Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Spotlight on Minnesota Singer/Songwriter Arne Fogel

Robert Behrens of JazzMN wrote that Arne Fogel is "arguably the best male vocalist in the region and most certainly is one of the best-informed jazz vocalists in the nation. Over several decades, Arne has earned his place as a professional singer, a sensitive mentor and a respected historian….”

May 17 Fogel will join a host of other talents for A Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan for the kickoff event of this year's North Country Dylan Celebration. It will be a night to remember.

EN: What has been your career path from teen to professional jazz vocalist and historian?

Arne Fogel: It’s been a long and winding path. My interest in the history of the things that I'm into goes all the way back to my childhood. As soon as I would become a fan of this or that childhood interest (cartoons, three stooges, etc. for instance), I would do my best to learn the history of that subject. And, I've been interested in performing all of my life. So, it was always a double-edged process: learn about the background of that with which I'm interested in, and then learn how to do it myself. All of the other things in my career, such as radio, teaching, being in the advertising business as a writer-producer, jingle-singer, etc., are or were parts of whatever I needed to do to sustain my interests. I started in RnR bands, graduated to studio work, got into teaching in college, and eventually got into radio as a presenter of the music I love - another form of "teaching", you might say.

EN: When did you first realize music was your passion?

AF: When I was about 13 years old. I always enjoyed music, heard a lot of it around my house when I was growing up (although no one in my family was a musician or performer.) But it really became my greatest interest in my early teens.

EN: What is it that sets Arne Fogel apart from other jazz singers?

AF: Oh, I don't know... I'm not sure that I am a "jazz singer" anyway... I sometimes have trouble with that term. I know too many people who don't have even a rudimentary knowledge of how to handle a jazz beat, but think they can learn a couple of Tin Pan Alley standards and call themselves "Jazz Singers." I think I am a guy who sings classic standard pop music from America's early mid-century, and I sing it in a more-or-less authentic way, which means there is an underpinning of jazz in my approach. But does that make me a "Jazz singer"? I don't know. What makes me different? Well, in the Twin Cities area, just the fact that I am male makes a big difference. This is a field almost completely dominated by women. Also, I suppose the fact that when I am singing this music, I try to keep it as true to form as possible, which means there are little or no R&B or R&R devices apparent in my style. Almost everybody else does those things, but I don't. So I guess that makes me different too.

EN: Are you also a songwriter? What do you like most, creating or performing?

AF: Yes, I'm also a songwriter. I used to write tons of songs in my R&R days, then after that, used that ability to write & produce advertising music, both free-lance and with ad agencies. I learned from the best: Barry Thomas Goldberg & Gary Paulak were band-mates of mine in The Batch, and they were the principal writers of that band and geniuses. I emulated them as well as I could. I also learned a lot from a brilliant guy named Dale Menten, writer and producer. My friends and my teachers. I love both writing and performing! I stopped writing for many years, but started again recently through my work with NYC vocalist Nancy Harms. We've written several tunes together, which she records and performs.

EN: How did you get connected to A Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan?

AF: Through my friendship with frequent contributor to the concerts, Barry Thomas Goldberg. It was while visiting him backstage at one of the concerts that a few of the folks there, whom I also know, suggested I participate. Mainly it was Steve Grossman who really convinced me that I wouldn't be out of place and that it would be great fun. Thanks Steve! Thanks, Barry!

EN: When did you first take an interest in Dylan’s music?

AF: Oh, geez, I guess when he first became popular, around "Like A Rolling Stone" time -- summer of '65. I was aware of him beforehand, and always took note of his earlier Columbia albums, but I wasn't really a folk music fan and didn't go back to them until I had come to enjoy his "electric" period in the mid-60s. After that, I went back and discovered the beauty of his earlier work.

EN: Do you have a favorite album or handful of songs?

AF: I love everything from his earliest recordings up through the 70s, and into the 80s. I can enjoy his later work too, but I'm not quite as crazy about him after the 80s. My favorites are things like Highway 61, Blonde on Blonde, Bringing It All Back Home, John Wesley Harding, and I love his stuff with the Band: Planet Waves is a big favorite of mine. I love Blood On The Tracks and Desire, of course.

