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Abbey Road on the River in Jeffersonville unites generations of Beatles fans

Three performers with guitars are dressed up like The Beatles, performing on a stage.
Courtesy of Abbey Road on the River
Abbey Road on the River gives Beatles fans five days to celebrate the group and other musicians from that time.

Abbey Road on the River celebrates all things Beatles, and other music and culture of the era, over five days in Jeffersonville, Indiana.

Imagine a barbecue rib cook-off. Then add a Liverpudlian accent. That’s how Abbey Road on the River became a reality.

“Before we even got more than a month into it, we decided that a competition was not the right thing to do and we should just get really good Beatle bands from as far away as we can and stage the festival that way,” creator Gary Jacob said.

Now, the five-day festival celebrates all things Beatles as well as other music and culture of the era. After three years in Cleveland, the festival moved to Louisville then hopped across the river to Jeffersonville, its home today.

As the festival has grown, Jacob said he’s tapped into the ever-present popularity of the band.

“I saw two 12-year-old identical twins…listening to The White Album concert on the mainstage, and they were pounding the stage and singing the lyrics to Helter Skelter,” Jacob said. “Then I would always see teenage boys dancing with their mothers. And that's not something you often see, either.”

He said these cross-generational connections make Abbey Road on the River so special.

“It's magical and we've tapped into it,” Jacob said.

And this multi-age “magic” extends to the musicians, too.

One of this year’s performers are students from School of Rock Louisville, an organization that teaches instruments and helps them put on live shows.

“The Beatles are an essential part of all School of Rock students' education,” said School of Rock owner Melanie Scofield.

Scofield said students learn a lot about music by studying the Beatles across their long careers and the solo careers of the members.

“They really covered pretty much every type of music and every type of approach in the genre over the last 30 years,” Scofield said.

Live performance is a large part of the School of Rock’s teaching philosophy.

“It certainly helps them hone their musicianship skills as well as their performance skills and there's just no way to simulate that,” Scofield said.

Students also get to see various interpretations of one band, like harpist Erin Hill’s.

Hill said that oftentimes, seeing her play is the first time someone has seen a harp in real life.

She’s no stranger to playing the Beatles and others from the 60s and 70s. She’s put together David Bowie shows, Kate Bush performances and sets inspired by other music of the time.

“I've always sung from when I was a baby, before I could talk I was singing and I just love pop and rock music and so it was just natural that I would sing and play on the harp all the songs that I love so much,” Hill said.

Bringing together her passion for singing and the harp with her love for music from that era with others who love it just as much.

“That's the best part of being a musician,” Hill said. “The very best part is to be performing and communing with an audience.”

The festival will feature a tribute to Jimi Hendrix, Fleetwood Mac and a performance from The Monkees’ Micky Dolenz.

Abbey Road on the River is May 25 through 29 at Big Four Station Park.

Breya Jones is the Arts & Culture Reporter for LPM. Email Breya at bjones@lpm.org.

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