Turkey, football and the Beatles.
Only in Portland does this sentence make sense.
The annual Beatles Night put on by Portland-area musicians on the weekend after Thanksgiving is now in its 11th year, making it a bona fide local tradition. People of all ages head to the event to see 30 or more local musicians, including string and horn sections, do their own variations and arrangements of Beatles’ classics.
It started as a fairly small event 11 years ago, but last year it drew more than 1,400 to the State Theatre on Congress Street. This year organizers think the crowd will be even bigger when the show happens Saturday at the State Theatre.
“It’s become a family event, we get young families, people home from college, all ages,” said Spencer Albee, who helped start the event and runs it with a core of other musicians each year. “Not everyone wants to go to the Old Port and drink their brains out when they’re home (for Thanksgiving).”
Albee, who has been in a range of Portland bands including Rustic Overtones and As Fast As, wants people to know that Beatles Night is not a tribute, not a cover fest. Nobody on stage will try to look like John, Paul, George and Ringo.
“The world is littered with wig-wearing, costume-changing, tepid attempts at re-creating the Beatles,” said Albee. “The songs we choose to play are ones we find challenging, or can put our own spin on, or sometimes we do our best to re-create the recording.”
Besides Albee, other musicians involved include Dominic Lavoie, of Dominic and the Lucid and Sha Sha Sha, Chuck Gagne, Sean Morin, Jon Roods of Paranoid Social Club and Rustic Overtones, Sara Hallie Richardson, and Dan Capaldi.
There will also be several guest musicians coming on stage to sing one song, backed by the others. For instance, Rustic Overtones’ singer Dave Gutter will sing “Helter Skelter,” and Anna Lombard is slated to sing “Dig a Pony.”
Richardson, who is working on vocal arrangements for the show, will sing “Penny Lane” and “Till There Was You.” Some of the other songs being performed include “Blackbird,” “Mother Nature’s Son” and “Paperback Writer.”
Richardson thinks the Beatles Night has become a tradition not just because Portland has a vibrant music scene, with musicians who like working together, but also because as a community, Portland is a place where people like to come together.
“It’s just a very supportive community where people want to be together and celebrate,” said Richardson. “The joy that is shared among the musicians (at Beatles Night) is contagious, and spreads throughout the community.”
Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at: