In two weeks, Beatlemania is coming to Delray Beach. The inaugural International Beatles on the Beach Festival is bringing a British Invasion to the downtown area on April 25-28, bringing live music from approximately 50 bands, plus a boatload—or a Yellow Submarine load—of activities not limited to a costume contest, with winners receiving trips to the Bahamas; a Beatles exhibition at the Cornell Art Museum; and an interactive Penny Lane Scavenger Hunt/Beatles Bar Crawl throughout downtown. There will be book signings with Beatles authors, Beatles trivia games, a Beatles-themed car show and yoga routines and beach cleanups with a Fab Four soundtrack.
Putt’n Around Mini Golf is decorating its course in a Magical Mystery Mini Golf theme, and Silverball Museum will host a Beatles karaoke night with a live band. On April 25, Pineapple Grove will transform into Abbey Road, with tribute artists performing at stages along the avenue. And throughout the fest, 20 participating venues, from Purgreens to Mellow Mushroom to Boston’s and the Tin Roof, will offer free food, drinks and swag for festival ticketholders, encouraging visitors to hit up Delray’s top establishments.
As for the music, headliners like the Edgar Winter Band (“Frankenstein,” “Free Ride”); the symphonic tribute band McCartney Mania; and Patti Russo, who has sang for Meat Loaf, Queen, Roger Daltrey and other rock legends are among the dozens of live entertainers. Beatles tributes from Brazil, Argentina, Norway and Japan will bring their distinctive spins to the iconic music, along with non-Beatle-related local bands and tribute artists honoring the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Eric Clapton, Pearl Jam and more.
It’s all the brainchild of Delray’s own Daniel Hartwell, a veteran concert promoter whose journey toward Florida’s first Beatles festival began, as he shares with Bocamag, with a dream visitation from a late Beatle.
What’s your relationship with the Beatles; how did it start?
I’ve always listened to the Beatles, since I was a kid. A few years ago I fell asleep here on Delray Beach, during the day. You know how you have that twilight dreaming sequence when you fall asleep during the day, that’s different than at night? John Lennon walked up to me on the beach and pointed at my iPhone, and said, “Hello, mate, what’s that?” I said, “It’s an iPhone,” and started explaining to him the technology of the day. I had a conversation with him, then I woke up, and this whole book swooshed into my brain.
I ran home and started writing Saint John Lennon. It’s a time travel story about John Lennon finding himself in today’s world through a twist in time. He goes back to his mission of peace, love and music. In the book he has an Alexa or an iPhone, drones, a driverless car. I have John going into space with Richard Branson. He goes on the Bill Maher show. He goes head to head against Hannity on Fox News, and he meets with Donald Trump in the White House. He has a Beatles reunion, and you have to figure out where that will be, to hold 1 million people.
Why do you believe people of all ages are still listening to the Beatles—even young people who might not be into Sixties music generally?
I think the Beatles transcend time themselves. The music itself is very similar to Beethoven, where 200 years from now, we’ll still be listening to Beethoven, and we’ll still be listening to the Beatles. The music, if it were to come out today, would be a hit. It would be alternative rock.
Why do you believe Delray Beach is a good match for a Beatles festival?
Delray Beach is the perfect place for a Beatles on the Beach Festival because it has so much to offer, as in the great downtown amphitheater, which is the Old School Square Pavilion. We made it our home base, but we also go up and down the Ave with the great clubs, restaurants and bars, where we’re able to also put in other Beatles music and classic rock bands so that fans are able to get a taste of what Delray Beach has to offer.
Did you look at other Beatles festivals for inspiration or influence?
I’ve been touring the world on my book, and lecturing and signing at Beatles festivals around the world. And I was scratching my head saying, “Why is there no Beatles festival in Florida?” So I decided to pick up the baton and move forward with the greatest Beatles festival ever.
Did you pitch this to Old School Square? How did it “come together,” so to speak?
I did. And then I brought it to the mayor of Delray Beach, Shelly Petrolia. She was excited to bring a Beatles festival to Delray Beach, to show off our magnificent village by the sea.
I’m glad to hear that, because as you know, there’s been an ongoing debate about how many downtown events is too many. And we’ve lost some over the years.
Some of the past festivals, and I won’t name any, would fence the entire area in, and put in 100 food and drink vendors, and it took up all the parking downtown, and some of the restaurants’ patrons couldn’t get to the restaurants. It has been my business model to drive traffic into all of Delray Beach’s phenomenal restaurants, bars and music venues.
Your headliner for April 27 is McCartney Mania. Of the countless Beatles tribute bands, what makes this act unique?
McCartney Mania focuses on the latter days of the Beatles, from 1965-1969. They play more of the modern-sounding Beatles, hence “Strawberry Fields Forever,” the Abbey Roadalbum, Magical Mystery Tour. They will be backed by a full orchestra, which is incredible.
The list of bands playing throughout the four-day festival seemed endless, as I was scrolling through it. Was it a challenge to book and coordinate so many different bands?
No, it really wasn’t. I put my vision into focus and decided to put on a quality Beatles festival. First you dream it, then you do it.
Tickets for the festival are $29.50 and up. Visit beatlesonthebeach.com.