Beatles festival takes over National Harbor Labor Day weekend

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Interview with Gary Jacob, creator, Abbey Road on the River

wtopstaff | November 14, 2014 12:02 pm

Tim Bracken, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – Concert organizer Gary Jacob isn’t shy about declaring that The Beatles single handedly changed pop music as we know it.

“There’s no mistaking The Beatles are the big bang … The exclamation point in popular music,” he says.

In honor of the Fab Four, Jacob created Abbey Road on the River, billed as the world’s largest Beatles tribute festival.

The Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center is hosting the festival, which will feature nearly 40 bands on five stages.

The entire Beatles catalog will be represented, including special performances of entire albums like “Revolver,” “Rubber Soul,” “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and the “White Album.”

This year’s featured concert is a performance of the 2006 mashup album, “Love.”

“We’re the only event or concert in the world that has ever recreated this album,” Jacobs says. “We use 40 performers, to capture live, the mixing of 128 Beatles songs in one concert.”

Abbey Road on the River’s first run took place in Cleveland, Ohio in 2002. The festival’s size and scope steadily expanded since then. Currently, it has separate runs in both Louisville, Ky. and at National Harbor.

Bands from all over the world reach out to participate.

“Back when we started … it was hard to find Beatles bands,” says Jacob. “With each passing year, word of the festival spread, and band submissions increased.”

Jacob estimates that he receives more than 200 inquiries a year from interested bands.

He feels that he’s found the perfect venue in the Gaylord National Resort.

“I’ve been producing events all over the country for many years,” Jacob says. “It truly is the most spectacular park in the country.”

The event will utilize the resort’s outdoor space, including an outdoor amphitheater.

Who attends Abbey Road on the River?

According to Jacob, just about every age group can be found at the event.

“Teenage girls still love The Beatles like they always did,” he says. “We’ll see three generations of a family coming to the festival … that seems to be what is becoming the demographic.”

The bands aren’t limited to strictly Beatles songs. Expect to hear covers from other classic acts, such as The Kinks, Monkees, The Who and Led Zeppelin. The Jefferson Starship will also be making an appearance.

Jacob contends that The Beatles are worthy of a tribute festival for their songs, not their personalities.

“Will they remember Ringo Starr the way they remember Elvis Presley? Probably not,” Jacob says. “But will they remember the Beatles music forever? Probably.”

Abbey Road on the River runs through Monday, Sept. 3.

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