The Fab 4 Festival in Simsbury on Saturday isn’t just about the Beatles – Hartford Courant
“Meet the Beatles!” was the Beatles’ first major American release, on the Capitol label in January 1964. It was the album the band were touring behind when they appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in February of that year. It was then that American audiences really met The Beatles, with some informally hailing them as “The Fab Four”, “the mop tops” or “those guys from Liverpool”.
You can meet dozens of Beatles on Saturday at the Fab 4 Music Festival. The fan festival has taken place over the years in Danbury, Wallingford and Ansonia. This year it finally hits near Hartford, on August 6 from noon to 8 p.m. at the Simsbury Meadows Performing Arts Center in Simsbury.
Eight separate bands will pay homage to The Beatles live on the spacious Simsbury Meadows stage. Some of the acts yearn for pitch-perfect recreations of Beatles hits. Others respectfully translate the songs into other styles or arrangements. The band From Me to Uke, featuring Foggy Otis, plays the ukulele, a favorite instrument of Beatles guitarist George Harrison. Day Trippers, from Long Island, is a five-piece band consisting of four men and one woman.
The New Jersey Black Ties formed just four years ago and are dedicated to the early years of the Beatles, with the black vests and skinny ties to prove it. The Hofners (named after Paul McCartney’s favorite bass guitar brand) hail from Branford and are adept at recreating one of the distinct phases of Beatles history, including the songs the Beatles never played live.
Other Beatles-based artists performing at the festival are Double the Dial (from New London), The Navels (from West Haven), Take 2 And Call Me in the Morning (conducted by John Moniello from Guilford) and Pat Horgan & Thunder Road (a versatile rock band from New York State that has been around for almost 50 years).
If eight Beatles bands in a row sound like “All Too Much” (to quote a track from “Yellow Submarine”), there are also two bands playing on Saturdays that aren’t play Beatles songs.
Zilch is a Monkees tribute band from Providence, Rhode Island who have played at previous Fab 4 festivals as well as a 2020 Monkees fan convention in North Haven.
The opening band for the festival, playing at 12:15 p.m., is Badfinger Boogie, honoring the music of Badfinger.
Zilch and Badfinger Boogie deserve their place at a Beatles rally. The Monkees were created for television, as an American variant of the Beatles film “A Hard Day’s Night”. The Monkees and the Beatles were also friends. The Beatles threw a lavish party for the Monkees in London in 1967. Both Micky Dolenz and John Lennon were members of the informal drinking club known as the Hollywood Vampires in early 1970s Los Angeles. Michael Nesmith recounts several profound encounters with Lennon in his 2017 autobiography “Infinite Tuesday.”
Zilch’s set will have a touch of that same camaraderie on Saturday, when Simsbury resident Mike Streeto of The Hofners plays drums for the Monkees tribute and also sings on “I’m a Believer.”
As for Badfinger, they were the first band signed to the Beatles’ Apple label. The group’s name comes from the working title of a Beatles number, “Badfinger Boogie”, which later became “With a Little Help From My Friends”. Paul McCartney wrote Badfinger’s hit “Come and Get It” – the theme song to a movie starring Ringo Starr. George Harrison featured on the band’s single “Day After Day” and members of Badfinger appear on Harrison’s albums “All Things Must Pass” and “Concert for Bangladesh”.
Zilch and Badfinger Boogie each have a repertoire of over 30 songs from the bands they respectively love. So there could be some good surprises among the half-hour sets the bands play on Saturday.
Monkees and Badfinger songs also offer variety amid an onslaught of Beatles songs.
The festival usually checks Beatles band lists in advance so that few or no songs are repeated during the day. The Beatles’ full catalog of songs boasts over 180 originals and over two dozen covers by other artists, not to mention solo output by band members, so even with eight Beatles bands on one bill, there’s plenty of possibilities.
Of the 10 bands playing at the festival, only The Hofners attempt to replicate the look and sound of the band they are emulating. Others pay homage in a more musical way. Jebb, for example, Jebb plays a Gibson SBJ guitar because Badfinger’s Pete Ham played one. The one Ham played, in fact, had been given to him by George Harrison, for another Badfinger/Beatles connection.
The Fab 4 Music Festival also features dozens of vendors selling Beatles records, T-shirts, buttons, books and magazines, toys and other items. Food and drinks will be sold.
As the Beatles might say, “Rally, now, on me.”
The Fab 4 Festival takes place on August 6 at the Simsbury Meadows Performing Arts Center, Iron Horse Blvd., Simsbury. Admission is $30, $25 in advance. fab4musicfestival.com.