Beatlemania returns to Forest Grove
Beatles fans are in for a treat on this weekend when Pacific University welcomes Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Bluegrass Band back to Forest Grove to open the silver anniversary season of Pacific's Performing Arts Series.
The Fab Four tribute band will be at the Forest Grove campus performing some of the greatest songs in pop music history with a fusion of bluegrass, jazz and classical styles. The performance begins at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 13, at the Taylor-Meade Performing Arts Center, 2043 College Way, in Forest Grove.
Band founder Dave Walser became hooked on The Beatles' sound as a youngster growing up in Texas when he first heard the band perform on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964.
"I was 9 years old and already playing guitar, but what I heard that day changed everything," he said. "The Beatles ignored the formula that most pop music adhered to at the time, and sang with a fresh energy that was contagious from the first five seconds! I was hooked and couldn't put my guitar down trying to learn how they did that."
Walser started his first Beatles-inspired band a year later. "We were pretty good for fourth-graders," he said.
As a young adult, Walser paid his way through college playing gigs in Dallas at night and going to school during the day. After graduating from East Texas State University, he continued to play solo gigs and lead worship at several churches.
In 2002, Walser launched Beatlegras, a hybrid of Beatles and Bluegrass music, after seeing Paul McCartney's Back in the U.S. tour in 2002. The band played throughout the United States and Great Britain from 2004 through 2010.
After taking a year off, Walser relaunched the group as Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Bluegrass Band.
"I thought it would be fun to get some great musicians together and play all acoustic versions of Beatles songs," Walser said. "It's truly The Beatles' music - we just choose to play it from our own hearts and style rather than try to impersonate them. Each of us adds a little something different to the mix."
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Bluegrass Band's first performed at Pacific four years ago. Walser said this year's show will include plenty of new material.
"We continue to rotate new songs into our shows, but always do a few of the favorites like 'Here Comes the Sun,' 'All You Need is Love' and others," he said. "A couple of new ones we will do for sure are, 'A Little Help From My Friends' and 'Penny Lane.' We love those songs!"
Walser added that each band member brings a distinctly different style that maximizes the band's flavor.
"While we all love The Beatles, we each bring what we love to do and are fortunate enough make a living as a group and through our individual ventures," Walser said. "Reggie Rueffer is a classically trained violinist who played bass in a local alt-rock band before joining us. Gerald Jones is a very well-known bluegrass player and teaches banjo at various music camps throughout the United States. Bach Norwood is a true jazz genius who plays classical for the Dallas Symphony occasionally, and has toured many times with Polyphonic Spree."
In addition to his role as lead vocalist and guitarist, Walser has a successful solo career that features his original music in addition to the best of The Beatles and James Taylor.
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Bluegrass Band performs about 30 shows each year, and the Oct. 13 performance at Pacific rounds out the band's fall season, following shows in suburban Dallas, Texas; Palo Alto, Calif. and The Dalles on Oct. 12.
"All four of us are full-time musicians, but not full-time Sgt. Pepper's members," Walser said. "This band is a very energizing thing for us, and we have no desire to change that. It's always fun for us to take a three-to-five-day trip, play Beatles songs to others who also love The Beatles, then come home to our families. If we look like we're having fun on stage, we are! I'm not sure we could pull that off if we did a couple hundred shows a year."
Walser fondly remembers the band's last appearance at Pacific a year ago. "We had a wonderful time, loved the town, the audience, and the venue. We can't wait for Oct. 13!"
A limited number of tickets are available for $25 apiece and can be purchased in advance by calling 503-352-2918.
In addition to individual performance tickets, a variety of season ticket packages remain available. For more information, visit pacificu.edu/pas.
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