Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Getting Real -- New Work By Moira Villiard

Bildungsroman is a German term for a novel in which the hero or heroine attains an understanding of what he or she is. There is a sense in which the story lays out the circumstances that hem in the main character leading to an epiphany, a moment of deep clarity. Like life itself.

Next Monday, June 6, is the opening for Moira Villiard's exhibition of new work titled Real. The opening reception is from 5 - 7 p.m. at the Zeitgeist. Here's information on the show, provided by the artist...

Description: REAL is a retrospective art exhibit featuring iridescent portraiture and surrealism created by Moira Villiard, the artist whose present preoccupation is navigating the ins and outs of what it means to be “real". The paintings and drawings on display will be vibrant and bold, every color having been inspired by specific sounds or conversations experienced by the artist. After spending a rather unreal year physically unable to use her dominant hand to create artwork, this event will be Villiard’s first solo exhibition and includes pieces created during her most transformative years to date.

Biography: I am an ambidextrous, independent traditional artist, muralist, editor, poet, designer and filmmaker who, by some feat of pluralism, hopes better our community through these niches. Known for live painting demonstrations at cafes, fledgling businesses, event openings, and in classrooms, a major part of my philosophy is making art accessible and interactive. As such, I am currently a coordinator for the multimedia show Goody Night and remain an active recruiter of visual artists and musicians for my other creative endeavors.

My work tends to be an exploration of matter related to music and art, specifically in conjunction with idea-sharing and social movements, addressing stereotypes, and social class. Through the creation of portraits, I use each individual painting as an opportunity to share a message and to reflect on the conversations and sounds that inspire me. Each piece is treated as something of a metaphorical instrument, to be played in a grander song that will hopefully continue to resonate with (and inspire) audiences from all walks of life.

For more information about the event visit  www.facebook.com/events/186831305046641/

You can see more of Moira's art here: www.facebook.com/moirart

Read my Introduction to Moira V from 18 months ago.

* * * *
The tourist season kicks off Memorial Day Weekend here in the Northland. And Grandma's Marathon Season as well. Everywhere you drive you will see runners pressing themselves into shape for this annual ritual. Drive safe.

The arts scene will be active as well beginning with tomorrow's opening night of the DuSu Film Festival. Every film is Free. Go to their website to learn more.

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

Monday, May 30, 2016

Miscellaneous Notes, