The Beatles Festival in Bergen – 2023
In the days from Friday 13 to Sunday 15 October, the capital of Western Norway will be filled with the music of the most significant band of all time, The Beatles. There will be concerts, talks, quizzes, a record fair and much more during the festival.
The Beatles Festival 2023 will take place in the same premises as last year’s festival, Grand Hotel Terminus.
This year we have a real Beatle with us at the festival! Pete Best, drummer for the Beatles for two years, from August 1960 to August 1962 will be joining us, and he brings along his band!
ABOUT THE BEATLES FESTIVAL 2023:
The Pete Best Band
Pete Best was the Beatles’ drummer for two years, from August 1960 until August 1962 when they had been given a recording contract with EMI Parlophone. He was then replaced by Ringo Starr.
Pete Best was recruited as drummer for The Beatles in August 1960 and stayed with them for two years, until he was replaced by Ringo Starr in August 1962. While in The Beatles, he participated in recording sessions for the Polydor company in Hamburg, when the Beatles backed singer and guitarist Tony Sheridan. Pete was also involved in the first recordings for BBC radio and was with the group at EMI studios in Abbey Road the first time they were there, on 6 June 1962.
After being replaced by Ringo, Pete Best formed his own band which released a number of records with moderate success. Beyond the sixties, he put show business on the shelf and got a regular job. After his mother Mona Best passed in 1989, Pete decided to start playing drums again. Norway was one of the first countries he visited then.
Since then he has traveled around the world with his own band, performing at Beatles festivals and other events. Every year he organizes his own «Best Fest» at the legendary Casbah Club in Liverpool during the annual Beatles Week. You can hear Pete Best’s work for The Beatles on several songs on «Anthology 1».
His band has also released the critically acclaimed album «Hayman’s Green», where Pete has contributed and composed most of the songs.
The Blue Meanies come from the east coast of the USA (New York and New Jersey) and have played at the annual American Beatles festival «Abbey Road On The River» since 2004, where they will also perform this year.
They had their first appearance at Beatlefest in 1984, and since then they have performed at countless Beatles festivals and events at home and abroad. They have also had shows at BB Kings in New York. In 2024, they play for the ninth consecutive year at the historic St. George Theater in New York City. Here they perform the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ record releases in the USA.
They have been doing tribute concerts to music from several bands, e.g. Beach Boys, Kinks, Byrds, Monkees, solo Beatles shows, and other groups from England that made it big in the USA in the 60s.
Lennon interpreter Jay Goeppner will perform, backed by The Blue Meanies.
Jay Goeppner was born in 1963 in Chicago and grew up in a family where singing and music were paramount. When he was eight years old, he got to see «A Hard Day’s Night» in the cinema. Jay was bitten by the Beatles bug then.
By the age of fourteen he had developed a singing voice, and he then imitated songs from the records he had while playing them. In particular, he found that he was good to imitate John Lennon’s voice.
In the following years, Jay was in various local groups, and a band he himself helped to form was called «Abbey Road».
He took part in a contest to imitate the Beatles, and he won this – five years in a row!
Then came the murder of John Lennon in 1980 when Jay was only 17 years old. He was saddened and depressed by the murder and decided to give up singing.
But the song would not give up on Jay, and when, after a while, he took part in a tribute concert for Lennon in Chicago, he was praised by one person in the audience: John’s friend Harry Nilsson. He thought Jay should just keep singing, «you have got a future in this business!»
In 1986, Jay was a guest on a radio show, where he had rehearsed a John Lennon song he was going to perform. But the presenter kept him there for the entire 90-minute program and Jay then sang wish songs sent in by listeners, with his mate Phil on harmony vocals. Fortunately, they knew all the songs they were asked to sing. After this, Jay decided to commit to singing seriously.
Word spread about Jay and Phil’s ability to perform John Lennon’s music, and invitations from all over the world began to pour in. In 2005, Jay was invited to sing at the international Beatle Week in Liverpool.
In the following years, Jay sang at Beatles festivals in 21 countries and met many famous musicians, including Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr.
On John Lennon’s 70th birthday, Jay sang with folk legend Pete Seeger on stage in New York’s Central Park. This is Jay’s first visit to Norway, making it the 22nd country he will have performed in.
Gary Owen has been a mainstay at the Beatles Festival for many years. Alone or together with his brother Brian, Gary is like a musical jukebox and rarely fails to perform requests, with his guitar and singing. He was born and raised in New York City, and in May, 1983, he began learning guitar. Taking lessons for less than one month, Gary realized that he was learning more by strumming along with his Beatles albums. Coming home from school, he would lock himself away in his room until he learned whatever song it was that he wanted to conquer.
After having honed his trade, Gary started to perform in local pubs in the tri state area, which he did for most of the 1990’s as a solo act, 12 string acoustic and vocal. Most of the tunes he performs are from that 1960’s-1970’s era that he grew up on. In the 2000s, Gary began travelling the world, performing in many countries. During his journeys, he met and fell in love with a girl from Bergen, Norway. He married his Mette in 2021.
Gary’s favourite Beatle is George Harrison, so if you want to cheer him up, request a George song!
For those already in Bergen on Thursday the 12th of October, we are screening the PRE FAB! documentary film at Bergen Kino at 6 pm.
Dates: Friday 13th to Sunday 15th October.
Compere: Bård Ose
Festival pass: NOK 950 and can be ordered from here. There are only 400 festival passes available, due to the capacity of the concert hall. Discount promo codes for Norwegian Wood – Den norske Beatlesklubben and Bergen Beat Club can be obtained from the club you are a member of. The discount only applies until June. The festival pass gives you access to all the concerts.
Accommodation: Like last year, the festival hotel will be Grand Terminus Hotel, which also offers accommodation with breakfast.
Food: More information to come.
Lectures: The aim is to create a varied Beatles seminar with interesting speakers. Yan Friis and Tom Kristensen return to the festival this year with their new lecture, «Reise deg i stråleglans» about the year 1973 – when the Beatles became friends again. Dag Arne Nilssen intends to deal with Ringo Starr’s film career.
Beatles quiz: Trond Blindheim has promised to make the quiz a little easier this year, so that everyone can participate.
Nighttime sing-a-long: This was a particularly successful feature at last year’s festival, and we already know that we can promise you that this year too. The Blue Meanies will lead on, and there is going to be an opportunity for the other artists from the festival to join in.
You are hereby invited!
There have been previous Beatles events and Beatles evenings in Norway, but it was in 2006 that the Beatles festival was started, a weekend of Beatles music, quizzes, exhibitions, films and other attractions. The festival was held in the mountain resort of Beitostølen. Festival arranger Terje Steinsrud was in company with the famous Norwegian musician Eivind Rølles. Roger Stormo from the Norwegian Beatles fan club Norwegian Wood completed the trio.
The festival was a success, and became an annual arrangement for many years. Insiders from the Beatles circle visited the festival, people like fan club secretary Freda Kelly and NEMS- and later Apple employee, Tony Bramwell.
Other speakers have been people like Eirik «The Norwegian» Wangberg, sound engineer on the McCartneys’ «Ram» album. From Sweden: Staffan Olander, who has collaborated a lot with Beatles producer George Martin and Ringo Starr, and Hans-Olof Gottfridsson who wrote the book about The Beatles i Hamburg. From England: artist Jeff Cummins and the well known Beatles biographer, Mark Lewisohn.
Several international bands have also guested the festival, among others, the Pete Best Band, The Shakers, Hamburg Beat and Help! In addition, several Norwegian cover bands have been playing at the festival, like The Fabulous Couldhavebeens, Det Betales, Masters of the Past, The Norwegian Beatles, and Revolver from Bergen.
In 2022, after a few years in hiatus due to the pandemic, the festival returned and relocated to the southern costal town of Bergen, an old, Hanseatic town with strong musical heritage related to Mersey Beat. In the sixties, inspired by The Beatles, many young musicians emerged from Bergen, forming bands and creating the scene called «Bergen Beat». The audience formed the BBC – Bergen Beat Club and still exists, arranging music events with the sixties artists and keeping their members informed through newsletters.
Here is a slide show with some of the happenings at the 2022 festival: