Experience Fab Four fever at BeatlesFest
By Michelle L. Quinn Post-Tribune correspondent July 20, 2012 2:08PM
If you go
Gates for the seventh annual BeatlesFest, at the corner of Hohman Avenue and Sibley Boulevard, open at 4:30 p.m. for the 5 to 11 p.m. Saturday, July 28, show. General admission tickets remain $10 and $5 for children up to age 12; VIP tickets are $20. An afterparty featuring D.J. Rhythm Scholar immediately follows at AquaVor, 5620 Hohman Ave.; a limited number of afterparty tickets are available. For more information or to reserve advance tickets, log onto www.beatlesfest2012.com or visit the event’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/events/420329244656386/.
Updated: August 23, 2012 10:30AM
HAMMOND — Next year’s BeatlesFest will be the event for which rabid Fab Four devotees and casual fans alike will clamor, but they’ll first have to recover from having their minds blown this year.
Exponential growth has allowed fest organizer John Vezmar to stretch the proverbial legs of the seventh annual BeatlesFest to include the corner of Hohman and Sibley as well as portions of Rimbach Street. It has also given him the final push needed to bring out the big guns for this year’s affair: headline act American English, one of the best Beatles tribute bands in the country.
Thinking about the fest’s humble start to now has Vezmer beside himself with excitement.
“The mindset for this year was, ‘Go big, or go home,’ so that’s what we did,” Vezmar said. “We’ve really shaken it up this year, so it’s almost like a brand new experience from top-to-bottom.”
The mainstays BeatlesFest fans have come to expect are still there, including performances by local artists — this year, the lineup is Bunkertown, Nomad Planets and BeatlesFest constant Josh McCormack — as well as food, drink and merchants selling all things Beatles. But a little experiment done last year in the form of a rooftop show off the Mercantile Bank by the renowned D.J. Rhythm Scholar will be revisited in a way no one will see coming, he said.
With so much extra space — last year’s fest brought out more than 1,000 people, and double is expected this year — Vezmar is able to create a larger VIP area in the parking lot outside his Blue Room Cafe, and it will contain, among other things, the first-ever event live broadcast by local radio station WJOB.
Rounding out the family-friendly aspect will be a magician performing a “Magical Mystery Tour” of sorts by the fountain, face painting and kid-friendly food items. Those looking for a more “mature” experience, meanwhile, can amble on down a few doors to AquaVor, where D.J. Rhythm Scholar will bring his turntables and spin remixes of music spanning 20 years from the Beatles’ start in 1963 after the show shuts down for the night.
Vezmar definitely wants BeatlesFest to be accessible to everyone, which is why it’s geared itself toward families more in the last year. He has even lightened up on knowing what the performers’ setlists are before the show because people like what they like and don’t mind hearing a fave over and over.
“I used to be much more anal about overlap (with songs), but I’m also the first person who’ll hit the replay button on the second side of “Abbey Road” every time,” he said. “So, if people end up hearing a song twice, that’s what they would’ve done anyway. It’s perfect.”
It’s also mind-blowing that the little plan of having local bands put together and perform Beatles sets has exploded as it has.
“We’ve gone from 70 people in Highland (the Blue Room Cafe’s first location) to American English. It’s dumb, just awesome,” Vezmar said. “Eventually, I want George Harrison’s sister Louise to come and Dhani Harrison’s band playing.”
With the show’s likely expansion into a two-day affair next year, anything’s possible. But for now, Vezmar is happy to bring the city a group of music lovers who just want to have a good time.
“With the reach from Chicago to DeMotte, there’ll people here who haven’t thought about Downtown Hammond in a while, so that’s why we have to knock it out of the park,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll keep bringing them back.”