EdNote: This blog entry and others like it have the aim of raising awareness for the upcoming Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan concert which will kick off the 2014 North Country Dylan Celebration in Duluth and Hibbing. Sacred Heart Music Center, May 17, 2014. For tickets to this great event visit dulutharmory.org/events.

If you wish to help, visit the Salute Facebook page and share with your friends by clicking the Invite button. 

A Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan is a presentation of the Armory Arts and Music Center and Magic Marc Productions.

PHOTO CREDITS: Top to Bottom
1.Travis Anderson   2. Ann Marsden   3.Andrea Canter   4.Travis Anderson   5.Andrea Canter

Monday, April 21, 2014

Spotlight on Multi-Media Expressionist Kathy McTavish

The haunted, dynamic quality of Kathy McTavish's cello has become fairly well-known here in the Northland. But in recent years she is an emerging artist extending the bounds of installation and collaboration. Her most recent project “the ørigin of birds” created immense excitement amongst those who gathered recently at the Prøve Gallery’s opening. What is probably less well known is how articulate she is, as you will see in this interview. Her multi-media interactive collaborations open new horizons for the imagination, and those who choose to engage are rewarded.

EN: What did you learn from this most current project, the ørigin of birds?

Kathy McTavish: I learned many things. I think one of the surprises was how engaged the writers became with the collaborative writing-to-projection aspect of the installation. There were several points of entry for writing volunteers. I thought of these as the voices of three main "characters." I was moved by the layered, poetic threads that emerged from that part of the project. I will store these the next time so that I can play the co-written, improv work back. On Friday I loved playing live with Richie Townsend. That element kept me in the moment. The joy of live improv kept me from stressing about the digital pieces of the puzzle. In the end I felt lucky that everything went smoothly and that people were so warm, kind and open to the experiment of it all. I love that about our arts community here in the Northland.

EN: How would compare and contrast installation vs. wall art?

KM: I think that everything is an installation. People that specifically call themselves installation artists perhaps have more of a relationship to particular place. They use space as one of the materials in their work. What felt different about my work on origin of birds was my relationship to time. There were many circles inside of circles that emerged while working on the project. A previously-developed store of data, text, image and sound was woven live into the multiple projections in the room and into an infinitely running online version. But also there were some elements that are ephemeral like a twitter stream, text written live to a writers' interface and live, improv sound that were tossed into the mix. These intersecting elements felt like a collage, a mobile, an evolving story.

The backbone for the project is a codebase that I have been working on for a while called the "graffiti angel." I am using that toolset to create a live, immersive score for the Zeitgeist New Music Quartet. That work is performed May 16-18 at Studio Z in Lowertown. On the 17th we will be offering both the new work called høle in the skY and origin of birds as a "double feature" of sorts. On June 14th Joellyn Rock, Rob Wittig, Cathy Podeszwa, myself and other collaborators from Duluth head down to participate in Northern Spark. We will be installing a work called Sophronia Two at the Walker as part of that event. Again, the graffiti angel will be creating live film. You can learn more about these projects on my website: kathymctavish.com

EN: I was fascinated with your Phantom Galleries Superior presentation in 2011 because of the multimedia experience and how you wove so many mediums into that space. How did that project come to be?

KM: I loved the idea of the Phantom Galleries and I respect anything that Erika Mock is involved in creating. I was drawn to the space between the old Androy Hotel and the Main Club and I wanted to interact with that vacant storefront. I had started expanding my sound work to include light and images / moving pictures and I brought this fusion work to that project. Many of the images used in the still-motion films were from the area around Tower Avenue. I collaborated with the poet Sheila Packa to embed words in the final installation. It was challenging for me to work without being able to use sound directly. Because the space is locked the viewer is left to gaze in through the window and the only sound becomes the streetscape ambient sounds. I wrote music for all of the films and included this in the online companion site for the exhibit.

EN: You also write in an evocative manner that captures imagery in a lot of dynamic ways. Have you always been a writer? What prompted you to produce your book Birdland?

