Monday, May 29, 2017

Even My Droning Lawnmower Was Playing Dylan This Week, Plus a Recap of Friday Night's Singer/Songwriter Contest Winners

"This is in many ways the essence of the blues. It wasn’t my fault, it was fate, it was the drink, it was the woman, the cards were fixed… And all the time there is that gentle voice, the controlled music, pulsating away in the background, unremitting, moving on all the time."
--Tony Atwood 

* * * *


There were too many highlights at this year's Duluth Dylan Fest to list them all. For those who joined us at any or all of the events, we hope you will be back. It was very special this year.

Highlights of the week for me, in order of occurrence, included
--Robby Vee & His Rock & Roll Caravan at Karpeles
--The Dylan-Themed Art Show at Zeitgeist
--Poets of the Northland event on Bob's birthday
--The annual Blood on the Tracks Express
--The Singer/Songwriter Contest at Clyde Iron Works
--Phil Fitzpatrick's presentation at Karpeles again
--Cowboy Angel Blue at Carmody's
--and the Farewell Brunch on Sunday, which is alway full of warmth as parties depart for another year.

I lost track of how many people said this year's Singer/Songwriter Contest was the best ever. Every performer/competitor there brought their A-Game and the most repeated comment I heard Friday evening was "I'd hate to be a judge."

Amy Grillo & Gene LaFond (L) with Pat Eliason opened the show
with Dylan's touching "Every Grain of Sand."
Pat Eliason stepped up this year to serve as Master of Ceremonies. Our esteemed panel of judges consisted of Christa Lawler (Duluth News Tribune), Karen Sunderman (the Playlist), Christine Dean and Gene LaFond.

Each contestant is asked to perform two songs, the first one being their own composition and the second a Dylan selection. Daniel Botkin, who went first, came the furthest this year. He sang a heartfelt "Once In A Lifetime" and "Don't Think Twice." There were many impressive moments, though. Oe highlight was the 12-year-old Josie Longhorst's pair, "Don't Let Go" and "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere." Wowzer.

When all was said and done -- and sung -- the votes were tallied and winners selected. Congratulations to Pat Jacob Mahon, whose original "Gingerbread Man" knocked it out of the park and earned him first place. John Sonofmel took second. Third place went to Eric Lavelle and Shojin Be Alford.

Thanks to all the great performers. Clyde Iron Works has proven itself to be the perfect venue for this event and we hope to see you all here next year.

The Lawnmower Blues Riff

Can you guess what this is?
Dylan once said, "I don't look for things to write about. They just happen to me." To some extent I would have to say the same.

For some reason we've had a particularly dreary spring this year, though many would assert that our lack of sunshine is nothing new. When you get a week of gloomy skies and drizzle you really have to take advantage of those breaks where the sun succeeds in getting its say.

So I was out there Friday morning doing the yard on a ride-around MTD mower when I couldn't help but notice the rhythm my engine was groaning. If you pay attention there are many sounds we hear that could be translated to notes on the scale, and this particular morning the engine was doing just that, winding out a four bar riff that you can hear repeated throughout the duration of Dylan's wonderful blues tune from Modern Times, Someday Baby.

Naturally the entire time I mowed this song was running through me head. I'm not making this up. Open another tab and listen to the how the tune goes here. It's that little quirky descending scribble riff that I am referring to. The lawnmower seemed to grind it out with a perfect tempo, and yes it made me smile and sing for an entire acre.

What follows are the lyrics, but for an insightful breakdown of the song check out Tony Atwood's Untold Dylan.

Someday Baby

I don't care what you do, I don't care what you say
I don't care where you go or how long you stay
Someday baby, you ain't gonna worry po' me any more

Well you take my money and you turn me out
You fill me up with nothin' but self doubt
Someday baby, you ain't gonna worry po' me anymore

When I was young, driving was my crave
You drive me so hard, almost to the grave
Someday baby, you ain't gonna worry po' me anymore

I'm so hard pressed, my mind tied up in knots
I keep recycling the same old thoughts
Someday baby you ain't gonna worry po' me anymore

So many good things in life that I overlooked
I don't know what to do now, you got me so hooked
Someday baby you ain't gonna worry po' me any more

Well, I don't want to brag, but I'm gonna ring your neck
When all else fails I'll make it a matter of self-respect
Someday baby, you ain't gonna worry po' me any more

You can take your clothes put 'm in a sack
You goin' down the road, baby and you can't come back
Someday baby you ain't gonna worry po' me any more

I try to be friendly, I try to be kind
Now I'm gonna drive you from your home, just like I was driven from mine
Someday baby you ain't gonna worry po' me any more

Living this way ain't a natural thing to do
Why was I born to love you?
Someday baby, you ain't gonna worry po' me any more.

