“No sense of history—that’s the problem with kids today. One of ’em, anyway.”
Since settling into crotchety adulthood, I frequently make such comments, often over a sensible breakfast of grapefruit and soft-boiled eggs. Or, sometimes, while listening to British invasion records I stole from my parents, I’ll worry that rock ‘n’ roll will never be understood by the next generation, for whom “old” probably means Nirvana.
Then along come the Stately Gentlemen to upset my grumpy ageism.
The Stately Gentlemen, formed a little over a year ago, are a group of high-school students with a repertoire consisting almost entirely of Beatles songs. As unlikely and potentially uncool as that may be, they up the ante by performing a repertoire consisting almost entirely of Beatles songs while wearing suits.
“When we started the band, we didn’t think we wanted to be a Beatles tribute band,” says drummer Austin Boren.
They began playing Beatles songs as a way of establishing themselves as a band. Having little original material to work with, playing covers gave them an opportunity to develop as an ensemble and possibly play shows. Though a desire to compose original music was present from the beginning and remains present, the Beatles songs soon took over the sets. The band’s list of songs at this point consists of three or four originals, a handful of assorted covers by The Eagles, Sublime and Jim Croce, and 40 or 50 Beatles songs.
“Basically, Beatles constitute most of our repertoire,” guitarist and singer Jesse Kapeghian understates.
“It just sort of happened,” Boren says.
Though somewhat unintentional, this repertoire has helped the band get gigs.
“We play mostly a lot of private parties. We get hired for birthday parties and weddings,” says Boren.
In addition to Boren and Kapeghian, the Stately Gentlemen feature Anthony Cacibauda and Joe McMahon, both on guitar and vocals, and Jim Fletcher on bass.
Though the triple guitar line-up may be reminiscent of early, Stuart Sutcliffe-era Beatles, the Stately Gentlemen don’t focus on any particular period of the Beatles’ career.
“We do ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ to ‘Hey Jude,’” says Cacibauda.
“1962 to 1970,” says Kapeghian.
“We do it all,” says Cacibauda.
An accurate statement. As a sample, the band—practicing at Kapaghian’s house in a room with two Beatles posters hanging up and a fairly complete collection of Beatles LPs—played through about a half dozen songs. The earliest was “Everybody’s Trying to Be My Baby,” which, though written by Carl Perkins, was part of the Beatles’ early sets. The latest song was “Get Back,” off the Beatles final release, performed with note-for-note recreations of the guitar breaks. They happily obliged two requests, providing loose but giddy renditions of the middle-period gem “And Your Bird Can Sing” and the under-appreciated “Hey Bulldog.”
When asked if their peers respond well to sets of songs as old as their parents, Boren answers with a less than definitive “sometimes.”
“We enjoy playing to an older audience,” he adds.
See what I mean? No sense of history.