KM: I'm not really a writer. Thank you for your kind words about that book. I wanted to improve my ability to talk about what I do. I also wanted to explore in words -- the dream story that lived for me while I created the “birdland” exhibit. I found that writing helped me bring to life the ghosts that were present for me while I worked. I feel that an artist needs to risk something and for me, this was a vulnerable process. I felt very emotional trying to wander the strange world of words -- quite adrift.

EN: Who have been your most significant influences as an artist?

KM: I love Patti Smith, abstract expressionist artists, beat poets. I love collaborating with Sheila Packa. I learned so much from working with Richie Townsend in the cosmic pit orchestra. I am inspired by local artists, writers and musicians. We are very lucky to live in this area. We have an openness to new ideas, experimentation and cross-media collaborations.

EN: What is it that first drew you to the cello as a vehicle for communicating the deep things stirring inside you?

KM: I first heard the cello the summer after third grade. The public schools in Minnesota used to have more arts programming. At my school in St. Paul, kids were shown different instruments and given an opportunity to learn to play in the school band or orchestra. I heard the cello and completely fell in love with its sound.

Despite the frustrations associated with learning the physical aspects of playing and the new language of wordless sound, I kept at it. I practiced for hours. The cello became an escape from a school world that I felt outside of. It was like a boat. I was taught Western classical music. It was the only path. I excelled for a time and then I felt a longing to be more engaged in the creative process in some way other than being an interpretive player. At the time I didn't know of how to do that. I studied music theory / composition but couldn't find my way. I pursued other things for a time and then I came back to the cello.

I started to explore the cello's sounds more broadly. Thanks to the generosity of local musicians, I started to explore improvisation. Free improvisation was a door that opened up a creative voice for me. It changed my relationship to my instrument.

EdNote: Most of this interview originally appeared in The Reader. 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Thoughts for the Day: Easter 2014

"Sometimes when I consider what tremendous consequences come from little things... 
 I am tempted to think there are no little things." ~ Barton Sutter

"Strong conviction of one's calling has always seemed to me 
 to be the most important element in a successful career."
~ Paul Tournier

"Many lives remain unfulfilled because of a lack of courage 
in affirming one's inner conviction in spite of all obstacles." ~ ibid.

"I will study and get ready and the opportunity will come."
~ A. Lincoln

"Self-confidence is the first requisite to great undertakings."
~ Samuel Johnson

"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, 
whatever you did for one of the least of these my brothers 
you did for me.'" ~ Matt. 25:37-38

I was regretting the past
and fearing the future.
Suddenly, my Lord was speaking.
"My name is I Am"

He paused. I waited. He continued.

"When you live in the past,
with its mistakes and regrets,
it is hard. I am not there.
My name is not 'I was'.

When you live in the future,
with its problems and fears,
it is hard. I am not there.
My name is not 'I will be'.

When you live in this moment
it is not hard. I am here.
My name is 'I AM'.

~ Helen Mallicoat

"Let your eye be single and your whole body
will be filled with light." ~Matt. 6:22  

"Our plans miscarry because they have no aim.
When a man does not know what harbor he is making for,
no wind is the right wind." ~Seneca

"When you cease to make a contribution, you begin to die."
~Eleanor Roosevelt

I live my life in growing orbits,
which move out over the things of this world.
Perhaps I can never achieve the last,
but that will be my attempt.
I am circling around God,
around the ancient tower,
and I have been circling for a thousand years.
And I still do not know
if I am a Falcon,
or a storm,
or a great song.

~ R. M. Rilke

Saturday, April 19, 2014

32 Years Ago Today: Remembering Larry Kegan

"There's always one more Sunday, and there's always more to give."~Larry Kegan

As we prepare for the May 17th Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan I’ve been sifting through a variety of interesting sources in search of items to highlight pertaining to the various musicians who will be performing here at Duluth’s Sacred Heart Music Center. In the process I discovered a very cool video of two stars of that show, Scarlet Rivera and Gene Lafond, making music with Bob Dylan’s boyhood friend Larry Kegan 32 years ago today.

Larry, Bob and their summer camp buddies, 1957.*
Larry Kegan met young Robert Zimmerman at a Herzl Camp and the two became friends for life. A diving accident left Kegan a paraplegic when he was only 15 years old, and 10 years later he became a quadriplegic in a car accident. But everyone who crossed his path had the same thing to say about him, a rare individual who was an inspiration to all.