© 2006 by Special Rider Music

* * * *

Does your lawnmower make music? Do you hear soundtracks in unusual places? I'd like to hear about it.

Meantime, life goes on all around you. Listen to the music.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

If I'm So Smart Why Ain't I Rich?

Yesterday afternoon I again stopped to visit  the Great Lakes Academy of Fine Art here in Duluth, which is currently having its first annual Student/Instructor Art Exhibition, in which a totally impressive body of work is being displayed. At one point I was listening to a conversation that circled around the question of why some artist's work increases in value or declines in value. What gives a person's work significance? Why is this painting, which two years ago could be purchased for $5,000 now worth $150,000?

The discussion shifted to musicians, but could have encompassed engineers, mathematicians, novelists and other fields of endeavor. The highways of life are littered with people who pursued fame instead of their passions. The latter will find that their excellence at honing their gifts will likely enable them to provide for their families and grant them a deep satisfaction. If, however, they nurture a secret resentment because someone else got hold of a ticket to fame and fortune, they will become susceptible to a root of bitterness that infects their souls and steals the happiness and contentment that ought to have been their.

The Book of Ecclesiastes, one of the "Wisdom Books" of the Old Testament, has a verse that years ago became a favorite of mine. I once did a drawing of a runner to illustrate this passage, Ecclesiastes 9:11.

The race is not to the swift,
Nor the battle to the strong,
Nor bread to the wise,
Nor riches to men of understanding,
Nor favor to men of skill;
But time and chance happen to them all.

Line, shape, form, perspective and light.
There are so many images packed into this little gem of a verse, with a hundred applications. It's an axiom of American Dream literature, beginning with Horatio Alger stories, Dale Carnegie, Napoleon Hill's Think And Grow Rich and all the modern spin-offs of this ilk, that riches are guaranteed in America to anyone and everyone who simply works hard and believes in themselves. The downside here, if you buy into the possibility thinkers' rhetoric, is that if you are not rich then the problem is you. If you don't win the battle, win the job, catch the golden ring, then you are no good. Or that God is not with you. Maybe God is even against you. This verse clearly indicates that that kind of thinking is all crap. Winning or losing says nothing about your worth.

Some of the most influential people are ordinary people who through years of quiet personal sacrifice enriched others. They didn't have to do what they did, could have simply kept to themselves. Instead they turned outward, and almost unintentionally touched so many lives. I'm thinking very specifically of two people here, John Bushey and Dr. Robert Powless.

As Rumi said, "Let the beauty of what you love be what you do."

All this to say that when I visited the Great Lakes Academy of Art this weekend, I got the impression that Jeffrey Larson, the school's founder, was one of these kinds of people. As I spoke with the students who have been part of this new school, it became apparent that lives were being touched, shaped, inspired and becoming serious and intentional.

Meantime, life goes on all around you. Engage it generously.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Local Arts Seen: Cutting Edge and Great Lakes Academy Student/Instructor Exhibition

Great Lakes Academy, an invitation to splendor.
I was able to briefly drop in on two art openings last night. I primarily wanted to grab a few photos so I might encourage others to attend these shows if able.

The Great Lakes Academy of Fine Art had its first annual Student/Instructor Open House and Exhibition. It's a full weekend affair, as in Friday through Sunday. We also dropped in on Ellen Sandbeck's The Cutting Edge at the Dr. Robert Powless Cultural Center. You can read details about both of these art exhibits in yesterday's post.

The purpose of today's blog post is simply to encourage you to go check out these events. We also have a Duluth Dylan Fest event at Karpeles Manuscript Museum from 3:00 - 4:00 p.m., Phil Fitzpatrick's presentation "Roots & Echoes: Images and Influences in Dylan's North Country. Karpeles is hosting Bill Pagel's Dylan-themed archives, "Einstein Disguised As Robin Hood" till the end of June, but you can get a double scoop of good stuff if you stop this afternoon. Karpeles is directly across the street from St. Luke's Hospital emergency room entrance on First Street.

Ellen Sandbeck's work has become increasingly complex, and her current themes are attention-getting. Check it out if you are able.

