Nothing better for love than a Saturday night devoted to the commemoration of the loveliest, most innovative band in history. The New Orleans Beatles Festival has been in the making for fourteen years now and has grown into a quintessential celebration of the Fab Four. The festival is put on by the William Credo Agency and started in 2002 at Mid City Lanes with Chuck Credo IV and the Topcats as the band. After an unexpectedly large turnout for the first few years, the group decided to make their dream into a tradition, moving to the House of Blues New Orleans in 2007, where they have performed the festival every year since. Chuck and the Topcats have been the main group performing the classics since the show’s inception, but each year a long list of local musicians jump on the bill to contribute their special talents. After more than a decade, the event has not lost a step, fine tuning the successful aspects of the show and acquiring more talented musicians annually.
The production this year at the House of Blues was very well done. A wall of monitors displayed behind the band constantly broadcast clips from the Beatles’ music videos and films, including audio while the audience awaited the performance. The house was also filled to the brim with Beatlemaniacs, sporting fewer costumes than one would expect in New Orleans, but making up for it with more than enough excitement. The size of the eager crowd became more and more apparent when the band took their time starting the show.
Twenty minutes after the show was scheduled to start, fans were becoming mildly frustrated with the constant stream of music videos meant to keep them interested. Eventually, Jimmy Robinson, a local acoustic guitarist walked out onstage and played some amazing solo renditions such as Blackbird and Norwegian Wood. Robinson left after three or four songs, then the crowd sat through more music videos and waited another half an hour for the Topcats.
At 10:00pm, local radio voice, Scoot, from “Scoot on the Air” with WWL walked out and gave a short, but inspiring, speech about the importance of the Beatles to the history of music. After Scoot’s assessment of the event, Chuck Credo and the Topcats finally began the show with a few tunes from Hard Day’s Night, executing to perfection. The group has clearly had much practice with these works, and it showed as they effortlessly captured the energy of the music. For almost every song afterward, the band introduced a new musician or multiple musicians that joined them onstage and brought their own skills to the setlist. The songs chosen appeared to journey chronologically through the works of the Beatles, starting with earlier works and ending with songs from the band’s final records Abby Road and Let It Be.
The artists that contributed to the fun included Randy Jackson of Zebra, Anthony Dopsie, Robin Barnes, Jimmy Triay, Scott Schmidt of the Boogie Men, The 504 Horns, Beau St. Pierre, Jason Parfait, Dalila Seruntine, Christian Serpas, The Mixed Nuts, and Jim Lockwood who joined the Topcats for a majority of the night on lead vocals and percussion. The show really took off, however, when the Bonerama Horns and Rockin’ Dopsie Jr. joined in. Bonerama’s horn section, with Mark Mullins on vocals, quite literally blew away the audience with their versions of “Bulldog” and “Helter Skelter.” Afterward, “Rockin’” Dopsie Jr. blasted into the show with his washboard and stage presence reminiscent of a gospel minister. Dopsie brought forth an outstanding amount of energy with his crowd interaction and killer dance moves that would have made James Brown sweat.
Dopsie and the Bonerama horns remained part of the lineup until the very end when all the players of the entire evening were invited back onstage for a massive group performance of "Hey Jude." The crowd came together as one and sang along with everything they could muster. A mutual admiration for the Beatles was all we needed to forget the world's current troubles and just love one another for a night. Despite all our differences, this love for music mutual respect is common in these parts. Not only is it common, it is the grease in the bearings of our city. "Rockin'" Dopsie Jr. put it best when he said at the end of the show, "That's how we do in New Orleans."