Gene Lafond was also a friend of Larry Kegan’s in high school. When Zimmerman, now Dylan, began touring in earnest in the 70’s, a road show that has continued in various forms to this day, he invited his old friend Larry to join him several times a year. For about 15 years Geno came along to assist, and gained an inside look at the Dylan road show as it transitioned from the Rolling Thunder Revue to the beginnings of his Never Ending Tour. Dylan’s friendship with Larry was such that he dedicated his album Street Legal (one of my favorites) to this boyhood pal who once shared Bob's dream of making music for a living.

Larry did become a performer. As Lafond said when I interviewed him last year, 'We used to sing together. Larry couldn’t scratch his nose but he’d go out and sing for people."

In 1981, during Bob Dylan's concert at the Holiday Star Music Theater in Merrillville, Ind., Dylan called up wheelchair-bound Larry Kegan for the encore and let him perform Chuck Berry's 'No Money Down' while Dylan played the tenor saxophone. A snapshot of this moment in time has been shared on audio here.

32 years ago today Larry, Scarlet and Geno performed at the West Bank hotspot Cafe Extempore, a period of time captured in Cyn Collins's West Bank Boogie. The YouTube video embedded below captures their rehearsal for this event. If you don't have time for the entire segment, Larry's rendition of More to Give qualifies as a "must listen."

Larry and Bob
Everyone who knew Larry Kegan was inspired by him. His last day on earth happened to be a major changepoint in history as he died on 9-11-2001, the day the Twin Towers fell. Dylan's Love & Theft was released that day and I can imagine Larry looking forward to listening to his lifetime friend's new recording. Instead, he became immersed in making phone calls from his home in Minnesota trying to affirm that all his friends were O.K. According to StreamingGoldies, he he died of a heart attack just hours later. At Larry's funeral service, the rabbi suggested that "God called Larry to heaven to help disabled victims make their transition to eternity. He couldn’t have picked a better man for the job."

In Memoriam of The CHAMPION OF ALL CAUSES...LARRY KEGAN (April 16th, 1942 - September 11th, 2001)

Larry Kegan (Vocals) with Gene LaFond (Vocals and Guitar) and Scarlet Rivera (Violin)

Coffeehouse Extempore / Minneapolis, Minnesota / April 19th, 1982

1. Forty Years (Gene LaFond)
2. More To Give (Larry Kegan)
3. More To Give (Larry Kegan)
4. All My Rowdy Friends (Have Settled Down) (Hank Williams, Jr. 1981)
5. Ain't Got The Blues (Larry Kegan / Gene LaFond)
6. Ain't Got The Blues (Larry Kegan / Gene LaFond)
7. I Shall Be Released (Bob Dylan 1967)
8. Violin Lady (Gene LaFond)
9. Ain't Got The Blues (Larry Kegan / Gene LaFond)
10. More Than A Memory (Gene LaFond)
11. Violin Lady (Gene LaFond)
12. North Country Blues (Bob Dylan 1964)

Photo Top Left: This photo appeared on the back cover of the booklet that accompanied Dylan's Tell Tale Signs (Columbia). American Jewish World (AJW) was asked for details about the picture. Jerry Waldman, former executive director of Jewish Family and Children’s Service, identified five teenagers pictured at Herzl Camp in the summer of 1957, including himself. Shown above are (l to r): Larry Kegan (fourth from left, dark jacket and white shirt), Waldman (singing), Bobby Zimmerman (Dylan), Louie Kemp and David Unowsky. Joe Marver, a St. Paul native now living in Carmel, Calif., called to say that he thinks Leon (Aryeh) Spotts, a Herzl counselor, took the photo. He also identified the boy, second from left, as Paul Black. Larry Kegan passed away in 2001. — M.S.

