Saturday, May 19, 2012

Scarlet and Geno: Concert Kicks Off 2012 Dylan Fest and Helps Promote Good Cause

It's been said that Steve Jobs had a reality-bending personality that many called a Reality Distortion Field. If you were within his sphere you were somehow under the his influence, almost forced against your will to see things through his eyes, and he always saw things like a visionary, not based on the evidence but on the possibilities woven from golden strands of dream.

Well, somehow that's the feeling I get from my recent association with Nelson French, newest board member for the Armory Arts and Music Center. There are many others on the board who have been carrying the dream forward with its ultimate aim of preserving this historical building and turning it into a landmark. The obstacles have been great, and it there will be many more hurdles to leap, but when you listen to Nelson it's already a done deal. It's no pipe dream. His passion has a practical side that turns skeptics to believers, and I am one of them. The restored Armory Arts and Music Center will be a significant contribution to this city whose "native son" has given so much to the world stage at large.

This is what last night's concert was about, raising awareness and funding for the restoration of a historical building... not just because Bob Dylan was inspired by seeing Buddy Holly perform there, but because there is so much more of our history that has happened here, a heritage worth preserving and building upon. Yes, Bobby Vee and Johnny Cash and Bob Hope and many others performed here. But it was also a staging ground for troops during World War II to learn how to dig foxholes, and a cornerstone of Duluth history.

The concert at UMD's Weber Hall last night opened with Nelson French, decked out in a tux, announcing that they had just purchased the property adjacent to the Armory, which will be useful for parking space once the Arts and Music Center is opened. These practical details are important considerations, and it shows the thoroughness with which the restoration project is being conducted.

Then French introduced a pair of young teens who performed two songs they had written. Teens like these will be inspired by classes at the Music and Arts Center. Ms. Rivera later noted that she would be teaching and sharing with a group of young proteges the following day.

The concert proceeded with the introduction of a young group called Communist Daughter. Contrary to the name, the songs were apolitical and the group appears to be just a talented young team of musicians anchored by attractive Molly Moore. Nelson has been a fan of the group longer than some of them have played together, having first seen them in a small venue in Prescott way back when. Several times the lead singer commented that they had albums and CDs for sale and amusingly noted that "even though our name is Communist Daughter, we're still capitalists. Deep down we all are."

The Indie-Rock group had the good fortune to have two of their songs picked up by the television series Grey's Anatomy. Johnny, the lead vocalist, acknowledged that he used to have an alcohol problem but has now been clean for 18 months. A song about this period, Almost Dead, Almost Clean, had some moving lines like, "Don't remember me; remember the man I wanted to be." A special song he wrote as he was recovering gave It was an admirable set with nice harmonies that put us in the mood for more.

Nelson French returned afterward returned to introduce the featured entertainment. Gene Lafond and the Wild Unknown (Brian Green, Dean Wolfson and Joey Phillips) opened with a song called Violin Lady which he wrote for Scarlet Rivera the day after meeting her. It was a great opening for the concert as she was absent from the stage but then appeared, her violin sweeping gently into the atmosphere there.

Without wasting a moment, the band kicked in as she jacked her other violin into the amp and channeled us all into the Hurricane, undoubtedly one of the most electrifying songs of the Seventies. Scarlet said she was thrilled to be here as our "native son" played such an instrumental role in her life. He's the reason she keeps coming back to our beautiful Northland.

The full set played out this way:
Violin Lady
Love Minus Zero, No Limit
Shot of Love
Most of the Time
Isis  (Brian Green vocals)
One More Cup of Coffee
A violin solo by Scarlet
Black Diamond Bay
You're a Big Girl Now
Romance in Durango
Oh Sister
A song Gene wrote called Susie Christ
The Man in the Long Black Coat
Tangled Up In Blue

For an encore, yes, everyone was on their feet, the band re-emerged along with Communist Daughter to close us out with Watching the River Flow.

All in all a fitting introduction for Dylan Fest 2012. Later this weekend I will post the schedule for this week's events. Can't wait? Google it... Duluth Dylan Fest. And in Hibbing, it's Dylan Days. Join us this week for a special time of music and memories.

Photos here by Ed Newman using a Sony CyberShot. Two professional photographers (Michael K Anderson and Andrew Perfetti) got all the money shots last night of which I will try to share a few later.

Click Images to Enlarge

EdNote: There will be no installment of Uprooted, A Story of Estonia this weekend. Please come back next Saturday for Part VIII.

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