Conan O’Brien kicking off George Fest
Fans of all ages, backgrounds and styles came out to the Fonda Theatre Sunday night to attend the first ever GeorgeFest: a night to celebrate the music of George Harrison. It also coincided with a major reissue of George Harrison’s first six solo albums, released between 1968 and 1975 on The Beatles’ Apple Records label, and after last night you can bet that someone you know will be on a major George Harrison kick for the next month at least. The Best Fest and Jameson whiskey have teamed up in the past to showcase a variety of talents paying tribute to legendary musicians such as Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, and The Rolling Stones, but GeorgeFest, curated in part alongside the Harrison estate, was really something special. Ticket proceeds were all given to the Jameson Neighborhood Fund benefiting Sweet Relief locally in Los Angeles. In the larger sense, this celebration of George Harrison was by extension a celebration of Los Angeles musicians who have worked tirelessly over the years to share the gift of music with us, and our opportunity as gracious listeners and music fanatics to give them something in return, because sometimes they just need to get by with a little help from their friends.
Weird Al Yankovic (dude definitely had the most gusto)
The massive line wrapped around the block was accommodated for as the guitar fueled evening kicked off closer to 9 p.m. than the originally scheduled 8 p.m. It was all good though because it was an excellent opportunity to sip on some smooth Jameson Black Barrel and ginger. NYC’s The Cabin Down Below Band really stepped it up as the house band, wasting no time in getting the energy up with “Awaiting On You All,” followed by a rousing rendition of “Old Brown Shoe” with everyone’s favorite funny ginger, Conan O’Brien on guitar, vocals. It was a perfect follow up to the George Harrison week performances on the Conan O’Brien show (also see: stellar George Michael joke that had everyone cracking up).
Standout performances of the evening included Zach Chance and Jonathan Clay of Jamestown Revival bursting at the seams with lush harmonies for a truly spot on, “If I Needed Someone”; Butch Walker‘s raucous and infectious version of “Any Road” channeled the spirit of George Harrison and then some; and Cold War Kids‘ choppy, dance-worthy take on “Taxman” just about had my head exploding, and that was just the beginning. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club‘s somber yet satisfying “Art of Dying” left jaws hanging wide open, and Weird Al‘s bouncing fro accompanied his wacky and wonderful version of, “What Is LIfe,” which drew a sea of cellphones out of concert-goers pockets. Erika Wennerstrom of The Heartless Bastards with her rich voice that filled the room and Aimee Nash and Scott Von Ryper of The Black Ryder who had no less than six guitars going at once on stage, leaving any gearhead’s brain in a tizzy, also impressed with their performances of George Harrison classics, “If Not For You” and “Isn’t It A Pity.”
Aimee Nash of The Black Ryder
Special surprise guest Perry Farrel of Jane’s Addiction joined cute-as-a-button Norah Jones and eccentric Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne on stage for a mellow and simply sweet, “Here Comes the Sun” which had the whole audience singing along. Ian Astbury of The Cult‘s “Be Here Now” was bone-chilling and beautiful, and Ben Harper brought some invigorating, down-home soul, shedding a new light on “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth).” Nick Valensi of The Strokes and drummer Matt Sorum (Guns N’ Roses, Velvet Revolver) brought some serious hard rock chops to “Wah Wah.” The perfect night cap to the show was when a variety of musicians, including Ann Wilson of Heart, took to the stage, led by legendary Beach Boys Brian Wilson and Al Jardine for “My Sweet Lord” which had everyone finger-snapping, bobbing and swaying along with every “hallelujah” (scroll down to watch the video).
In the end, what really struck me about GeorgeFest was that despite it being a star-studded event of celebrities and musicians it was not an over-the-top affair with glitz, glam and loud encores. The vibes on stage were low-key, stripped down and all the musicians just floored you in the simplest of ways, making it feel more like you were sitting in on a rehearsal or a living room show, rather than a large venue. While I can’t even begin to imagine what it may have felt like for Dhani Harrison, fulfilling a legacy of his famed father alongside an all-star musical team, I think it can safely be said that GeorgeFest did George Harrison and the fans justice. Amen to that!
Review: Emily Saex
Photography: Ryan Patrick Mulvey
Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips
Everybody on stage closing out George Fest with Brian Wilson
Watch Brian Wilson close out George Fest Los Angeles with “My Sweet Lord” featuring Al Jardine of the Beach Boys are joined by Darin Sahanaja, Ann Wilson of Heart, Perry Farrell, Norah Jones, Karen Elson, Elvis Perkins, Ryan Miller of Guster, Jimmy Vivino, Wayne Coyne, Britt Daniel of Spoon and the Cabin Down Below band.
Want more photos? Check out the photo gallery below!