The Star Club is set to play what is billed as a “sendoff” show at the District Center for the Arts on Aug. 20, what will be their final show stateside before heading to Liverpool for a string of eight shows in seven days, putting a catalog of over 80 Fab Four tunes to the ultimate test.
The Star Club formed in March 2020, taking its name from a fairly obscure Beatles reference pointing to the Star-Club music club in Hamburg, Germany, made famous with a run of Beatles shows throughout 1962, a formative year for the band.
Ian Motha of South Dartmouth is Star Club’s unofficial music director, singing and playing keyboards and guitar. Bob Boyer of New Bedford plays drums, Patrick Foley of Taunton plays bass and Keith Sylvia of Freetown plays guitar.
Motha has attended Beatleweek as a fan twice, while Boyer has been visiting more on than off over the past 30 years.
“This is the first time that we've been invited to play,” Motha said. “So it's definitely a dream come true.”
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Huge lineup at Beatleweek
The Star Club is one of dozens of Beatles tributes included in a wall-to-wall line up of shows — all Beatles, all the time — and after a couple of years playing under the name of a famous stage where The Beatles played, Star Club will get to stand in the footsteps of their heroes and perform at The Cavern Club, the Liverpool stage where The Beatles appeared repeatedly in the early years from 1961 to 1963.
“So when we first got the news that we were doing it, it was one of those, like, ‘are you serious? We're really doing this?" Motha said. "You know you almost might think you're in a dream. I was like can I remember other details about today or am I in a dream right now? It was that level of excitement.
“And it's a privilege because we get to play on the actual stage that The Beatles played on at The Cavern Club. You know, we're getting to play music that we love on the stage that it was, you know, initially performed on in some cases, some of the songs. It's an honor. In the Beatle world it’s as big as it gets.”
Beatlesweek runs Aug. 24 to 30, and The Star Club is set to play eight shows, around six hours of live music, says Motha, at the famed Cavern Club and other a number pubs and concert halls scattered about Liverpool.
“It's wild, just a short bus ride away is Strawberry Field, Penny Lane, and being the fans that we are we've seen so many pictures of these clubs and streets, and it's like we're gonna be walking down those same streets with our guitars and where their music was echoing off the same bricks that our music is going to be echoing off.”
The whole catalog
The Beatles tribute band world is broken down into a wild number of variations: some bands taking on certain musical eras and points along the band’s evolutionary arc, some dress the part, some play the parts.
Some even tackle solo catalogs. In fact, this year’s headline act, billed as the “never seen before ‘Lennon’ line-up, features three musicians who played on John Lennon’s final pair of studio recordings, Double Fantasy and Milk and Honey. The trio of Earl Slick, Tony Levin and Andy Newmark will perform at the ‘Lennon 1980’ headline show at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall on Aug. 26.
According to internationalbeatleweek.com, “All three musicians performed on John’s last studio album Double Fantasy as well as the sessions for what would become John’s Milk and Honey album. They never got to perform together live with John Lennon before his tragic death in 1980.”
Point is, acts can get pretty specific about their acts.
But The Star Club does not perform in costume or character and is committed to playing The Beatles catalog from front to back, from the beginning to the separation to the solo years.
“We wanted to cover the whole thing,” says Motha.
Star Club plays tunes from every ear of The Beatles — “Hamburg, Beatlemania, psychedelic, rooftop into the solo years,” as described on their bio at the festival website.
“We're ourselves playing the music that we love,” Motha said.
“What's cool about The Star club is it's a show where you really don't have to know anything about The Beatles to enjoy it, because the sets that we play around here, locally, are predominantly the hits. But we throw in the deep cuts for the big fans, and we'll throw in some other 60 songs. So anyone can really enjoy the show.”
Motha says the band often throws in covers from similar-era bands like the Rolling Stones and The Doors to round out a set.
Liverpool during Beatleweek
Motha has traveled to Liverpool in non-Beatle weeks, and says The Beatles are part of the town’s history and celebrated throughout the year. But Beatleweek is a whole new level, Beatles fans being Beatles fans without restraint.
“Oh yeah, you can totally Beatle-out there,” he said. “The people are great, the people that organize it do an amazing job. It's a very friendly atmosphere. You can go up to anybody and just start talking 'cause you know you have this thing in common, and the level of Beatle fans over there, like you know, you can get into a really in-depth conversation and you know you're gonna.
“And there's so many options of different bands from all over the world to go see. A lot of bands do different thing or specialize in a certain thing, like a certain era, even some of the solo stuff. And it's, yeah, you can just kind of go and geek out and just have a great time. There’s a lot of love. It’s a lot of fun. you're gonna know Beatleweek is happening. I mean just the amount of people wearing Beatles T-shirts and then out of the all the cafes you're gonna hear Beatles songs echoing through the streets.”
The Star Club is looking forward to their “sendoff” show on Aug. 20, and says in the two years they’ve been playing together support from fans and local venues, like the District, has been humbling and a key to success.
“The support we’ve seen since starting is just unbelievable,” Motha said. “The District has been incredible to us. We love everybody there. We love the people that go there the the management, the owners. There's just a really warm energy in that room and we love those shows. I mean, we'll have specific practices for weeks leading up to those shows and how we're gonna do it, because they make us feel so welcome and yeah, every show we've done there so far has been great.
“And on the 20th we're excited because we're planning on doing it outside. So you know, usually we sell out, like it’s 200 plus inside, but more people can go this time, so that's going to be fun. You know, we just plan on having a really fun summer night.”
But they owe it all to The Beatles
“The Beatles, why it’s such a phenomenon, it's just they did so much in such a short period of time. It just seems like endless amounts of things to discover and stories, and you know, it attracts people of all ages. It's really special, it is."
This article originally appeared on The Taunton Daily Gazette: Local band's dreams come true with invite to perform at Beatlesweek