Inside Stache, the sign-less speakeasy in downtown Fort Lauderdale, it's dimly lit and ornately decorated with parlor-style seating. In the main room, a wall is handily stacked to the ceiling with libations.
The classy venue hosted a special fundraising event for a homeless advocacy nonprofit that's been in the news lately for all the wrong reasons. Love Thy Neighbor is headed by nonagenarian, World War II veteran Arnold Abbott, a frail man whose looks bely his strength. He's got a golden ticker and a firm handshake. Abbott was recently cited several times by the police for feeding the homeless in Fort Lauderdale.
The combat-tested Abbott, who says he's been "fighting for the underdog all my life," spent 50 years fighting for civil rights. At Saturday's event, he reminisced about going to Mississippi in 1964 to help African Americans register to vote. He's not bothered by the recent police action and is determined to bring equality for and fairness to the homeless.
"That's what I'm fighting for, to have these people treated like everybody else," he said. Abbott also runs a culinary apprenticeship program with local activist Stanley Jackson, which helps to place the homeless in gainful employment.
Saturday night was all about raising money for his primary organization through classic tunes. Local Beatles tribute act the Beethose played the entirety of the Fab Four's double album known as the White Album. The supergroup took requests for pay during a third jukebox set.
To set the mood, the band had a slideshow of Beatles imagery projected on a screen over the stage throughout the evening, including shots of the band in-studio, with the Maharishi Mahesh, the requisite portrait of band interloper and vocal whiner Yoko Ono and the White Album cover.
The crowd was multi-generational, including people who would have been alive to experience the real thing and young hip music lovers too. People slowly filed in, as lead singer, bassist, and founding member Jim Camacho, playing the role of Paul McCartney, welcomed and thanked the crowd. From the first notes of "Back in the U.S.S.R.," the band took off on a nearly three hour flight of musical fancy.
Keyboardist and John Lennon stand-in Chris Price, he of the Jeff Healy-like lap-top, finger-picking guitar style, led a tender and emotive "Dear Prudence." "I'm a piano player used to looking down and playing a flat surface," he explained of his unconventional style. Price is the songwriting partner of Camacho and the other half of a production team with fellow Beethose Fernando Perdomo.
Perdomo dedicated "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" and the entire evening to the late local guitarist and part-time Beethose member Domingo "Mingui" Perez. Perdomo is another founding member of the band and played all of George Harrison's lead guitar parts. Another standout track followed soon after, "My Guitar Gently Weeps," sung by Chris Alvy that featured a blistering recreation of the original Eric Clapton solo by Perdomo.
A lover of the album Revolver, Alvy is the founder and leader of local pop rockers the Super Fuzz, which will soon be releasing new material and showcasing in Nashville this March. Alvy was asked to join the group three years ago by Camacho. He handled the Harrison rhythm guitar parts.
"Rocky Racoon" drew hoots and hollers from the crowd at the start. For this tune, Camacho handed the bass reigns to Perdomo, as he would a few more times throughout the night, and Price owned the ragtime piano parts with authenticity. Drummer and founding member Jordan Welch, introduced as "the guy who is keeping this whole thing together" by Camacho, sang Ringo Starr's lead vocals on "Don't Pass Me By," as the band sounded tight but not stiff.
There were considerably more people in the house by the time the band reached "Why Don't We Do It in the Road," highlighted by Camacho's stark rendition of Macca's raunchy vocals. Afterwards, Jim dryly quipped, "That was one of Paul's most romantic songs, and one of his most complicated."
Price's voice again lead on "Julia," greatly enhanced by Camacho's backing accents. This song effectively closed the first set. By that time it was apparent that this group of musicians are not only faithful keepers of the Beatles' musical flame, but their talent is overwhelmingly exceptional as well. The "faux five" display an interchangeability and natural interplay similar to the Fab Four. On a smaller scale, the Beethose are a once-in-a-lifetime collection of musical talent, much as the Beatles were.
A rollicking version of "Birthday" opened the second set, one heavily laden with Lennon tunes and thus Price's vocals. "It's just a product of the record," Price explained. "John dominated side three more." He flexed his considerable bluesy prowess on "Yer Blues."
At this point, Camacho apologized for the appearance of the Yoko images in the slideshow, but added "I felt she was an integral part of the White Album." He later explained on the controversial matter of Ono, if "there was no Phil Spector, there would be no Pet Sounds. Yoko really is all over that record: you hear her voice on 'Birthday,' you hear her on 'The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill,' and obviously, there would be no 'Revolution 9' (without her)."
Shortly after, Price asked for a moment of silence for "the person who tweeted 'Who is Paul McCartney?'", a humorous reference to the recent collaboration between the Beatle and Kanye West and the apparent ignorance of some of the latter's fanatics. Price and Camacho continued their fine vocal interplay on "Mother Nature's Son" and the keyboardist continued his daft, soulful crooning on "Sexy Sadie."
"Helter Skelter" was easily the grittiest and hardest-rocking number of the evening, with Camacho plucking his custom Hofner-shaped, Steinberger-necked bass from atop his left shoulder and slapping it about, and not in a Larry Graham fashion. Drummer Welch added, "I've got blisters on my fingers!" to the ending.
Other energetic set two moments included "Revolution 1," "Savoy Truffle," and the dreamy, noisy and spacey improvised "Number 9," featuring a diatribe about fast-food menu numbers nine by Perdomo. (We doubt Macca ever ate a McRib.)
Without a true break, the band launched into set number three, the request portion of the evening which included Abbott's requests: "Come Together" and "Yesterday." A nameless donor requested "Sgt. Pepper." As Camacho thanked whoever donated generously to hear it, Perdomo added "thank you for hacking everyone, Anonymous!"
Not all the songs went over as smoothly, but with much aplomb and in the spirit of not taking themselves too seriously, the band tackled the material and by mid-tune had locked each in. They also played "Paperback Writer," complete with a Latin jazz breakdown, per the donor's request, "Let It Be," and closed with "Hey Jude," complete with a crowd call- and-response singalong.
"To be able to use my musical talent for a greater good is truly gratifying. I am very happy to be part of this," Alvy concluded. "Anything to help people out, I am always down." Welch pointed out that the secret to the longevity of the group is the love of the songs; Camacho deadpanned that the Beethose have the best songs on the South Florida music scene.
"It was great to meet Arnold," he added sincerely, "I was so happy that he came out and I was happy to play 'Yesterday' for him. I felt that the energy in the room was very positive and it was a beautiful night."
"It's not my kind of music," Abbott admitted at the end of the evening, "I'm into classical music and love soft music, but the people there appreciated it, there was a lot of dancing going on. I couldn't be more pleased with the results."