EdNote: This blog entry and others like it have the aim of raising awareness for the upcoming Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan concert which will kick off the 2014 North Country Dylan Celebration in Duluth and Hibbing. For tickets to this great event visit dulutharmory.org/events.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Courtney Yasmineh Returns for A Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan (Interview)

When Courtney Yasmineh joined Scarlet Rivera and Gene Lafond last year at Weber Hall, there was a certain amount of risk as she was accustomed to performing with her own band and not Gene's backup band The Wild Unknown. On top of that, an hour before showtime Courtney and Scarlet were shaken up in a car accident on the way to getting ready for the concert. Despite the distractions, both performers never let on -- they were cool like ice, like fire -- and a stellar concert ensued.

Once on the stage Yamineh holds nothing back. You can feel the energy she projects, even from the farthest corners of the hall. It's exciting to have her here again for the upcoming kickoff event of our North Country Dylan Days Celebration which is now just a month away.

EN: You recently had to perform at SXSW. How’d it go?

Courtney Yasmineh: SXSW was such a growth experience for me and for my band. We were so pleased to be invited, first of all, for the first time in my career. We played two prime time evening shows on the main street of Austin where most of the action is for up and coming artists. We were part of the Red Gorilla Fest which is a subdivision of the scene down there that really caters to new artists. We played on rooftop stages at two different venues to enthusiastic crowds.

I felt like I really got to see how the American SXSW audience, who are mostly young people from around the country who love new music, responded to my songs and my band's presentation. I knew going in that this could be discouraging for me if it didn't go well, but honestly, I was not prepared for how well we were received! I feel so inspired and full of conviction as a result of our efforts there, and that is a great gift!

EN: Last year you told me of a book you wanted to write. How’s that going?

CY: I have written about 200 pages of the story of my adolescent experience. I ran away from Chicago to Northern Minnesota when I was seventeen mostly because my parents were getting divorced and I was extremely disillusioned with everything about my young life there. I went to live on Lake Vermilion in a cabin my Grandfather had left to our family when he died. And that winter I learned as many Bob Dylan songs as I could, and began performing with my guitar. I had already started writing songs, but that winter provided much new inspiration and I wrote many songs about my experience.

EN: What is it that so attracts you to Dylan’s music?

CY: The joy for me in singing songs that Bob Dylan has written is that he is my greatest hero and his body of work and his career are such an inspiration to me.

EN: What are your favorite Dylan songs that you like to sing?

CY: I like to sing Dylan's song "Sara"... I like when he says lines like "staying up for days in the Chelsea Hotel writing 'Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands' for you." Staying up for days!!!! Love that!!!

I also like "Times They Are A-Changin'" because it's so brilliant and I think it takes a lot to deliver it with the right tone… not too strident… not too sentimental… and especially coming from a female, those words have a lot of power and can be off-putting.

My favorite might be "Tom Thumb's Blues." A better folk rock opening line has never been written than..."When you're lost in the rain in Juarez and it's Easter time too..." When delivered right, that line can make you feel like a real bad ass on the microphone!

EN: What have you learned about yourself through your experiences performing?

CY: I've learned a lot about myself over the last few years of performing for people in other cities, other countries, and at home in Minnesota. I've learned that I am a people pleaser and I want to see people's eyes light up. I've learned that I do not have to be loud to be heard. I've learned that my most helpful attribute in performance is how much I care about the meaning of the words. I've learned that I have to really feel good about the level of quality of what I'm offering in order for me to relax and put on a fun show.

EN: What kind of thoughts are you thinking when you look at an audience at the beginning of a concert?

CY: At the beginning of a concert, I am usually already playing the first song, watching people, feeling their level of acceptance of my band, feeling how the band likes the situation… the sound quality, the circumstances of how we've been treated so far....and if all's well, about half way into the first song, I start thinking...'okay, we've got this' and then I relax and start having the time of my life.

* * * * *

EdNote: This blog entry and others like it have the aim of raising awareness for the upcoming Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan concert which will kick off the 2014 North Country Dylan Celebration in Duluth and Hibbing. For tickets to this great event visit dulutharmory.org/events.

If you wish to help, visit the Salute Facebook page and share with your friends by clicking the Invite button. 

This weekend it's Easter time, and whether you're lost in the rain in Juarez, or wherever you are, remember... Meantime, life goes on all around you. Embrace it.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Local Arts and a Little Marx

In Europe it is essential for people to have an understanding of Marx. So let's start this blog with a handful of Marx quotes.

