Abbey Road on the River attracts more than 20,000 attendees. | Courtesy of Abbey Road on the River
Abbey Road on the River typically attracts more than 20,000 attendees. | Courtesy of Abbey Road on the River

Now in its 12th year, Abbey Road on the River is about to enjoy its final weekend in Louisville from May 26-30. Sort of.

The festival that pays tribute to the Beatles and other music from the 1960s next year will move all the way to … Jeffersonville, Ind. Literally, it will be roughly a mile away, depending on which part of the Ohio River one measures.

The Zombies headline this year's Abbey Road on the River, the final one on the Belvedere. Photo courtesy of Abbey Road on the River.
The Zombies headline this year’s Abbey Road on the River, the final one on the Belvedere. | Courtesy of Abbey Road on the River

Highlights this year include a performance on Saturday, May 27, by the Zombies, purveyors of numerous hits including “Tell Her No,” “She’s Not There” and “Time of the Season.” In addition, Prudence Farrow, who inspired the Beatles’ White Abum song “Dear Prudence,” will speak, addressing her time with the band, the truth behind the stories, and more.

However, the festival will feature fewer stages this year. Also still gone will be the once-popular Pool Stage, where attendees could lounge by the Galt House’s outdoor pool and listen to bands. This is due to a parting of ways between festival promoter Gary Jacob and the hotel, which led to out-of-town attendees being redirected to other hotels.

Immediately following last year’s festival, Jacob issued an abrupt press release that substantiated a rumored rift between the two parties. Essentially, Jacob announced he would move the festival from Louisville after a split between Abbey Road on the River and the Galt House in which Jacob believed owners of the iconic hotel were still trying to profit from the festival.

“The festival does not belong to the Galt House,” said Jacob, who founded AROTR in Cleveland. “It’s ours, and so we will spend the next year either finding someone in Louisville who wants to buy Abbey Road on the River, or we will find a new city and a hotel up the I-71 corridor.”

The Galt House responded by saying it was “deeply disappointed” by Jacob’s announcement, wishing the festival the best and expressing hope it would not leave Louisville. A few months later, the announcement was made that Jeffersonville would play host to the festival starting in 2017.

Meanwhile, fans of the Beatles — the festival draws plenty of regional, national and even international attendees – get to spend one last Memorial Day weekend on the Belvedere. For those who have been regulars at the festival, it is a place of peace and fellowship, sort of a modern-day Woodstock where music and dancing matter most. Louisville singer-songwriter Nick Peay will make his fourth straight appearance at Abbey Road on the River, and he says it is almost a family affair.

Nick Peay performing at a 2014 Abbey Road on the River event. Photo courtesy of Nick Peay.
Nick Peay performing at a 2014 Abbey Road on the River event. | Photo by Kelsi Wilkerson

“The first year I was at Abbey Road, I kept hearing people refer to their ‘Abbey Road family,’” Peay says. “The more I was involved in the festival and events surrounding it, I realized the atmosphere is like a great big family reunion, with some great music thrown in. Seriously though, it’s really great to see these people every year, and that includes the fans as well as the other musicians.”

More highlights this year include Felix Cavaliere’s Rascals, who will play Sunday, May 28, at 8:45 p.m. performing hits such as “Good Lovin’” and “Groovin’.” An AROTR tradition, a group of 25 performers will get together to perform the “Love” soundtrack; in addition, artists will perform more than 75 complete album concerts, including six performances of the album’s inspiration, Abbey Road. Also a recent tradition, Monday will be a tribute to other bands of the 1960s.

The festival will kick off with a free lunchtime concert on Thursday, May 26, from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. at the KFC Yum! Center plaza featuring The Cryers and the FABGirls, in town from Brazil. Regular festival hours then follow, with music starting at 2:10 p.m. on Thursday and lasting until midnight. Friday and Saturday, music begins at noon and lasts until after midnight. On Sunday, speaking sessions begin at 10 a.m. with the festival lasting past midnight. On Memorial Day, music begins at 12:30 p.m. and continues until the end of the final act of the festival, which begins at 9:30 p.m.

Single-day and multi-day tickets, which start at $35, are available online and at the gate. The event is held at the Belvedere at Fifth and Main streets.

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Kevin Gibson
Kevin Gibson tackles the 3Rs — retail, restaurants, real estate — plus, economic development. He loves bacon, loathes cucumbers and once interviewed Yoko Ono. Check out his books, “Louisville Beer: Derby City History on Draft” and “100 Things to do in Louisville Before You Die.” He has won numerous awards for his work but doesn’t know where most of them are now. In his spare time, he plays in a band called the Uncommon Houseflies. Email Kevin at [email protected]