(Introduction: Bob Gannon, who readers know well for his superb photos of Paul McCartney on tour, just spent the last four days in what he calls “Beatles heaven” at Abbey Road on the River, which ran from May 22 to 26 in Louisville, Ky. and tells Beatles Examiner all about the trip in this two-part series. Read part 1 here.)
Bob Gannon says the famous guests, like the Beach Boys, John Sebastian, Laurence Juber and Freda Kelly, are not the whole story of Abbey Road on the River. “The real star of this festival is the music and there is plenty of it starting on Thursday with 18 shows. And this is considered the light day. A full schedule is offered on Friday, Saturday and Sunday as the 70+ bands play from 10:30 a.m. until 2 a.m. rotating over more than seven stages. The toughest decisions of the weekend is trying to plan your dance card to get to see as many of these incredible bands as you can.”
He says there are several ways to enjoy the event. “If you want to have the Beatles experience, there are cover bands that give full shows in Beatles dress including BritBeat, The Jukebox, Hard Day's Night, Meet the Beetles, Beatolution and Beatribes. With variety in mind, there are also bands like Wingsbanned that rocked the house with solo Paul McCartney sets that were a pure delight. The hard rocking Steve Sizemore band was a crowd favorite.
“All You Need is Love did a Bruce Springsteen set that made me feel that I was home in Jersey. The Blue Meanies from NY/NJ supplied three great moments for me. Their fab14 set which was The Beatles' BBC songs, Their early solo Paul McCartney set that not only delivered some hits – it also gave us some rarer songs like "Sally G", "Best Friend" and “The Mess" and, of course, their Monday tribute to the Monkees.
“The Blue Meanies also turned in a hard rocking set on Sunday night including songs from The Doors, Led Zeppelin, The Who, The Animals and others. Itchycoo Park from Glasgow, Scotland, have a great performance while doing a tribute of Apple artist Badfinger. The Newbies turned in a great Beatles set complete with string section.”
Gannon said a new band from Colombia called Classictone was “a great surprise.” “Their Beatle sets were very good and on Sunday night they did a tribute to Queen. I was a little worried about this one being that Freddie Mercury is not the easiest voice to emulate. But to my surprise and delight, this band rocked the late night stage by turning in an incredible performance.”
He said there were so many delights it was hard to list them all. “AROTR is put on by Gary Jacob and his truly incredible staff. And there are far too many other great bands to mention,” he said. “If you have not gotten a chance to attend one of these AROTR festivals, you might want to try it out soon. Most people find it extremely tough not to return every year to the bands that brought smiles to their faces and the new friends that they met along the way.”