• "Man does not control his own fate. The women in his life do that for him."

• "Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read."

• "The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you've got it made."

• "Alimony is like buying hay for a dead horse."

• "Well, Art is Art, isn't it? Still, on the other hand, water is water. And east is east and west is west and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does. Now you tell me what you know."

So, if you're wondering what those Groucho Marx quotes are all about, read on. We're talking about upcoming events in the Twin Ports and you'll get it in a minute.

Gallery Celebration: The Space Around You & First Spark
Weather permitting, and at this moment in time the snow appears to be slacking off, from 5-7 pm the Duluth Art Institute will be celebrating two exhibitions: The Space Around You featuring photographs by Kristen Pless & First Spark, the annual K-12 art show featuring the work of regional students. Here's a good place to go for details.

Adam Swanson portrait of Jim C
If you haven't been to the Zeitgeist yet, the Hero/Villain exhibit with images by local artists featuring Mayor Ness and Jim Carlson will be up for a while. It's worth going out of your way for. In fact, you may wish to do the DAI and then jump over to Zeitgeist briefly before dropping in across the street to grab a cocktaiil at Blackwater for the Maxi Childs Trio with John Heino on keyboards. (I'm not trying to push ya, but it's a suggestion.)

Duluth Cracked Walnut Festival Reading 2014
Cracked Walnut is happy to return to Prove Gallery in Duluth for another reading for the 2014 Literary Festival. Featuring Duluth and Twin Cities writers, and a singer.  Ryan Vine, Felicia Schneiderhan, Azure Jayaraj (singer), Satish Jayaraj, Jim Johnson, David Stein, Mary Stein, Peter Stein. Once the Steins are finished, be sure to ask for a re-fill.

OK, time for another Groucho quote: "I intend to live forever, or die trying."

AND THE REASON FOR ALL THESE MARX QUOTES is that Saturday the Rubber Chicken Theater is continuing their popular Live Read Series in which the group performs staged readings of classic movie scripts. Next up is the Marx Brothers classic "A Night at the Opera."

Not familiar with the Marx Brothers?  Hmmm. "I have a mind to join a club and beat you over the head with it."

Next weekend there is going to be a flurry of art activities kicking off Friday night the 25th with the Goin' Postal 2014 Spring Art Show, followed Saturday by the annual Art for Earth Day Gallery Hop. There will not be trolleys or shuttles this year, but then again the last couple years I didn't see many people on the buses anyways. Be sure to go out of your way to visit the Tweed Student Show.

For more lists of happenings, check out Thursday's WAVE in the Trib, the arts and events section of The Reader and whatever else you can get your hands on. The bulletin boards at Beaners and Pizza Luce are always a big help, especially for the music scene. And BE SURE TO GRAB A HOMEGROWN PROGRAM. They're out there now, and this year's festival promises more than 200 bands plus other events. Drop in to a few, to see what condition your condition is in.

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

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Backstory on A Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan and a Reminder of Dylan's Fondness for Duluth -- Introducing Magic Marc Percansky (Part I)

Magician and Promoter Marc Percansky
Marc Percansky has been in the entertainment business since his youth. Early on he used to do magic shows, entertaining not only friends and family but also taking his act out to the world outside. In short, he has been a lifelong extrovert, easy to talk with and wholly engaging. He is currently the producer/promoter for Duluth’s upcoming A Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan.

Sunday evening he spoke with me from his mother’s home in St. Louis Park, beginning with a quote from Douglas Brinkley’s May 14, 2009 Rolling Stone interview with Bob Dylan. Percansky wanted to immediately demonstrate to naysayers that Dylan has now and always had a heart for Duluth. But whatever the question, his heart overflowed with things he wished to share and stories to tell.

