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Wednesday, December 11,2013

Lennon Fest gets back to where it’s long belonged

By Alexander Marietta
lennon orchestra

Photo Caption: The Lennon Orchestra

Everyone's favorite local Beatles' cover song festival, The Lennon Fest, returns this Saturday for its 14th year.

Local bands will perform classic Beatles' songs in the Public House of Jackie O's starting at 7 p.m. and at the Union Bar & Grill starting at 9 p.m.

Eric Leighton, aka Junebug, created the event in 2000 to honor the late John Lennon along with a friend and local musician John Bartlett, known as Johnny B. Both Lennon and Bartlett died in December of different years.

Lennon Fest quickly became an annual touchstone of the local music scene. The event serves as a fundraiser for The Johnny B Fund, which helps support young, aspiring artists pay for music lessons.

The fest has grown over the years, Leighton said. It now brings in at least $1,000 for The Johnny B Fund each year.

Leighton said this year's fest will bring the same positive vibes it has always carried. A variety of bands, including the Lennon Orchestra, Broken Ring and Controlled Folly will perform at the event.

"The students are cramming for exams, and the musicians are all cramming for Lennon Fest," Leighton said.

Leighton performs in the band the Lennon Orchestra. He said the band has grown from playing only at the Lennon Fest to playing almost once a month, both local and out of town. While the band has been a staple of the festival, Leighton said it still have a few tricks up its sleeves.

Joey Hebdo of the Lennon Orchestra, the guy who sings most of the tunes with a John-Paul sort of voice, said the event has been a gathering of different groups and acts, but always has been essentially about celebrating life and love. He said this is what separates it from other Athens fests for him.

"That's part of [Lennon Fest's] magic," he said. "It's coming from the right place."

Steve Zarate, local musician and one-man band, said he looks forward to the way people always seem to unite around the music of the Beatles.

"I rarely meet a person who doesn't like Beatles songs," he said.

Zarate said he enjoys playing the songs usually played on an electric guitar or by a full band on his acoustic guitar.

"I try to find a way to make it swing, or cook, or move, or groove or something," he said, "as if you're hearing the whole rock band, but it's really just one person."

Zarate is just one of many musicians offering their own takes on classic songs.

Though the event is touted as one of the most fun nights of music Athens has to offer, Leighton and Hebdo both said Lennon Fest stays true to its original goal of memorializing the deaths of John Lennon and John Bartlett.

The Lennon Fest will take donations at the door for The Johnny B Fund. For more information about the fund, contact Dave Baer at

Event Schedule

Jackie O's Public House

7-7:30 p.m. - Tony Adami

7:30-8 p.m. - Leah Nairn

8-9:20 p.m. - Lennon Orchestra

9:40-10:15 p.m. - Steve Zarate

10:30-11:30 p.m. - Broken Ring

Midnight to 1 a.m. - Controlled Folly

The Union

9 p.m. - Hocking College Music School Students

9:20 p.m. - Infinite Zero (Yoko Ono Band)

10 p.m. - Nate Brite's Plastic Zapple Band

10:50 p.m. - Sportfishing USA

11:40 p.m. - Union Local 910 (Drop Dead Sons)

12:45 a.m. - Lennon Orchestra

Times and bands may change unannounced, but a good time is guaranteed for all! All proceeds to benefit The Johnny B Fund for youth music education.


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