Author Campbell Jefferys Illustration Graham Roumieu
On a Wednesday night in August, Hamburg’s gritty Reeperbahn is buzzing. Inside the Indra Music Club, it’s so hot the walls are damp with condensation. Close to 300 people, young and old, have crammed into this historic venue for a concert by Beatles tribute band Bambi Kino.
Beatles tribute bands may be as common as actual beetles, but this is no ordinary show. Exactly 50 years ago to the day, in this very club, the lads from Liverpool started the musical journey that would make them the biggest band in the world. It was the first of The Beatles’ nearly 300 gigs in dark rooms on Hamburg’s “Sinful Mile.” Over two and a half years, the Fab Four played all night shows and slept on cots in a storeroom in the back of the nearby Bambi Kino Cinema.
To mark the anniversary, New York musicians Ira Elliot (Nada Surf), Doug Gillard (Guided By Voices), Mark Rozzo (Maplewood) and Erik Paparazzi (Dirty Delta Blues) are performing four shows at the Indra.
The city of Hamburg is also hosting a wider Beatles celebration that includes live shows at the Beatlemania museum, walking tours and the Reeperbahn Festival, which hosts rock bands all along the notorious strip
At the Indra, the excitement is building. The odd mop-top shakes in the shadows. Someone lets out a McCartney-esque falsetto wail. Bambi Kino takes the stage and shouts through a set list that The Beatles might have played on August 18, 1960—songs such as “Money,” “Kansas City/ Hey Hey Hey,” “Honey Don’t” and “Long Tall Sally.” When the band finally takes a break and the crowd settles, bassist Paparazzi takes a minute to reflect on the occasion. “The importance of The Beatles’ time in Hamburg cannot be overstated,” he says, taking a sip of water. “Music owes a huge debt to this city.”