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Entertainment & Lifestyle

Beatles’ 50th anniversary celebrated at BeatleFest

1/23/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

Hard Day’s Night, shown below right, and The ReBeats, shown above, will perform at the Rubber City BeatleFest at the Akron Civic Theatre Feb. 1.
Photos courtesy of the Akron Civic Theatre
DOWNTOWN AKRON — When Rick Montanari was 10 years old, something happened that changed his life.

His cousin told him about a new band called The Beatles and said they were going to appear on TV.

“Me and 50 million other people watched it that night on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show,’” he said of the British band’s iconic performance Feb. 9, 1964. “I was like, ‘Wow, look at all these girls screaming and jumping up and down for these guys. I think I’ll do that.’ I was absolutely just enthralled. It was a life-changing experience.”

Now, the Cleveland resident is in his third year of organizing the Rubber City BeatleFest, a celebration with music, memorabilia and more that will take place at the Akron Civic Theatre Feb. 1.

Montanari said The Beatles were appealing on many levels.

“They looked different than the other people that you’d see performing on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show,’” he said. “It was the music; it was the look and the excitement. You could feel the electricity in the air.”

Besides organizing the local BeatleFest, Montanari also performs Beatles music in tribute band The ReBeats, which will be part of this year’s Civic event. He said the group plays post-“Revolver” Beatles music, while Hard Day’s Night will recreate the “Ed Sullivan Show” sets.

Performing Beatles music is something that doesn’t get old for him, Montanari said.

“There’s not much more of a thrill than walking up to the microphone and belting out one of your favorite Beatles songs,” he said. “It’s still a thrill. You saw them on TV, saw them in the movies, and there you are using the same guitars and amplifiers they used to get that authentic sound.”

Also set to perform Beatles music is Jim Bonfanti with the band Fantom 4. Bonfanti was a member of Cleveland band The Choir and also a founding member of the Raspberries, who had chart success with songs like “Go All the Way.” Bonfanti will kick off the evening’s music at 8 p.m.

Another highlight of the event will be a display of photos by Cleveland rock photographer George Shuba.

“He has just tremendous photos that he took of The Beatles and their arrival [in Cleveland in September 1964],” Montanari said. “They didn’t land at Cleveland Hopkins — they landed at the tank plant, which is now the I-X Center. The plane landed there because airport officials were afraid kids could get hurt because it was a propeller plane.”

According to his website, Shuba has 48 of his photos in the permanent collection at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland. Montanari said Shuba also will be selling prints of some of his Beatles images.

In addition, memorabilia dealers will be on hand with Beatles items and collectibles in the Civic lobby starting at 6:45 p.m. Cleveland painter Billy Nainiger will display and sell his Beatles-themed paintings as well.

Montanari said last year’s BeatleFest nearly was a sellout. He added that those who attend are welcome to dance, as well as listen to the music.

“I can probably speak for all the bands — everyone just loves the music and loves performing the music for our guests,” he said. “If you feel like getting up and dancing, we leave some space for that.” 

Tickets are $25 for reserved, $15 for general admission or a special date-night offer of two reserved tickets for $40. Tickets are on sale at the Akron Civic Theatre Box Office, 330-253-2488, online at www.akroncivic.com or through TicketMaster at 800-745-3000.

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