2023 has been a whirlwind year for The Zombies, who recently won back their catalogue, released a new album, Different Game, to widespread critical acclaim from the UK media, & a tour that received stellar reviews from their 18 sold out UK shows and festival performances this summer.
The band will be concluding 2023 by curating a brand new festival in their hometown of St Alban’s – original members, Rod Argent, Colin Blunstone, Hugh Grundy & Chris White will be returning to where it all began for their first annual Begin Here Festival.
The band, who were recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame, alongside The Cure, Radiohead, Janet Jackson, Roxy Music, Def Leppard, and Stevie Nicks, will be hosting the “Begin Here” festival 10th – 12th November 2023, celebrating with both the original and current Zombies line-ups.
The Zombies formed in the Cathedral city of St Albans in 1961, when a teenage Rod Argent scouted nascent musicians at local schools, recruiting Colin Blunstone, Paul Atkinson, Hugh Grundy and Paul Arnold (soon replaced by Chris White) to start a band.
The group developed a strong regional following in the South of England before entering The Herts Beat Competition in the Spring of 1964, a battle sponsored by the London Evening News to find the best “Beat” band in Hertfordshire County.
Winning the final round with their unusual cover of Gershwin’s “Summertime”, The Zombies brought home the £250 grand prize and an offer to record a single for Decca Records. The resulting single, “She’s Not There”, soon rocketed to the top of the charts on both sides of the pond.
The weekend will kick off with an intimate “In Conversation” event at the St. Albans Museum and Gallery, with an acoustic set and Q&A hosted by long term supporter and journalist Jo Kendall (Prog Magazine).
The event is a fundraiser for the St Albans Museum, which will be launching an exhibition of Zombies memorabilia, where attendees will hear the four surviving original band members Rod Argent, Colin Blunstone, Chris White and Hugh Grundy talk of how they formed, perfecting their sound in the pubs and live music venues of St Albans, joining the forefront of the 1960’s “British Invasion” with their hits “She’s Not There” and “Time of the Season”, and how the ups and downs of this early success has shaped their lives.
Saturday’s festivities begin with a morning screening of their eagerly awaited documentary, “Hung Up On A Dream”, which premiered at SXSW earlier this year and was directed by Robert Schwartzman (also known for his band Rooney and his role in the film “Princess Diaries”) at The Odyssey Cinema at 10 AM, followed by a short appearance by the band.
A rare record signing by all four surviving original members, as well as two members of the current line-up will take place at Empire Records at 3 PM. Record collectors and enthusiasts will have the chance to have their albums signed at no cost, along with the chance to purchase their newest album, “Different Game.”
4.30 PM at the Collective Gallery & Art Project Space, Chris White discusses his song writing process: “The Chris White Experience: Love Songs & Anthems”, hosted by Steve Rossi.
At the Mad Squirrel Tap at 5:30 PM, there’s a drum workshop hosted by Zombies members, Hugh Grundy and Steve Rodford, as they each dive into their drumming styles and showcase their individual talent. The evening will end with a book reading and signing that will take place at Books on the Hill on Holywell Road.
The Collective gallery celebrating the late, great, St Albans visual artist Terry Quirk, infamous for his spelling mistake on the cover of The Zombies’ swansong album, “Odessey and Oracle”, will be open from 12 noon to 4PM on Saturday and Sunday. The gallery will feature Terry’s Zombies-related works, rare prints, and will be shared with artist / singer / songwriter/ arranger Vivienne Boucherat, who’s collage art can be seen on The Zombies’ “Odessey and Oracle” YouTube videos.
Vivienne is the wife of original bassist Chris White. Her talents include performing with the prestigious London Bulgarian Choir, and singing background vocals for The Zombies when they toured “Odessey and Oracle” in 2017. Her art is also featured in “The Odessey: The Zombies in Words and Images.”
The festivities will continue on Sunday with a jazz brunch by current Zombies’ guitarist, Tom Toomey, and his wife Milly Riquelme, location TBC.
Beginning at 5 PM on Sunday evening, performances by Arc & The Bunts will be bringing the weekend to a close in honor of Steve’s father, the late Jim Rodford, at The Boot. Jim called St Albans home his entire life, and was a staple in the local pubs in between tours with Argent, The Kinks and The Zombies. His sons Steve and Russ Rodford will deliver blues covers and some originals.
A walking map of the city filled with Zombies-related landmarks, a fan club event at the Blacksmiths Arms, and a merchandise stand in St Albans market make this a unique fan experience. Most activities are free to the public (with the exception of the “In Conversation” at the St Albans Museum and the documentary screening)
- Tickets available via: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/begin-here-festival-hung-up-on-a-dream-screening-tickets-735900818157