If you’re yearning “to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free,” then the annual Bob Dylan Birthday Tribute Concert will tickle your toes and fingertips. More than twenty local performers will be “tangled up in blue,” paying homage to one of Minnesota’s most majestic musicians this Friday at the Castle as he turns 78.
This is the fourth year area music makers have celebrated Bob Dylan’s birthday by performing his music. Jeremy Jewell and his band mate from Hair of the Dog, Tracy Sonnier, chose the now-closed Doggery as the initial venue for the celebration. “I just think it’s cool to have a bunch of Minnesotan musicians get together for a night and pay tribute to what I consider our state’s biggest treasure,” Jewell says.
Jewell’s love of Dylan stems from a family history with the legend. When Dylan happened into a club Jewell’s father was playing, the two performed the “Lonesome Death of Hattie Carrol” together. Later, Jewell won a Bob Dylan sound-alike contest at the 400 Bar in Minneapolis playing the same song. Last year, at the third annual tribute concert, Jewell’s 2-year-old son Wayne got up on stage strumming his ukulele along with his Dad during the song to make a third Dylan-inspired generation of Jewells.
This year, in addition to Jewell, the tribute concert will include performances by a who’s-who of the local music scene including Cole Allen, Brandon Sampson, Holy Hannah, Mark Waldoch, Audrey Robinson, Hair of the Dog, My Grandma’s Cardigan, Fires of Denmark, Tony Cuchetti, J. T. Thompson, Becca Dyer Tesch, Tat Thompson, Jessica Sund & Crist Dahl, Mackie & Roy, Robert John Baune, and Gabe Holmes.
This is Tesch’s third year performing at the tribute. Despite misgivings on the potential success of the first Tuesday tribute four years ago, she remembers the wide appeal Dylan’s music had at the show. “I saw all kinds of different people, old and young, wandering down the steps in to the Doggery to hear the music,” she says.
Gabe Holmes played the tribute for the first time last year, but now he’s hooked, in part because of the power of Dylan’s words. “His lyrics are always unraveling a new experience every single time you listen to them,” he reflects. Other musicians, like Mike Terrill and the electronic sound of his Fires of Denmark project, will be bringing music to the tribute for the first time this year, but are just as moved by Dylan’s contributions. “As a kid, I had his greatest hits memorized, but it wasn’t until college that I purchased his Freewheelin’ album,” he says. “It was my chance to hear the other songs. The ones that the radio wouldn’t dare play.”
Audrey Robinson moved to Rochester recently, but she’s ready to be part of the local tradition and sees it as a way to integrate with the local scene. “I’m excited to meet more local musicians, and hear their take on the music,” she says.
Besides celebrating one of Minnesota’s most revered musical icons, the tribute shines a spotlight on local talent. “Rochester is so thick with talent,” says Tony Cuchetti. “I think a lot of people don’t realize that from outside the city. Promoting the night of Dylan tunes brings the attention to the scene and exposes folks to artists that they may have never had the chance to cross paths with.”
As Dylan sings in “She’s Your Lover Now,” “everybody that cares is goin’ up the castle stairs,” so don’t find yourself blowin’ in the wind this Friday night. Instead, check out a local tradition steeped in Minnesotan music.