Sun came for 4th annual Kent BeatleFest

Revolution Pie performs during the downtown Kent Beatlefest on Friday, Feb. 24, 2017.

Madeline Crandall

Beatles music and blue skies brought crowded streets for the fourth annual Kent BeatleFest Friday. The unseasonably warm February evening was filled with locals and out-of-towners celebrating free live music.

This event had 18 different venues and 21 different artists all producing Beatles-themed entertainment, varying from karaoke to music-infused Beatles presentations.

This event was produced by Crooked River Arts Council, which also throws Kent’s Blues Festival, Reggae Jam and ‘Round Town Music Festival.

Local resident Dave Tippen explained his love for Kent’s BeatleFest.

“I have been to Beatles festivals all across the country, but there is something special about the way that Kent does it,” Tippen said. “The community really comes together to produce the best experience for the people coming to watch.”

Wayside Furniture officially presented this year’s BeatleFest. Wayside has partnered with the community and sponsored BeatleFest for several years.

Mandy Zook, assistant manager at Wayside, said the event was designed to “get people outside and exploring downtown.”

“Our vision was to help support the Kent community and Kent State itself,” she said. “Our goal is to give as many community members a chance to have a good time going from one venue to the next seeing free, live music.”

Stacy Planty, a Kent resident, listened to Raw Sugar play outside of Dave’s Cosmic Subs.

“Kent does a really good job at throwing this festival the right way. You get to experience all different sides of the Beatles,” Planty said. “It’s cool because all of the bands are continuing the Beatles’ legacy while infusing their own style. There isn’t just one performance, there’s a bunch to really get the Beatles’ feel.”

Raw Sugar has played BeatleFest for the past three years. The band is based out of Akron and described their style as being smooth and covering the complete essence of the Beatles.

“We are a local band, so it’s really fun to play in Kent. We do all Beatles covers and have a long history playing the music,” said Chris Edwards, a member of Raw Sugar. “It’s also really cool to walk around and see all the other familiar music ranging from Beatles, Bob Dylan and Rolling Stone covers really bringing out the time period they thrived in.”

Abbey Road has covered The Beatles for the past four decades. They are based out of Northeast Ohio and have toured all across the world. In 1983, Abbey Road was voted in the top five of Beatles tribute bands in the world.

They have participated in multiple Beatles festivals all throughout the world including Chicago and Las Vegas. They explained that Kent’s BeatleFest is closest to their hearts because of how close they are to where their band originated.

Every year since the beginning of the festival, their performance has taken place at Dominick’s Pub downtown. Nancy Mandalari, co-owner of Dominick’s, said they are lucky they have such a popular tribute band returning every year.

“We had a wonderful crowd tonight. We’ve had Abbey Road play for us from the beginning of this festival and they’re just wonderful,” Mandalari said. “The music was amazing and the Beatles are amazing. The whole crowd was nonstop dancing and smiling, it was a great night.”

One thing that makes Abbey Road’s performance so unique is its use of the original Beatles equipment. Band members use the same guitars, amplifiers and drums as the original Beatles crew. The group also dresses up in costume to perfectly match their appearance on stage.

“We like to do the music as accurately as we can,” said John Gilbert, lead singer and guitarist of Abbey Road. “It takes a lot of work and dedication but we all work hard at it. We strive to put on the most accurate Beatles show out there.”

Gilbert has even learned to play the guitar with his non-dominant hand to resemble Paul McCartney to the fullest. He emphasized his love for playing in Kent because of all the college kids. He said he wants to keep the Beatles’ legacy going with the younger generation.

Alexis Lidle, a sophomore exploratory major, said she liked her first experience at BeatleFest.

“This is my first BeatleFest and I’ve enjoyed it so much,” Lidle said. “I came out with a bunch of friends to see Abbey Road. They seem just like the Beatles so you really get the whole experience with them.”

Other local venues also held performances hosting tribute bands. Kent Cheesemonger hosted Rick Iacoboni, who presents a visual and musical presentation of Beatles history.

Kent Cheesemonger manager Tim Sahr explained the act from previous years.

“His multimedia performance draws a lot of people into the shop,” Sahr said. “He goes through the history of the Beatles from a business perspective but also keeps the music in there for the crowd to enjoy.”

At the shop, mostly filled with cheese and wine, Iacoboni sat in front of a large crowd going through various details about the Beatles’ success, business-wise and musically. His act went through the business models that The Beatles used to become so successful in the industry, including background information about each of their songs.

Venice Cafe manager Victor Kutsch has participated in BeatleFest for several years.

“It’s nice seeing the place completely fill up,” Kutsch said. “Music and warm weather can really get people excited and get them to come together for a good time. The cool thing about BeatleFest is that it is people of all ages too.”

Ryan Greene, a sophomore managerial marketing major, attended the festival.

“The streets were so packed with so many different people of all ages,” Greene said. “I wasn’t expecting such a large turnout or to see so many people come out downtown tonight. BeatleFest is an amazing thing for this town and community — I already can’t wait until next year.”

Madeline Crandall is an entertainment reporter for the Kent Stater, contact her at [email protected]