“Listen to what he [Dylan] said in Rolling Stone magazine,” Percansky said, reading an excerpt from the interview:

I [Brinkley] asked Dylan if he minds people visiting Hibbing or Duluth or Minneapolis searching for the root of his talent. “Not at all,” he surprisingly says. “The town where I grew up hasn’t really changed that much so whatever was in the air before is probably still there. I go through once in a while coming down from Canada, I’ll stop there and wander around. As for Duluth where his grandparents lived, he said thinks it’s one of the country’s forgotten gems. You’ll never see another town like Duluth, he says. It’s not a tourist destination but it probably should be. It depends what season you’re in there. There’s only two seasons, damp and cold. I like the way the hills tumble to the waterfront and the way the wind blows around the grain elevators. The train yards go on forever, too. It’s old age industrial. You’ll see it from the top of the hill for miles and miles before you get there. You won’t believe your eyes. The air is so pure there. The brooks and rivers are still running, the forests are thick, and the landscape is brutal. And the sky is still blue up there. It’s still pretty untarnished, it’s still off the beaten path.”

Marc Percansky: You can only be born in one place. He does have a strong affinity for where he came from. He spent twenty years there. That shaped him. He’s talked about that and I can see that. That’s the thing with this show. It’s hard to figure… The whole state, we have a different connection than the rest of the world to him. When he says “Twilight on the frozen lake, North wind about to break, On footprints in the snow, Silence down below…”  (Never Say Goodbye, Planet Waves)

We know about that frozen lake. We’re from here. We feel the same as him.

EN: What’s your background?

MP: I grew up in the Cities, a suburb called St. Louis Park. I spent most of my life here, except ten years out of here. Five years on the east coast, New York City, and five years on the west coast, Los Angeles. I know like with Bob, I’ve seen it first hand, he’s most proud of his newest work. I remember one time he had a cassette or something and he said, “Wait till you hear this.” It’s funny, because it’s like he’s never done anything great in the past. He’s got this great body of work but he’s most proud of his newest things. That’s the sign of a great artist so they can keep creating till the end.

He’s doing six or seven Tempest songs now. That’s as good an album as any of them. And I think we’ll get a few more out of him, too. He looks healthy and he’s going good. 100 dates a year.

EN: What’s the history of these concerts and how did the first one come together?

Magic Marc funnin' with Dan Israel
MP: There have really been three people that made this happen and kept it going. That would be Paul Metsa first, who convinced Kevin Odegard back in 2001 to get the original session players of Blood on the Tracks together and do a concert. It was at First Avenue here where Prince shot Purple Rain. And I went to that show, it was great. There were sixty bands. It was an incredible thing. They did the songs and that was the first time since 1974.

2004 comes along and there was a concert at the Pantages. Paul Metsa asks me to do a cue card skit imitating Don’t Look Back and go on stage during Lily. Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts. O.K. so I did that. That’s the video I sent to you. That’s the night I met Kevin Odegard. We became friends instantly. I felt like I’d known him forever, a great guy.

2005 comes along. I go with Kevin Odegard and Chris Weber to St. Cloud where they were inducted into the St. Cloud Hall of Fame. I ride out there with Kevin, his father and Chris Webber and I induct them. They do a few songs. There’s a museum there, the Stearns History Museum if you’re ever in St. Cloud.

2009 comes along…. There were a couple concerts I wasn’t involved in. I think they went to Hibbing. Kevin had been asking me to be more involved. I did this at my home base in St. Louis Park where we’ve had these outdoor venues every year. They’ve been benefits for Guitars for Vets, which Kevin brought in that cause. My role has increased through the years. Kevin Odegard for several years, then Billy Hallquist became involved. So it’s really those three guys. Billy has kept it going and really, my role just got bigger and bigger, and we’ve done it every years since. We added Maple Grove. They’re always in the summer, outdoor concerts, which is why this show feels a little different. It’s indoors and not really the heart of summer. There’s a different feeling about it. Also it’s not for Guitars for Vets. It’s for the Armory.

That’s where it’s at right now. And now we have a fourth person to really thank, and that’s Nelson. This wouldn’t happen without them.

The name changed because none of the original BOTT people are involved.


EdNote: The full article from which Dylan's remarks about Duluth can be found in David Brinkley in-depth interview titled Bob Dylan's Late-Era, Old-Style American Individualism.

This blog entry and others like it have the aim of raising awareness for the upcoming Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan concert which will kick off the 2014 North Country Dylan Celebration in Duluth and Hibbing. For tickets to this great event visit dulutharmory.org/events.