Her Buddha-A-Day project should have been preserved in a book.
Sampat Devi Pal, founder of the Pink Gang. "We, we giths rapists with sticks.
If we find the culprit, we thrash him black and blue so he dare not attempt
wrong toany girl or woman again."
The Cutting Edge is can be viewed at the former YWCA at 202 West Second Street. GLA of Fine Art is on the 800 block of Third Street on the West side of Mesabi. This show is open from 1 to 8 Saturday and 1 to 5 tomorrow.

Meantime, the sun is out. Seize the day.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Local Arts Scene: Ellen Sandbeck On the Cutting Edge, Lake Superior Academy of Art Exhibition and More Duluth Dylan Fest

I hope you've had a rewarding week. If you've been attending our Duluth Dylan Fest events I am certain you have. As we enter the weekend there are some art events you may wish to be aware of. 


Brock Larson, oil on canvas.
Great Lakes Academy of Fine Art invites you to attend our first Annual Student/Instructor Exhibition. We will be showcasing our students first year curriculum and also lead you through what an atelier style of classical art training looks like. We will have many examples of their work as well as that of our instructors (Jeffrey T. Larson and Brock Larson) on display here at the Academy. We are also excited to be able to show the progress with the renovation that has been made on our building (the old St. Peter's Church)
May 26th, 5pm - 9pm
May 27th, 1pm - 8pm
May 28th, 1pm - 5pm

Be sure to read Christa Lawler's story from yesterday's DNT, Great Lakes Academy of Fine Art wraps year one of operation with student-instructors exhibition.


Another great event at the AICHO's Dr. Robert Powless Cultural Center is opening tonight. Here's the press announcement I received, but I will preface by saying her work is exceptional in its detail and exquisite vividness. Needless to say, she can also pack a punch.

Papercut artist Ellen Sandbeck will be exhibiting her latest, politically-charged body of work in the newly renamed Dr. Robert Powless Cultural Center at Gimaajii Mino Bimaadizimin, alongside 3 other completed series of work. The exhibit will open with a reception on Friday, May 26 from 5:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. and is free and open to the public. The exhibit itself will be on display through June 7th. Music will be performed by Mina Kaiser and refreshments will be served.

On top of her newest body of work that features imagery exploring the strength of women in modern social movements, Sandbeck’s exhibit will also include her series Valentines for Grownups, pretty papercut patterns made up of animals mating (insects, reptiles, ocean invertebrates, etc.). The second included body of work will be her Odd Duck cards, illustrations paired with limericks by Mina Kaiser, which are expressions of her experience in transitioning from male to female; they are meant to help encourage/validate people who are going through experiences that are generally not covered by Hallmark Cards.

The final series included in the exhibit will be a selection of images from her A Buddha A Day project, executed over the course of a year, during which Sandbeck did 365 papercuts of Gautama Buddha. Proceeds from the sale of the Buddha art will go directly to a charity of the buyer’s choice at the event.

Ellen Sandbeck has written and illustrated four books about non-toxic housekeeping and gardening, all published by major New York publishers. She has written, illustrated, and self-published a book of non-toxic gardening and housekeeping, and a book about vermicomposting.


Australia's Susan Laing, a week long visitor to the Northland for Dylan Fest this year, has observed that our Northland's influence on Dylan's life and music is most apparent and quite striking. We almost take our region's features for granted, much like the proverbial inability to see the forest for the trees. This reality has become repeatedly apparent in various ways, most especially during the panel discussion Wednesday at our Poets of the Northland event.

One of the poets who would have shared with us Wednesday would have been the former teacher Phil Fitzpatrick, except that he was at Harvard making a presentation there to former classmates at a 50th anniversary class reunion, a presentation that "exceeded fondest hopes." Tomorrow's presentation will include slides and music and is a family-friendly event.

Karpeles Manuscript Museum
3:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.

If you've never been to Karpeles, this presentation would be a great excuse to visit. 
There is a fabulous exhibit of Dylan originals on display.

* * * *

Tonight at Clyde Iron Works the Duluth Dylan Fesr continues with the annual Singer/Songwriter Contest. This event begins at 7:00 p.m. with four local celebrity judges and singer-songwriters from as far away as Chicago. Each performer will share a favorite Dylan song and then a composition of their own. For many people this is a highlight of the week.

EdNote: It's not too late to check out the Dylan-themed art at the Zeitgeist Atrium. That show will come down this weekend.

