Here’s an almost too-perfect origin story: Bend-based Beatles cover band JuJu Eyeball wouldn’t exist without KPOV 88.9-FM’s Beatles Singalong concerts.
Bassist Dan Larsson played the 2014 edition of the event, a semi-annual fundraiser for KPOV, with his former band, The Rockhounds, at the Old Stone Church in 2014. His future JuJu Eyeball bandmates, guitarist Paul Eddy and drummer Karl Lindgren, also performed the event with Eddy’s band, Long Tall Eddy.
“Their bass player couldn’t make it, so they asked me to join them and play in that sing-along,” Larsson said. “And then as fate would have it, The Rockhounds broke up, and we decided to start JuJu Eyeball out of that KPOV event.”
Eddy has since bowed out of the group to restart Long Tall Eddy as a duo. JuJu Eyeball soldiered on with guitarists/pianists/vocalists Pete Ficht (AM Clouds, Wild Bells) and Andy Jacobs (Goodbye Dyna, The Color Study).
The rejiggered four-piece — and KPOV — will get back to where they once belonged Saturday when the Beatles Singalong returns for its seventh event following a two-year layoff. Held in past years at the Old Stone Church and in its most recent incarnation in 2016 at Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Central Oregon, the event will move to the larger gymnasium at the Boys & Girls Club of Bend, located in front of the station’s headquarters.
“We were going to have it last year and then an event (comedian Will Durst) came up that was going to be on the date that we were going to do it, and we went ahead and did that instead,” KPOV board member and DJ Rick Miller said. Miller, who co-hosts “Center Stage” on the station with board Vice President Lynn Bancroft, has been the main organizer behind every Beatles Singalong since the second event.
KPOV DJ and board member Michael Funke spearheaded the first sing-along. He brought the idea to the station after witnessing a similar sing-along event in Northern California, Miller said. The first KPOV Beatles Singalong took place at the since-closed Old Stone Church in June 2009, close to the station’s fourth birthday.
“When I first heard it, I kind of go, ‘Sing-along? Well that’s kind of weird,’” Miller said. “But then — I think a lot of the appeal is one, the bands love it. The bands love playing Beatles songs, so that really comes across (to) the audience. I think it’s been a word-of-mouth thing from year to year, too, that this event is different from a lot of other events in that it’s family-friendly, but you can still go there and dance and rock ’n’ roll and have a good time and sing-along.”
While it may be different from your average concert, the event found fans right off the bat. (Let’s face it, Bend audiences aren’t known for being slouches when it comes to dancing, singing or other forms of audience participation.)
“Even the first one, there were people waiting to get in,” Miller said. “As somebody left, another person would come from outside to fill that seat. It was totally packed. Every time we had it at Old Stone, it was totally packed.”
This is the first year the event will not double as a birthday party for KPOV. However, the mood will still be celebratory: “Abbey Road,” The Beatles’ final recorded studio album (but not released — that honor goes to “Let it Be”), turned 50 last month.
Bands include openers The Resistas, The Color Study, She’s With Me, The Blue Vinyls, Toast and Jam, AM Clouds and of course, JuJu Eyeball. Each band will play a 20-minute set of Beatles songs of their choosing.
“I didn’t have any problem with duplication at all this year, but in the times past we have and that’s — some people get their hearts set on songs,” Miller said.
The last band on the bill, JuJu will take on the event’s traditional closing number, “Hey Jude.”
“The last time we did it was with Butterfly Breakdown, which were three ladies from Portland,” Miller said. “… And it went on and on — and it did — and everybody just kind of getting into this groove: ‘Na, na, na na-na-na-na.’ They’re getting into the end, and it’s really nice to end it like that.”
In Larsson’s experience, audiences at the sing-alongs are game to give their best John, George, Paul and Ringo impressions, even if they don’t readily recognize the song (not as uncommon as you’d think, he said).
“There are songs that even The Beatles (had) — they were Beatles songs, but people are not always that familiar with (them),” Larsson said. “There’s obviously some ones that everybody knows, but I think there still are songs that people go, ‘Oh, I don’t remember that Beatles did that one,’ or, ‘I’ve never heard that one before.’”
Audience members can participate in trivia and costume contests — ’60s- or Beatles-themed, naturally — in between acts. Proceeds from ticket sales, a silent auction and a guitar raffle (donated by Sunday Guitars) go to KPOV.
“It’s a predecessor to our membership drive, which is coming up the week following,” Bancroft said.
This will be Bancroft’s first Beatles Singalong, and she said community response has been “really encouraging.”
“I’ve been involved with the station now for a couple of years, and anybody that I’ve brought this up to, they’re like, ‘Oh, that was such a fun event; we’re so glad you’re bringing that back.’”