Beatlemania is back with BritBeat at Waverly Beach

beatles tribute blog post - kasey steinbrinck

Written for The Post-Crescent/Fox Cities Hub January 18, 2010

2010 marks 40 years since The Beatles announced their break-up to the world.

The milestone comes along with last year’s resurgence of Beatlemania. Thanks to The Beatles: RockBand video game and the release of digitally remastered albums, new generations are discovering the Fab Four while longtime fans can hear the band in a whole new way.

You can relive Beatlemania through a tribute show featuring Chicago-based band BritBeat this Saturday (Jan. 23) at Waverly Beach in Menasha.

The four members of BritBeat are definitely a dedicated tribute band. The show consists of three acts, each focusing on a different era of Beatles history. It begins with “The Ed Sullivan Show” era complete with mop-tops and black suits, moves to the psychedelic Sgt. Pepper era, and wraps up with the Abbey Road recording sessions. This will be the band’s third visit to Waverly Beach.

“We’re really excited to be at Waverly Beach again, the crowds there have been wonderful,” says 28 year-old Chris Getsla who started the band and portrays Paul McCartney in the show.

Getsla discovered the Beatles in junior high school when his parents suggested he use the tune “A Hard Day’s Night” for a school project. The song struck a chord with the young teenager, and he quickly became a die-hard Beatles fan.

In high school, Getsla teamed up with his friend Danny Leavitt, who plays George Harrison, to perform as The Beatles in a school variety show. The performance was a hit, and that was the start of BritBeat.

“We actually rode the bus together to school,” says Getsla of his partner and pal Leavitt. “That was the same way that the real Paul and George met.” Other current members of BritBeat include James Lynch as John Lennon, and Dave Robinson as Ringo Starr.

In 2002, the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau chose BritBeat to play in a concert welcoming Paul McCartney to the city during McCartney’s Driving USA tour.

In 2005, BritBeat had the opportunity to play with original Beatle’s drummer Pete Best to mark the 40th anniversary of the band’s 1965 concert at Comiskey Park.

Getsla says all the recent attention to his favorite band comes as no surprise.

“In fact from year to year it’s been an increase in interest in The Beatles,” he says. “It doesn’t seem to be waning, it seems to be increasing.”

Getsla claims BritBeat’s show is one of the most authentic tributes you’ll find. If you’ve seen them perform in the past, he says new songs and new lighting effects have been added.

There is a $10 cover charge for this Saturday’s show at Waverly Beach. Tickets may also be purchased in advance. The concert starts at 8 p.m.

Check out the YouTube video of BritBeat below: You can also visit for more on the band including information about an upcoming Mexican cruise.

Fox Valley events give charities a boost

Rock 4 Wishes concert - Kasey Steinbrinck post-crescent article
Rock for Wishes

Written for The Post-Crescent March 25, 2010

A trio of entertainment events taking place this weekend will allow you to have fun and feel good about yourself at the same time. If you want to rock, tempt your taste buds or laugh the day away, you can do it while supporting important local causes.

Rock for Wishes

The Make-a-Wish Foundation will get a helping hand from seven local bands playing a benefit concert at The Wave Ballroom in Grand Chute this Saturday.

Rock for Wishes got its start three years ago when members of the band Hindsight approached Brad Christenson about helping to organize an event that would allow local musicians to give back to the community.

“Make-a-Wish was kind of skeptical that first year,” Christenson admits. But Rock for Wishes has been successful. The event raised more than $8,000 last year, and there are high hopes for 2010.

“We think we’re going to have an even better year than last year,” Christenson said.

Those who arrange and perform in the fundraiser each year found out how their hard work has made a difference. Money raised in 2009 helped build a gazebo for a boy with a rare skin condition who was unable to leave his home.

“It still felt like he was going outside but he was able to protect himself from the sun and wind,” Christenson said.

Christenson thinks Rock for Wishes has a solid musical lineup this year with Wavelength opening things up at 4:40 p.m. and the bands Verona Grove, Lesson Learned and Half Empty taking the stage between 10 p.m. and 1:40 a.m. Since it is an all-ages show, there will be games and entertainment for children starting at 1 p.m. Tickets are available at The Wave and are $5 in advance, $7 at the door. Visit for more information.

Flanagan’s Beer and Wine Festival

This Saturday marks the 20th year that Appleton business owner Pat Flanagan has hosted a beer and wine tasting in the Fox Valley. With more than 100 brews and dozens of wines to sample, the event is sure to present even the most sophisticated palette with something new to savor.

“You walk in the door and it’s like a kid in a candy store for beer and wine lovers,” Flanagan said.

The festival started after Flanagan’s father passed away in 1990. Jim Flanagan used to hold a St. Patrick’s Day parade around this time every year. Instead, Pat decided to hold a beer and wine festival each spring to honor his father.

In the past, Flanagan chose a few charities to help. Now he distributes funds raised at the festival throughout the year because of the number of requests for assistance he receives.

A few of the charities the event has benefited include March of Dimes, United Way and Habitat for Humanity. The festival’s Web site indicates more than $800,000 has been distributed to 37 non-profit organizations over the past 20 years.

Flanagan says if you want to learn more about beer and wine, there’s no method more effective than tasting it for yourself. As owner of Flanagan’s Wine Review and Flanagan’s Stop and Shop liquor store on College Avenue in Appleton, he knows a thing or two about the products.

“I learned more from tasting the wine in two months than I did in two years reading beer and wine magazines,” Flanagan said.