* * * *

Meantime, life goes on all around you. Engage it.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Blood on the Tracks Express Preview & Poets of the Northland Overview

Typical scene in the electric car... youth and energy.
Duluth Dylan Fest has been picking up steam, building toward a crescendo that includes tonight's first peak, the annual Blood on the Tracks Express featuring a host of acoustic and electric music acts including Red Mountain, Rich Mattson & The Northstars, Gaelynn Lea & Al Church, Erik Berry & Ryan Young of Trampled By Turtles, and the Freewheelers, plus Kyle Ollah in the Million Dollar Bash car which will include finger foods by Chef Jonathan Berthel in this historic dining car VIP experience.

In short, it's been a historically memorable event. You can buy tickets and read more about the musicians here.

* * * *

Last night the Poets of the Northland was a special time that went too fast as far as I was concerned. Five poets laureate and another seven shared their thoughts about Bob Dylan, and their own poetry assembled for the occasion. The event took place in the newly renovated Spirit of the North Theater upstairs in the Fitger's Complex. Andrew Lipke was strumming tunes on his Fender-amped Gibson guitar as the crowd slowly sauntered in, many of them nibbling on Valentini's Bob Dylan chocolate mocha birthday cake. At 6:30 Zane Bail of the Duluth Dylan Fest team introduced Karen Sunderman of The Playlist, who served as our moderator for the evening.

Jim Johnson, painting word pictures about the Northland.
MC Karen Sunderman in the background.
The featured poets were all quite good, so much so that the time simply disappeared with a blink. Ellie Schoenfeld, our current Duluth Poet Laureate, always entertaining and thought-poking, read several poems including "The Rain Poem" from her book The Dark Honey, which I dip into now and then. Jim Johnson next took the stage, sharing two short poems and a long poem, including a vivid "Frozen Lake In April." He prefaced this by noting that not too many years ago his lake still had ice on it on May 25. Sheila Packa, who has lived in Hibbing, began by affirming Dylan's influence and that he is a worthy recipient of the Nobel Prize. Her poem "Keg Party" painted a picture of working-class people in small town America with "nothing to lose but our chains." The expression "Around the Horn" -- title of her next poem -- was an Iron Range expression used to describe a rural road trip accompanied by a 12-pack. Packa's poems are full of phrases that carry you places. She introduced her poem "Time When" by noting that "Dylan said speak out against the darkness."

Deb Cooper shared how deeply she was touched by Dylan's lyrics. She read a passage from Chimes of Freedom bfore sharing her own work which included "The Poetry Reading" and "Deliverance" and "Van Gogh's Starry Night Seen Through the Window of His Asylum Cell." Maybe the poem was titled "Blue Window" and that log title was an intro remark. Either way, an insight was conveyed.

Tbe Basement Tapes Band served up the afterparty entertainment.
The last of the featured speakers was Max Garland, a professor at UW-Eau Clair who grew up in Western Kentucky and served as former Wisconsin poet laureate. His first poem featured an uncle of his who was a Pentecostal minister. His other poems included "Green Day", "Hold On Me", an amusing "The Best Things Are the Most Expensive" and a final one for the child in the audience.

The poetry was evocative, and the audience responsive. A panel discussion followed with Karen Sunderman initiating, then questions from the audience. Sheila Packa, in response to one question, affirmed that Dylan is "very much of the soil of Northern Minnesota." Like a Minnesota working man, Dylan was himself on the road, too busy working to go get that award initially. "Isn't that just like an Iron Range man?" she said.

Max Garland noted that the division between poetry and music is a relatively new phenomenon. Dylan brought the two forms together, taking simple form and bringing the surreal and abstract to bear upon it.

One question pertained to the manner in which rhyme may have been affirmed by the Nobel committee in choosing Dylan. Sheila Packa noted that for a while rhyme was considered old-fashioned, but it's coming back.

The local poets were equally fluent and stimulating.... but if I don't get this published I will miss the train!

Amy Lynn, one of our local poets whose work I admire, was unable to read, so one of her poems was shared by another reader. Here's a poem she'd also intended to present, and since it applies so well to this evening's event, it has to be shared here.

