“Meet The Beatles!” was The Beatles’ first major American release, on the Capitol label in January 1964. It’s the album the band was touring behind when they appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in February of that year. That’s when American audiences really met The Beatles, with some greeting them informally as “The Fab Four,” “the mop tops” or “those lads from Liverpool.”
You can meet dozens of Beatles Saturday at the Fab 4 Music Festival. The fan festival has been held over the years in Danbury, Wallingford and Ansonia. This year it finally hits close to Hartford, Aug. 6 from noon to 8 p.m. at Simsbury Meadows Performing Arts Center in Simsbury.
Eight separate bands will be paying tribute to The Beatles, live on the spacious Simsbury Meadows stage. Some of the acts aspire to note-perfect re-creations of Beatles hits. Others respectfully translate the songs to other styles or arrangements. The band From Me to Uke, featuring Foggy Otis performs on the ukulele, a favored instrument of Beatles lead guitarist George Harrison. Day Trippers, from Long Island, are a five-piece band of four men and one woman.
New Jersey’s The Black Ties formed just four years ago and are devoted to The Beatles’ early years, with the black vests and skinny ties to prove it. The Hofners (named after Paul McCartney’s preferred brand of bass guitar) hail from Branford and are adept at recreating any of the distinct phases of The Beatles’ history, including songs The Beatles never played live themselves.
Other Beatles-based acts performing at the fest are Double the Dial (from New London), The Navels (from West Haven), Take 2 And Call Me in the Morning (led by John Moniello of Guilford) and Pat Horgan & Thunder Road (an all-purpose rock band from New York state that’s been around for nearly 50 years).
If eight Beatles bands in a row seems like “All Too Much” (to quote a track from “Yellow Submarine”), there are also two bands playing Saturday that are not playing Beatles songs.
Zilch is a Monkees tribute band from Providence, Rhode Island that has played at previous Fab 4 festivals as well as a Monkees fan convention in North Haven in 2020.
The opening band of the festival, playing at 12:15 p.m., is Badfinger Boogie, honoring the music of Badfinger.
Both Zilch and Badfinger Boogie well deserve their place at a Beatles gathering. The Monkees were created for TV, as an American variation on The Beatles movie “A Hard Day’s Night.” The Monkees and Beatles were also friends. The Beatles threw a lavish party for The Monkees in London in 1967. Micky Dolenz and John Lennon were both members of the informal drinking club known as the Hollywood Vampires in early 1970s Los Angeles. Michael Nesmith recounts several profound encounters with Lennon in his 2017 autobiography “Infinite Tuesday.”
The Zilch set will have a touch of that same camaraderie Saturday, when Simsbury resident Mike Streeto of The Hofners will sit in on drums for the Monkees tribute and also sing lead on “I’m a Believer.”
As for Badfinger, it was the first band signed to The Beatles’ record label Apple. The band’s name came from the working title of a Beatles number, “Badfinger Boogie,” which later became “With a Little Help From My Friends.” Paul McCartney wrote Badfinger’s hit “Come and Get It” — the theme song for a movie which starred Ringo Starr. George Harrison played on the band’s single “Day After Day” and members of Badfinger appear on Harrison’s albums “All Things Must Pass” and “Concert for Bangladesh.”
Zilch and Badfinger Boogie each have a repertoire of over 30 songs by the bands they respectively lionize. So there could be some welcome surprises among the half-hour sets the bands play Saturday.
The Monkees and Badfinger songs also provide variety amid an onslaught of Beatles songs.
The festival usually checks the set lists of The Beatles bands in advance so that few if any songs are repeated during the day. The full Beatles song catalogue runs to over 180 originals and over two dozen covers of other artists, not to mention the band members’ solo output, so even with eight Beatles bands on a bill there are plenty of possibilities.
Of the 10 bands playing the festival, only The Hofners attempt to duplicate the look as well as the sound of the band they are emulating. Others pay tribute in more musical ways. Jebb, for instance, Jebb plays a Gibson SBJ guitar because Badfinger’s Pete Ham played one. The one Ham played, in fact, had been given to him by George Harrison, for yet another Badfinger/Beatles connection.
The Fab 4 Music Festival also features dozens of vendors selling Beatles records, T-shirts, buttons, books and magazines, toys and other items. Food and beverages will be sold.
As The Beatles could say, “Come together, right now, over me.”
The Fab 4 Festival is held Aug. 6 at the Simsbury Meadows Performing Arts Center, Iron Horse Blvd., Simsbury. Admission is $30, $25 in advance. fab4musicfestival.com.