THE FEST GOES ON ...
Despite Overwhelming Odd(itie)s

Report by: Tee Eff

The 2012 Chicago Fest for Beatles Fans was no doubt one of the more challenging affairs for longtime producer Mark Lapidos. “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”, as John Lennon once sang, and this weekend it “happened” to the special guests, musical performers and even stage hosts.

About a week before the August 10 kickoff, guest headliner Spencer Davis cancelled due to illness. Longtime friend of the Fest and guitarist extraordinaire Laurence “L.J.” Juber answered the call to fill that spot, and delivered brilliant sets on both Saturday and Sunday.

On Saturday stage host and Chicago radio legend Terri Hemmert was called away to be with family upon learning of the passing of her mother. The entire Fest and Beatle Brunch Family extend sincere condolences to Terri and her family. Already down one co-host, as our own Joe Johnson was unable to join the weekend fun, The Brunch’s Tom Frangione stepped up to handle stage duties including the auctions and ever popular Battle of the Bands.

The final substitution was on Sunday, where house band Liverpool’s Glen Burtnik had a scheduling conflict. His spot at the finale was filled ably by former Beatlemania “Beatle Paul”, Mitch Weissman.

But the show must go on, as the old story goes, and go on it did. Along with L.J., the special guest list included original Beatles fan club secretary Freda Kelly, who spoke of her early days with Brian Epstein and the boys, as well as providing an update on her film “Good Ol’ Freda”. Beatles recording engineer Ken Scott, on hand to promote his new book “Abbey Road to Ziggy Stardust” gave a fascinating presentation, deconstructing multi-track tapes and isolating the various instrumental elements of songs including George Harrison’s “What Is Life”.

Speaking of stage presentations, Bruce Spizer delivered his new “Beatles 50th Anniversary” audio-visual show, including rare studio tracks and outtakes from the earliest sessions. David Bedford, author of the superb book “Liddypool” delivered an entertaining and informative show focused on the importance of the Beatles hometown. Rounding out the stage presentation highlights was Ringo’s photographer Rob Shanahan, fresh off the road from this summer’s All Starr Band tour. Some of his latest photos were from Ringo’s birthday celebration concert at the vaunted Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, which was filmed for DVD release (stay tuned to the Brunch for updates & details).

The weekend’s special musical guest was legendary sax-man Tom Scott, who toured with George on his only US tour, and played on hits for Ringo Starr (“Oh My My”) and Paul McCartney (“Listen to What the Man Said”). Tom played these hits (and more) with Liverpool, and shared his stories from the road. He is welcome back any time.

Longtime co-host Wally Podrazik manned the O’Hare Ballroom, moderating the panel discussions, authors’ presentations and the trivia contest. Tom Frangione hosted the popular Name That Tune game, with prizes including designer shirts created by Georgina Flood, who’s display proved very popular among the fans in attendance (you can see her work on the t-shirts and auctioned canvas in the attached photos) . Lively sessions abounded, including Rob Rodriguez’s presentation about his new book “Revolver: How the Beatles Reimagined Rock and Roll”, and Andrew Jackson’s discussion based on his new book “Still The Greatest: The Essential Songs of The Beatles Solo Careers” (both books are highly recommended).

Beatlefan Magazine Executive Editor and Beatle Brunch Contributor Al Sussman headed up the Friday night panel “Why Don’t He Do These on the Road”, reprising the discussion from the NJ Fest about songs Macca fans would love to hear performed in concert. The panel included NJ rock legend Glen Burtnik, one of the longest running “Beatle Pauls” on the tribute circuit, and who had just performed a brilliant McCartney career retrospective just weeks earlier, featuring hits Sir Paul himself has never done live, such as “No More Lonely Nights” as well as rarities like “Step Inside Love”. His balance of technical knowledge and abundant dose of fandom enhanced the proceedings immeasurably.

When all was said and done, much credit is due to our friend Mark Lapidos for pulling off an enjoyable and successful convention. Stay tuned to Beatle Brunch for more Fest info.

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