Being a Beatles fan these days can be tough. I mean, there’s not a lot of new Beatles information coming at us, no new albums or tours, no films or TV appearances. We sustain ourselves on what they left us during their brilliant, but relatively short, time together, and it’s a tremendous testament to their musical legacy that new fans are created every day, and people are still ardent admirers 44 years after their breakup in 1970. And although there’s no doubt it’s gratifying for us, it can be hard to sustain at times.
Being a second (or third) generation fan can be even harder. Your parents or grandparents were there when it happened; you are gleaning information secondhand. You live vicariously through their experiences and memories, trying to make your own while your peers chase Top 40 idols and YouTube sensations. And while those first-gen fans think it’s darling that you enjoy listening to their record collection more than your own, the pop culture gulf between you and your friends widens with every Beatles tribute band show you attend (and drag them to, hoping they’ll change their minds). Sometimes you swear you’d sever your own arm for the chance to talk shop with even a casual fan, and you’d chop off a leg if he or she were born in the same decade as you were.
Being a second (or third) generation fan in the wilds of northern Canada is like being jailed in solitary confinement. It’s just that much harder here. Back when I started my album collection, I regularly spent $30 or more on individual albums that were just “hard to find” in a city this size. I’ve voluntarily flown 3,500km to Toronto and driven 9 hours to Regina, Saskatchewan to see Paul McCartney perform. And here’s where it gets real, folks: I’ve been a fan since birth but I am the only Beatles fan I know personally aside from my Dad in the entire city of Edmonton. True story: I was 17 the first time I sat in a room with another massive Beatles fan, and I had to convince my parents to drive me three hours south to Calgary, Alberta in order to do it; the second time I got to hang out with a Beatles fan was eight weeks ago, and that time, I flew to Mexico City! I’m not even joking: simply hugging a Beatles fan has been elevated to the status of religious experience for me.
It’s been a long and winding (and lonely) road.
So, it was with pants-wetting excitement that I accepted an invitation to sit on the “She’s a Woman…Historian!” discussion panel at the Los Angeles Fest for Beatles Fans, running from October 10-12 at the LAX Marriott. The Fest looms very large in the psyche of Beatles fans. If Liverpool is like Mecca for us, the Fest is Medina. And this will be my very first. I don’t know an appropriate analogy for this sensation, or if one exists. I can barely string the sentences together to write this article you’re reading (though if you’re reading it, I must have done it, which is a testament more to my desire to meet a deadline and sheer force of will than anything else; if it makes sense, all thanks to the editor.)
I don’t really know what to expect. The schedule of events was recently released, and I can already tell that I will have to plot out my days so as not to miss anything. With so many things to do and so many very special guests in their own panel discussions, I know I’ll be busy trying to fit it all in. But a number of things stand out on my list as must-do activities.
I’m really keen to visit the Ashram, set up onsite for Transcendental Meditation and instruction sessions; I’m especially interested in checking out the “Lay Down Listening: The White Album” session on Friday night. Over in the Beatles video room, a number of amazing Beatles movies and documentaries will be playing over the three-day festival, capped off with a screening of Good Ol’ Freda, a documentary about loyal Beatles’ secretary Freda Kelly, on Sunday afternoon.
There’s a huge Modern Drummer Symposium featuring the cream of the crop of drummers and percussionists working in the industry. Bambi Kino, a band that expertly recreates that gritty and visceral Hamburg Beatles sound, will be performing in the Outdoor Pavilion Party, which sounds like it’s going to be rocking all weekend long. The incredible Beatles tribute band Liverpool will be on hand to provide music for the evening parties and they’ll be playing with a star-studded lineup of Sixties musical luminaries such as Billy J. Kramer, Denny Laine, Denny Seiwell, and Lawrence Juber. Peter Asher (of Peter and Gordon) will be on hand as well for performances.
There are the special guests and panelists, from Beatles historians and authors to people who knew the Fabs back then — Angie and Ruth McCartney, Julia Baird, Freda Kelly, and others. There will be commentary and discussions throughout the weekend that promise to be illuminating and entertaining. There’s a Marketplace, with booths for merchandise and book and autograph signings; there are costume contests and lookalike contests and sound-alike contests and art contests and trivia contests. There will always be something to do, every hour of every day. I can’t imagine missing any of it.
Of course, I’m going to be soaking up as much of it as possible, with every intention of not collapsing from exhaustion on Sunday night. If that hasn’t happened, next week I’ll report back about how the actual Fest stacks up to my pre-Fest expectations. I’m sure it will exceed them in every possible way. How can it not? I’ll be meeting some of my online Beatles friends for the very first time face-to-face this weekend. I’m sure I’ll be hugging every single one of them.
If you’re at the Fest and you see me, say hi! You’ll recognize me, I’m sure; I’ll be the one with the mile-wide smile permanently etched onto her face.