Blood on the Tracks

when I opened the morning door
to take the rotting garbage out
a small bird lay on the bricks
of the walkway, one eye staring up at me

barely fledgling, it was unclear
if he had hit the big window above
or had a run-in with the cat
but he was still breathing, begging
me to grant him mercy

startled, I stepped back inside
and, like a coward, waited
for death to claim him


in winter here, when it snows
the big machines scrape their metal
blades over the roads

it’s an awful sound, in a world
where even dying things make
a cruel kind of music

and in this land, already ravaged
by years of digging through the earth for ore
I cannot bear to watch the road grader
push piles of diesel-soaked snow
onto the sidewalks


but before the machines came,
when the lake was angry, and dark,
and the idiot wind howled,
and from miles away
my lover reached out to tell me
he was restless and unsettled –

the young sparrow perched
high in some weathered tree,
tucked his head into his wing,
and let the cold snow settle on his feathers,

* * * *

Meantime, life goes on all around you. Engage it. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

More from Duluth Dylan Fest: Bob's Birthday, Poets of the Northland and The Basement Tapes Band

Long Journey Home, Tim Beaulier
"We live here in the present time. We get up and have to deal with today. Yesterday's gone, tomorrow's not promised. So this is all we have really."
Bob Dylan, 1986 press conference, Sydney Australia

Today is hump day for most workers, defined by the Urban Dictionary as "the absolute best day of the week, the day of maximum hope that maybe, you might make it out of this week alive."

Today is also Bob Dylan's birthday, and if you've been attending all the events here at Duluth Dylan Fest this week, then you may be happy to know that today we're half-way through, and if you make it through today then there is hope that you will also make it through this week alive.

Today's events include:

3:00-4:00 p.m. Music and birthday cake at the duplex a young Robert Zimmerman called home till he was six years old and the family moved to Hibbing. 519 Fifth Avenue East, a block and a half above Positively Fourth Street.

6:00-8:30 p.m. Poets of the North Country, at the Spirit of the North Theater in the Fitger's Complex. Five poets laureate from Duluth and Wisconsin, plus additional local talent.

9:00-11:00 p.m. The Basement Tapes Band, at The Rex, downstairs at the Fitger's Complex. Tribute to Bob Dylan's Basement Tapes recordings with an all star line-up including Marc Gartman, Teague Alexy, Sarah Krueger, Tyler Dubla, Lee Martin, and Veikko Lepisto. Advance tickets are on sale at Eventbrite -- $7 plus fees. $10 cover charge at door.

* * * *

Someone sent me a link to a YouTube video featuring Bob Dylan at a press conference in Sydney, Australia in 1986. There are a number of insightful remarks. At one point he's asked if he sees his fans as "Christian fans" and "non-Christian fans" (this was about three years after his "Gospel period") to which he replies that they are all just people.

What's interesting is that this video clip was posted four years ago, in 2013, on Bob's Birthday.

Watch the press conference here:

* * * * 
See full schedule of events at

Here's a birthday tip that I give everyone on their birthdays:
The secret to long life is to keep having more birthdays.
Happy #76, Bob
And congrats on that Nobel Prize!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Local Arts Scene Intersects With Dylan Fest To Produce Rewarding Event @ Zeitgeist

Daniel Botkn's Self-Portrait
in a Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat
The highlight of the evening for me came when John Bushey, host of the KUMD radio program Highway 61 Revisited, came over to me and asked, "Who are all these people? I've never seen so many of them before." "These people" were our local artists and the many Twin Ports fans of the visual arts who came out to enjoy this Dylan-themed art show in the Atrium at Zeitgeist. It was gratifying to feel the vibe generated.

We were entertained by "The Group That's Not A Group" -- Tom O'Keefe & Friends -- with Scott Junkert on keyboards, Tom Franczyk on guitar and harmonica, and Daryl Yankee, percussion, Dylan-themed art all around.

The artists represented included Kristi Abbott (Australia), Moira Villiard, Daniel Botkin (Chicago), Mary Rauschenfels, Adam Swanson, Tim Beaulier, Becky Perfetti and myself. The work will be up all week, so if you were unable to attend last night there's plenty of time to slide by if you're downtown or you work downtown and wish to check it out while grabbing a bite at the Zeitgeist Cafe (recommended).

Patty Hallbeck and Zane Bail manned the souvenir table.
Dylan Fest pins, T-shirts and art will be available for purchase
at select Duluth Dylan Fest events. 

Tom O'Keefe & Friends provided ambiance.

* * * * 
Local news stations WDIO and Fox21 visited last night and covered the event.

* * * *
Tonight, Duluth Dylan Fest continues with music at Sir Ben's. Will you join us? Meet friends and make new ones while enjoying an evening of music and making memories. 

Find the full schedule of events  for the week at

See you on the scene.