BeatleFest rocks downtown Kent

Alexa Blakley, TV2 reporter

Mariah Alanskas, Reporter

From self-proclaimed Beatle heads to reinvented takes on Beatles music, the Kent community celebrates the all-time favorite British band.

Kent’s BeatleFest started with a bang this past Friday with sixteen artists performing their versions of Beatle songs across fifteen restaurants and bars in the downtown Kent area.

The Kent BeatleFest, presented by Wayside Furniture, completed its eighth festival after having to cancel

Liverpool Lads, a Beatles cover band who describes their performance as “energetic,” plays at Zephyr Pub at the Kent BeatleFest on Friday, Feb. 18. (Sophia Lucente)

last year due to COVID-19. Bob Burford, a co-founder of the Crooked River Arts Fine Arts Council, explained that even though all the artists are performing Beatles songs, there’s something for everyone.

“It’s really been fun,” Burford said. “We’ve had all sorts of bands and artists, taking different approaches to Beatles music.”

The bands don’t have to be exclusively Beatles cover bands, but they do need to incorporate Beatles songs exclusively in their set-list.

“It’s not about the approach to the Beatles, it just has to be the Beatles,”’ Burford said. “We have something for everyone, if you’re into the Beatles.”

Even with the temperature sticking around 20 degrees, places were packed, a seemingly continued trend from past BeatleFests.

“People still do things in February,” said Burford of the fest’s crowds. “The first one, it was nine degrees when the first band came on and the places were packed.”

Some artists reflected on the past weather of the festival like duo Tucker & Davis who played at Belleria.

“One year it was seventy degrees and people were playing outside,” Davis said.

Over the years of Kent BeatleFest, the temperature has had drastic changes.

“One year it wasn’t even ten degrees,” said Tucker.

Tucker & Davis have performed at six other BeatleFests where they played traditional Beatles songs, but added their own twist.

“We arrange the songs to fit our style,” Tucker said. “We have acoustic and electric, with a lot of guitar

The band “Abbey Road” plays their Beatles style songs at Dominick’s at the Kent BeatleFest on Friday, Feb. 18. One bandmate, John, is a Kent State graduate of the class of 79. (Sophia Lucente)

synthesizer stuff.”

Other artists at the fest took less liberties with the Beatles’ past style and stuck more to the classic, tribute style.

“Hard core, to be perfect Beatles, that’s how precise we are,” said John Gilbert of Abbey Road Beatles tribute band who played at Dominick’s Pub.

According to their website, all the guitars, amplifiers and drums used in the band are the models the Beatles used in the sixties and seventies.

“All equipment is vintage, all costumes are vintage,” Gilbert said. “To find it all was a nightmare.”

This is Abbey Road’s thirty-ninth year performing, with notable past tours in the United States and two in Europe.

Among some of the veteran artists are also veteran BeatleFest attendees.

Nick and Lisa Tegiacchi, residents of Kent, were among a group sporting “DarylFest” t-shirts. They explained the shirts as part of a running joke. They explained their friend, named Daryl, always visits from his resident state of North Carolina coincidentally during various Kent music festivals.

A group of friends celebrate their own festival, “The Darrell Fest”, when their friend Darrell is visiting from North Carolina at the BeatleFest music festival in downtown Kent on Friday, Feb. 18. They keep this tradition each time Darrell visits, and this year it aligned with the Beatle Fest. (Sophia Lucente)

Nick Tegiacchi, a Kent graduate, expressed his and his wife Lisa’s excitement over the festival.

“It’s very exciting,” Tegiacchi said. “The music is wonderful, the amount of bands is wonderful.”

When asked about having to miss the canceled festival last year, Tegiacchi went on to explain how he feels about this year’s post-COVID festival.

“We’re just happy it’s back,” Tegiacchi said. “We were just here in 2020 and we had a wonderful experience.”

This “wonderful experience” was largely produced by the artists and their passion behind their music.

Gaetanto Letitia of The Beatles Blues Blast who played at Ray’s Place, talked about his experience seeing the Beatles for the first time.

“When I first saw them on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, that’s what inspired me to start playing music. I wasn’t the same after that,” Letitia said. “I got my first drum set in 1965.”

Tony Paparella, member of the Wishgarden Band and Trio, who did not perform with his own group, but did “sit in” on a few songs with Dale Galgozy at Last Exit Books and Cafe also expressed his love of the Beatles growing up.

“I love the Beatles,” Paparella said. “I wore out their albums when I was younger.”

Tom, the band leader of Gaetano’s, said they have spent six years of BeatleFests playing at Ray’s Place in downtown Kent. His band is committed to a blues style and says the Beatles are “the most magical rock group of all time.” (Sophia Lucente)

The BeatlesFest isn’t the only downtown Kent festival during the year. Other notable ones include Kent BluesFest, American Roots Fest and the Round Town music festival.

“We schedule these fests to be quarterly,” Burford said. “February is just absolutely a huge month for Beatles anniversaries.”

Burford also discussed the community’s past feelings about the BeatleFest specifically.

“The reaction from main street Kent, the reaction from the city, the reaction from the venue owners, and the artist participants has all been positive,” Burford said. “We find folks have found a way to share their love of Beatles music in different ways. It’s a great opportunity to come together.”

Mariah Alanskas is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected].