An open letter to the musicians at Wild Honey’s Beatles benefit

beatles flyerI drove up from San Diego to attend this weekend’s benefit performance of Rubber Soul and Sgt Pepper. Besides being a huge Beatles fan, I’m a musician of sorts and have put together a ton of benefits and themed cover shows, some of which involved playing whole albums like Specials, Nevermind, Wilco’s A.M. and Thriller. Over the years, we’ve done everyone from Big Star and the Clash to the Stone Roses and, yes, even the Beatles. I’ve a billion Beatles cover bands plus all-star shows like the one at the Bowl with the LA Phil that George Martin conducted a few years ago and none of them were as interesting and amazing to watch as what you guys did the other night. 

With my experience in rounding up players, each with their own schedules, I couldn’t appreciate more how much went into this, especially knowing that only a few semi-full rehearsals were under the house band’s belt. Jim Laspesa & Derrick Anderson make an amazing duo (pun intended). When certain songs came up, I couldn’t wait to watch them nail my favorite parts which they did all night. Watching Rob Laufer go from guitar to guitar and look so cool playing all those leads was endlessly entertaining, not to mention Rusty Anderson smiling from the joy of getting to play so many non-Paul tunes he’s probably been itching to do for so long.

All the other bells and whistles, both literal and sampled were fantastic. Every bit was there, whether you could hear it or not. No soundman could make that many pieces sound 100% perfect with so little prep.  Whoever you are, knob twiddler, you deserve an award.  With that audience and those songs, you had a lot of people with what we call “clipboards”.  The effort you made to make sure everything was there was obvious.  Usually I don’t care for such note-for-note affairs but to watch you make it all happen was fascinating.  The less-dense Rubber Soul was surprisingly just as interesting as Pepper because I’d never thought too hard about how those songs could be played live, even with the cover art making headlines last month (I got deep into it here).

There were too many great singers to name. Dan Wilson, the Petersons and the Cowsills were spot-on over and over throughout the show and having folks like Kristian Hoffman come on and bring such joy was a Godsend. What a cast.  I can’t believe I got to hop onstage afterwards and tell Steve Barton that “Unalone” was the greatest song of the 80’s, tell Mike Randle that watching him play Glastonbury with Love is one of my favorite things to do AND apologize to Tommy Keene for heckling him at Spaceland eight years ago (long story). I really wanted to tell Christine Collister how amazing her performance was but I was speechless just being near the throat that THAT voice came from.

The show wasn’t perfect (though I dare say the instrumentation was) but shows like that rarely are. I’d written about some things that I wasn’t thrilled with but after seeing people’s reactions to what I’d written, I just deleted it. It’s hardly important considering the cause and what an amazing evening it was.  Thanks to EVERYONE who helped make it happen.  I’m off to write a check to the Autism Think Tank 1167 Kipling Ave, LA CA, 90041. It’s not too late for you too, neither.

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