Walter Tunis: Beach Boys bring good vibrations to Abbey Road on the River

Contributing Music WriterMay 21, 2014 

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The Beach Boys' Mike Love will lead the group in a Beatles tribute at Abbey Road on the River. This summer marks the 50th anniversary of the Beach Boys' hit Fun, Fun, Fun.

TODD PARMINGTON — Associated Press

  • THE WEEK THAT WAS

    Preservation Hall Jazz Band at the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center: It only took a few foot stomps from trumpeter Mark Braud to summon the joyous, harmonious swing of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. The ensuing jubilation, triggered by the resulting Dippermouth Blues, didn't cease until the house lights came up 80 minutes later.

    This performance did more, however, than underscore the PHJB's scholarly command of New Orleans tradition. The seven-man lineup displayed a broader stylistic view than the more ragtime and Dixieland-leaning versions from the '60s and '70s. Sure, there was tradition to spare in staples like Basin Street Blues and Bourbon Street Parade. Similarly, ample sass and soul dwelled within the musicianship. The most audience friendly example had to be Ronell Johnson, a linebacker-sized musician who may just be the happiest sousaphone player on the planet.

    But this PHJB also owed greatly to blues and bop. Bringing those elements to life was a generous sampling of original material from the band's 2013 Jim James-produced album That's It!

    On August Nights, the band whittled itself down to a quartet (two tenor saxes, piano and trumpet) with a noir style vocal from Clint Maedgen that was more vintage New York than New Orleans in flavor. Similarly, Yellow Moon sent the band into more tropical waters with a fluid groove that approximated rumba. A lighter, slower variation of such rhythm propelled clarinetist Charlie Gabriel's playfully hapless singing on I Think I Love You.

    There were traditional touches in the new songs, too, like the hip-swiveling camp that trombonist Freddie Lonzo injected into the Louis Jordan-like Rattlin' Bones. But even when it looked like the PHJB was going to end the show with a perfunctory When the Saints Go Marchin' In, the ensemble served up the title tune from That's It! as a finale. The piece was a brief, exhaustive blowout that began with the unrelenting drive of drummer Joe Lastie Jr. and ended with mad dashes on trumpet from Braud.

    If the bulk of this program enforced the vitality of traditional New Orleans jazz, the That's It! music was an honest affirmation of the invention and possibility such sounds possess today.

Abbey Road on the River

May 23-26 at Belvedere Park, Galt House Hotel and Muhammed Ali Center in Louisville. $29.64-$79.64. (502) 640-0842. AROTR.com.

The Beach Boys, John Sebastian

7 p.m. May 25 at Belvedere Park for Abbey Road on the River. $30-$60.

One isn't exactly going out on a limb to claim that no act had greater critical or commercial impact on global pop culture in the 1960s than The Beatles. But if you had to choose an American counterpart that even approximated the popularity of The Fab Four, The Beach Boys would probably come the closest.

Its run of hits written and produced by Brian Wilson, though briefer even than the seven-year stretch when The Beatles recorded the bulk of their music, boasted the most significant pop innovations to emerge in the wake of Phil Spector's famed Wall of Sound recordings.

How fitting, yet still unexpected, that The Beach Boys will be among the artists paying tribute to The Beatles at the 2014 Abbey Road on the River festival this weekend in Louisville.

This won't be the short-lived, full-reunion lineup of the veteran California surf-pop band that re-enlisted founding members Brian Wilson and Al Jardine. It instead will rely on the longstanding roster led by founding vocalist Mike Love. The Beach Boys' show requires a separate ticket from the rest of Abbey Road on the River.

The Beach Boys' appearance coincides with milestone anniversaries for all parties involved.

For The Beach Boys, it marks the first concert date of a summer-long tour honoring the 50th anniversary of Fun, Fun, Fun, one of the many harmony-soaked surf hits that defined the group's pre-Pet Sounds music of the mid-'60s.

This year is also the 50th anniversary of the arrival in America of The Beatles, the legendary band to whom Abbey Road on the River annually pays homage, and the beginning of the golden age of Beatlemania.

The festival itself has some celebrating to do, as well. This weekend marks the 10th anniversary of Abbey Road on the River's arrival in Louisville. The event is now the largest Beatles-based festival in the world, sporting more than 200 performances from more than 60 international acts. Not all of them will be Beatles tribute bands, either.

Lovin' Spoonful founder and longtime solo singer/songwriter John Sebastian will perform before The Beach Boys. Guitarist Lawrence Jubar, a member of Paul McCartney's final lineup of Wings, will collaborate on a Beatles tribute with the '70s pop act Ambrosia (8:15 p.m. Friday).

About the only thing missing from the festival will be an actual Beatle. Louisville won't have to wait long for that, though. In just over a month, McCartney will perform for the first time in the River City at the KFC Yum Center, just a few blocks from the Abbey Road on the River sites.

For full schedules of all Abbey Road in the River events, go to AROTR.com.

River blues

In keeping with the holiday weekend tradition of river-related music festivals is Sunday's return of Blues Between the Bridges. This will be the fifth year for the daylong celebration of local, regional and, in the case of its headlining act, national blues music.

Representing the regionals will be Cheryl Renee, Robbie Bartlett, Tanita Gaines and The Kelly Richey Band. Topping the bill will be Claudette King, youngest daughter of blues icon B.B. King.

The location is the same, although its name has changed. The festival will be at Pier 99, formerly called Riptides, at 9079 Old Richmond Road. The music gets underway at 2 p.m. Admission is $10 at the gate.

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