JEFFERSONVILLE — When the Beatles landed in New York City to make their American debut on the Ed Sullivan Show, it was a moment that changed pop culture forever.
From there, the influence of the Liverpool juggernaut spread across the Atlantic and farther, impacting the musical scene of every corner of the world.
Not all countries were lucky enough to get a visit from the Beatles as a unit. That didn't stop people in those countries from finding ways to share their music, though.
“The Beatles’ influence is so huge, even in Brazil," said Gustavo Gazana, who stands in for George Harrison in the Beatles' tribute band Rubber Soul. "They never went there, but even then they are so huge. I know that because when Paul McCartney went to Brazil recently, a lot of people went to see him. The Beatles are so huge, and for this reason, we tried to make a show using costumes. A lot of people never had a chance to see the Beatles live, so we try to give them a little bit of what happened in those days.”
The four-piece group out of Rio Claro, Brazil, have brought Beatles-influence tunes to listeners around the world since 2003. Like a few other bands playing at Abbey Road on the River, Rubber Soul have had the opportunity to pay homage to the Beatles' iconic 1964 trip by bringing their own international interpretations to American audiences.
“For me, I listened only to American songs, like Elvis Presley, Little Richard and the Beatles," said Mauricio Gomes, who portrays Paul McCartney in Rubber Soul. "We all have been influenced by the American music. It’s amazing here. The people here are so nice. We’re having a great time."
For their shows, Rubber Soul hone in on three distinct eras of the Beatles' catalogue. The first set focuses on the fresh-faced, initial phase of the Beatles' career, with each member donning ties and Chelsea boots. Next, the group performs in garb emulating the era of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. They cap off their performances by playing songs from the White Album and Let It Be.
To Gazana, it's an opportunity that he never thought he'd have in his life.
“I think this is the power of the Beatles music," Gazana said. "I never imagined in my life that I would be here playing to an American audience. I think it’s like an exchange, because we learn a lot from these festivals. But I think we give something to the audience as well. We’ve got this passion, so for us it’s amazing."
Another Beatles-influenced group showcasing their talents at the festival is Classicstone from Bogotá, Colombia.
Like Rubber Soul, Classicstone has enjoyed their time stateside. What makes their journey here all the more fascinating is the fact that they never intended to be a full-time tribute band.
"This band has been together for 14 years," Javier Ojeda said. "Our first show was Pink Floyd's The Wall. We didn't mean to make a tribute band for so many years, we just wanted to do one show. The show was so, so good, and the people loved it. We started playing a little more. Then we made the Queen show. That was our second. At that time in Colombia, there weren't a lot bands making tributes to other bands. You can hear cover bands, but not a band with a full show. We were kind of pioneers for that in Colombia. Finally, we made the Beatles set."
One of the most talked-about events this weekend is Abbey Road on the Darkside, for which Classicstone will team up with The Jukebox Beatles out of Puerto Rico. Despite sharing the stage for the show, the two bands have never rehearsed together in person.
"With [the Jukebox Beatles], we worked and rehearsed through our cell phones," Sebastián Sero said. "They're a pretty good band. I think we're comfortable knowing the other band does their job perfectly. What we're going to do here is put together all these months of working virtually. We're pretty confident that it's going to be a nice show. There something that unites both shows, the psychedelia, you know. Abbey Road is an album that's pretty weird. Dark Side of the Moon is, too, of course. I think that's the glue between them."
Perhaps the biggest theme shared by all performers at Abbey Road on the River is their collective love of the Beatles and music in general. Decades and continents don't matter when it comes to the tunes.
"Good music never dies," Juan Carlos Abella said. "It's amazing to get all the good vibes from people, especially here. People here really appreciate the music and the musicians. When they see someone on stage giving it their heart and good energy, they appreciate it so much."