Beatles tribute band Abbey Road Live!, which includes, from left, Michael Wegner, Dave Domizi, Andrew Hanmer and Timi Conley, will perform at the Olde Town Conyers Pavilion on June 9.
ATHENS -- It's been 50 years since the Beatles issued their first recordings and more than four decades since John, Paul, George and Ringo went their separate ways, but there can be no denying the cultural and musical impact the Fab Four has had on the world.
Beatlemania manifests itself in many forms here in the 21st century, notably in tribute bands, and there are few as gifted as Athens-based Abbey Road Live!, which began as a one-off performance some 15 years ago and now plays some 60 shows a year.
"The first time we did it, three-fourths of the group was part of a band called Fuzzy Sprouts," said multi-instrumentalist Michael Wegner. "We played the 'Abbey Road' album in 1997 and figured it was a one-time thing. A few years after that, Fuzzy Sprouts broke up, and we thought, 'That Beatles thing was fun; let's do it again.' And we've just gone from there."
Abbey Road Live! brings its popular road show to the Old Towne Pavilion on June 9 in a fundraiser for the Conyers Rockdale Council for the Arts. Through the years the band -- which in addition to Wegner includes guitarist/vocalist Timi Conley, bassist/vocalist Dave Domizi and drummer Andrew Hamner -- has worked up more than 100 Beatles tunes, and Wegner said the Conyers show will feature "a mixed set of material."
Although the Beatles continued recording until 1970, they ceased live performances in 1966, which meant that fans were denied the opportunity to hear "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," "Magical Mystery Tour," "The Beatles" (also known as "The White Album"), "Let it Be" and "Abbey Road" in a concert context.
Wegner said that was part of the reason he and his colleagues decided to give the Beatles tunes a whirl.
"There's really no old tape, video or film of a lot of the material we do," he said. "We approach it with the idea of bringing those great songs into a live setting. We might extend some songs or present them a little differently because we know if the Beatles had ever played these songs live, they wouldn't have done note-for-note re-creations from the albums."
The band has now been regularly performing Beatles tunes for 10 years, and Wegner said he's seen the audience demographic shift in recent times.
"We see a lot more younger people at our shows, especially in the last couple of years," he said. "A lot of college and high school kids are getting into the Beatles.
"It may be because of the release of the movie 'Across the Universe,' which featured Beatles songs, or because of the game 'Beatles Rock Band' or because their tunes have in recent years have finally been made available on iTunes. But it's a good thing. We still play in a lot of college towns."
In the beginning, Abbey Road Live! basically performed in Athens, but in the years since the band has played throughout the Southeast and up and down the East Coast. In late May, Abbey Road Live! was scheduled to appear at a Beatles festival in Louisville, Ky., where in the past they drew a crowd in excess of 25,000.
"We've headlined every year," said Wegner of the festival, called Abbey Road by the River. "We've done it seven or eight times in Louisville and they've also had festivals in Washington D.C. that we've played."
Later in June, the band will celebrate the 45th anniversary of the release of "Sgt. Pepper's" with a performance -- which will include the Magical Mystery Horns and the Lonely Hearts Strings -- at the Variety Playhouse in Atlanta.
Besides their Beatles work, the members of the band have other musical pursuits. Conley and Hamner play in the inventive and eclectic Kite to the Moon, Wegner and Domizi play in Cosmic Charlie (a Grateful Dead tribute band) and Wegner leads the acoustic group Whisper Kiss. He said having their own original-music projects helps balance what they do with Abbey Road Live!
"It's a bigger challenge these days to do your own music, so (Abbey Road Live!) helps us stay busy and keeps us out of the 9-to-5 scene," he said.
"But it's a clear-cut line. We're not trying to be another band. It has never really mattered to me if I'm playing my music or somebody else's music, as long as it's good music.
"And if you've got to pick a band (to cover), it's hard to beat the Beatles. We'll never run out of music to play."
All you need is love.
What: Abbey Road Live!
When: 8 p.m. on June 9; doors open at 6 p.m.
Where: Olde Town Conyers Pavilion on Main St.
Cost: Advance tickets are $12 (lawn seating) and $20 (pavilion seating) and $15 and $25 at the door. For ticket information, call 770-922-3143 or visit www.conyersarts.org. For more information on Abbey Road Live!, visit www.abbeyroadlive.com.