There will be brewery and winery representatives available to answer questions along with people from area cheese factories. You can find out what cheese pairs best with certain beers and wines. New at the festival this year is a gourmet soda section with designated drivers in mind.

Flanagan’s Beer and Wine Festival takes place at Grand Meridian, 2621 N. Oneida St., Appleton, from 5 to 9 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 at the door. Visit for more information.

28-Hour Marathon of Comedy

Starting Friday at 7:30 p.m., the folks at ComedyCity in De Pere will try to keep the laughs going for more than an entire day. It’s all to benefit The Angel Fund and Families of Children with Cancer.

ComedyCity co-operations manager John Egan said some members of the improv troupe take shifts while others try to last the event’s full 28 hours.

“It’s just a constant adrenaline rush; you don’t realize it,” Egan said. “It comes kind of natural to most of us.”

Last year the event raised more than $5,000. “But our overall goal is a million dollars,” Egan joked.

Some members of ComedyCity will collect pledges for every hour they can continue to perform. Money also will be raised through a raffle that includes Milwaukee Brewers and Wisconsin Timber Rattlers tickets as well as autographed Green Bay Packers items.

“Actually, we’ve got a Brett Favre jersey this year. We’ll see how that one goes,” Egan said.

You can purchase raffle tickets by visiting or buy them at the event. ComedyCity will hold its usual 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. shows as part of the 28-hour Comedy Marathon. It all takes place inside their new home at The Sports Corner, 500 Grant St., De Pere. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for students. Egan said these performances will actually be theme shows. Look for ComedyCity’s version of March Madness, “Survivor” and “The Apprentice.”

Admission is free if you stop by any other time during the marathon, but you are asked to make a donation or purchase raffle tickets.

LU honors filmmaker for documentary on Liberia’s unsung heroes

Pray the Devil Back to Hell poster

Written for The Post-Crescent March 15, 2010

The documentary film “Pray the Devil Back to Hell” illustrates how ordinary people can cause incredible change when they band together. Abigail Disney, the producer behind the award-winning film, will receive an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from Lawrence University on Thursday.

“Pray the Devil Back to Hell” tells the story of how a group of Liberian women helped end a bloody civil war through prayer, peaceful protest and pure determination.

During the war between the forces of president Charles Taylor and the rebel group that opposed him, both sides committed horrific acts against the people of Liberia. Thousands were displaced and fled their homes to refugee camps because of the violence. Many others were raped or had limbs amputated. Young boys were used as soldiers and fed addictive drugs to coerce them into service. It’s estimated 300,000 people died during the two civil wars from 1989 to 2003.

Disney and director Gini Reticker made it their mission to make a film showing how the war came to an end. The story is told through the voices of the women who pressured the warring factions to finally hold peace talks.

Abigail Disney interviewed by writer Kasey Steinbrinck for Post-Crescent
Producer Abigail Disney

“It just amazed me that I had never heard of it before,” said Disney of what the women accomplished. “Right in front of my eyes, I could see it being forgotten.”

She learned about the bravery of the women while visiting Liberia in support of the nation’s current and first female president, Ellen Sirleaf. Sirleaf’s election was also aided by the actions of the Liberian women.

Disney is the grandniece of Walt Disney and has dedicated much of her life to philanthropic work. That includes work with the Roy Disney Family Foundation and the Global Fund for Women, and she is president of the Daphne Foundation in New York City.

“She came to our attention principally because of the film, which had received a lot of critical acclaim,” Lawrence professor of government Claudena Skran said.

“Pray the Devil Back to Hell” has won numerous awards, including best documentary at Robert De Niro’s Tribeca Film Festival in 2008. It was also featured on the PBS program, “The Bill Moyers Journal,” last year.

LU held several screenings of the film throughout January. The final showing will take place in the Warch Campus Center cinema at 1 p.m. Thursday. It will be followed by a Q&A session with Disney. Before the screening, Disney will receive her honorary degree and deliver a convocation titled “Peace is Loud” at 11:10 a.m. in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel.

“I’ve heard very positive reactions from students,” Skran said. “I think the students were very interested in learning about that region and about the role of this group in ending the war.”

The leader of that group of women was social worker Leymah Gbowee. Disney describes Gbowee as a middle class woman who’s life went downhill during Liberia’s civil war.

In the film, Gbowee says she had a dream in which she was commissioned to gather the women of her church together to work for peace. She started a movement involving hundreds of women who lined the street the former president traveled every morning.

Wearing white T-shirts and holding signs with peace slogans, the women would stand and sing by the road day after day. Eventually, Gbowee took a delegation of women to peace talks in Ghana. The women used their numbers to barricade leaders inside.

“It stunned me how courageous these women had been,” Disney said. She also saw courage in the women when it came to dealing with religion in Liberia. While the movement began in a Christian church, Muslim women also were a part of the protests from the beginning. Muslims and Christians stood side-by-side in prayer, focusing on their shared goal for peace and forgiveness.

Both Disney and LU’s Skran hope “Pray the Devil Back to Hell” will inspire those who see it.

“On one level I think it shows that individual groups can make a difference in politics,” said Skran, who has spent time in both Liberia and neighboring Sierra Leone. “Secondly … people in the United States have a lot to learn from the courageous political activities taking place in other countries.”

“People have really felt charged up and ready to try something,” Disney said. “Whether it’s picking up litter on the sidewalk or helping an old lady cross the street or something more heroic like protesting a war.”