There are few things more universal in our fractured world than love and respect for the Beatles.
More than 55 years after their American debut, appreciation for the Fab Four continues and transcends easy categorization and demographics. Even young children are exposed to the music from family and friends and also mass media, including an Australian animated series Beat Bugs which regularly features the music of the Beatles.
It is little wonder then that when Fort Wayne radio legend Doc West first conceived of Beatlefest, which first took to the streets of Fort Wayne in 2012, it was an immediate success. And now, as the first weekend of the Rock the Plaza series, it continues to bring in fans of all ages. He could work it out
“I came up with the idea awhile ago,” West said. “We do a lot of events and presentations, but this was something that hadn’t been done before. It took off like a rocket with a very multigenerational audience. The Beatles are one of the first bands that parents teach their kids about. And parents are taking their kids to see Paul McCartney or the Who.
“We’ve never seen anything like this before in rock n’ roll. People show up to Beatlefest in their Beatles T-shirts. And it’s all ages. It’s the rock tots, and it’s people in their 60s and 70s. That’s just part of what makes it so cool. And the music has such a positive message and vibration. It has a real up feel to it which is part of the magic.
“The music is incredible, but it isn’t really heard on the airwaves that much anymore,” West added. “The same is true of the Rolling Stones. But there is still so much interest in that music. I’m just flabbergasted by it.” Ticket to ride to longer life
As West also points out, there’s a lot of conflict in the world — in our country — at the moment, and there seems little chance of that waning anytime soon. But there are still plenty of ways we can find our commonality amidst the chaos. He specifically cited a study commissioned by the O2 in England, published in March, that suggests we can live up to nine years longer simply by attending a concert every two weeks.
“It said that part of the joy of going to a concert isn’t just hearing the music but sharing it with thousands of other souls,” West said. “Sharing that together, the smiling and the energy, has a positive effect on your life. When you go to a great concert you come away feeling great, not just from the music but from the whole shared experience. It’s a lot of positive energy that has an effect on your whole body and well being.
“If you attend concerts, you have a better life. You can see that at Beatlefest. A lot of people who didn’t know each other have met at Beatlefest because they keep coming back year after year. And you look around at all these little rock tots dancing to the Beatles’ music, and you just think, ‘This is great. We’re handing something down to these kids.’”
Coming on June 1, just two days before McCartney’s own arrival in Fort Wayne, Beatlefest will once again bring the joy of that music to the Allen County Public Library plaza.
It’s the official kickoff to the Rock the Plaza series which continues through the summer, ending with Zep Fest on August 31 and filled with dozens of great bands in between.
This year’s Beatlefest lineup includes the Wailhounds, Heady Times, Harp Condition, and Sunny Taylor & Family. Each band will play for 40 minutes with performances beginning on the hour beginning at 6 p.m. Here Comes the Sunny
West approached the show with a plan in mind.
“I’d seen Sunny Taylor & Family at the Christmas show at C2G and thought they were great,” West said. “I love to see young musicians and singers getting a chance to perform, and I’m really looking forward to hearing them this year. They’ll start the show at 6.
“I also thought there should be a more psychedelic sound to this show since it’s been 50 years since 1969 and Woodstock and all of that. So this show has been psychadelicized a bit from other years. Heady Times was a band that, the first time I heard them, I was just knocked out by the vocalist and knew we had to have them play at Beatlefest. The Wailhounds say they could do a two-and-a-half hour set of just Beatles music, and Harp Condition’s Dan Dickerson plays that harp with a really psychedelic groove. So I think it’s going to be a great show.”
West’s enthusiasm for Fort Wayne and its music scene have only grown since he arrived in this city 40 years ago this August, and his love of classic rock is well-documented. But he sees a great future for music in this city and for the love of music in the upcoming generations.
While he notes that some of his contemporaries are missing now from events like Beatlefest, he’s heartened by the kids he calls the rock tots.
“These kids know so much more about music now, and music of all kinds, than we did,” he said. “They can go to YouTube and instantly find 20 videos by Buddy Guy. We didn’t have that kind of thing like they have now with the internet. There are places like the Clyde and the Club Room which give younger musicians a chance to play, and I love to see that because we need to have places so musicians who are under 18 can come and play. And with Sweetwater here in Fort Wayne, the future of music in Fort Wayne is incredibly bright.”