John Lennon’s career. The Cryers also performed with former members of Wings Steve Holley and Laurence Juber, plus Phil Kenzie. Tim Piper’s Just Imagine Lennon tribute was also performed.
“Saturday’s perfect weather drew the largest crowd on the Belvedere in Louisville for an Abbey Road on the River Festival. Everyone was in a party mood,” Fuchs said. “The Orchestra rocked the main stage with the big hits of ELO. Julia Baird joined in the fun with the Abbey Road on the River “Dancing Girls” (fans) for a rollicking good time.”
Among the returning favorite bands were Wingsbanned from the UK with Johnny Heywood as that noted bass player and Starclubbers from Brazil and the UK and Holland presenting the early Beatle favorites.
“The Steve Sizemore Group always is a crowd pleaser and on stage opposite the ‘BIG’ productions because they have such a large and loyal following who want to hear their hard driving hot and heavy rock,” Fuchs said. “Their version of ‘Eleanor Rigby’ is a drum-and-bass driven marvel that brings down the house and was in their set to close the Fountain Stage at the festival.”
The Jukebox from Puerto Rico presented several complete Beatles albums, as did the Sixty Four Band from Nashville. The English Channel’s version of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” was sung brilliantly by Julie Quarles, Fuchs said.
Event sponsor Gretsch Guitars auctioned a George Harrison G6128T-GH Duo Jet, and a Chet Atkins G6120, and presented several guitars to winners of various events. And this year each Abbey Road on the River Festival stage had a brand new Gretsch Drums kit, she said.
“Former Wings guitarist Laurence Juber not only performed his solo acoustic sets to the delight of all who attended, but he did a beautiful John set, and joined others for special shows. One performance of The Cryers with Steve Holley formerly of Wings on drums and Phil Kenzie on sax, Juber dubbed the ‘Egg Band’ because they were playing songs from Wings’s ‘Back to the Egg’ album on which Holley and Juber played. They all were having such a blast playing together that, I kid you not, Laurence Juber did Chuck Berry’s duck walk across the stage and back. Epic! He used my Gretsch Guitars G6128T-GH George Harrison Duo Jet, “Grace,” to my delight, and let me sing!”
Joe Orlando and his The Cryers Band also welcomed Lennon tribute artist Jay Goeppner to the stage in a special tribute set to Lennon. Nube 9 from Argentina did a moving and rocking main stage show. Tim Piper performed two shows of his “Just Imagine JL’75” and a main stage concert of “Working Class Hero JL’75” to full houses. “His recreation with his wonderful band of what should have been is stellar, and magical. Tim becomes John, IS John, and takes us all to that wonderful place where we can Just Imagine,” Fuchs said.
She said a special treat were the beautiful vocals of Stan and Mandy Bullock of Nevermind The Bullocks with “George” tribute artist Gavin Leslie Pring. She said Pring welcomed the sunrise with George’s “Here Comes the Sun” and ended the show with Joe Brown’s version of “I’ll See You in My Dreams.” “Not a dry eye was seen.”
Other highlights, Fuchs said were BritBeat, the Blue Meanies, Peter Contrade and the Traveling Beatleburys, Johnny Doughnut Experience, Hard Days Night, The Nick Peay Band, Southern Sirens, Whiplash, The Kukes, Blue Jay Way, Kaleidoscope I’s, Yellow Submorons, The Pranksters, Studio Two, The WannaBeatles, Meet the Beetles, Malloy Lennon & the Sykadelix, Chad Clifford and Jonas Friddle & The Majority.
She describes Abbey Road on the River as a sea of friends. “I always tell friends how they would love Abbey Road on the River and encourage them to come. Imagine looking over a field of fans and letting your eyes fall on faces and recognizing nearly all as sweet people you love with whom you’ve spent precious time. That is sufficient. Then add zillions of brilliant musicians making beautiful music and all of them happy to be friends? Life as it should be, at least for a magical weekend. Imagine that.”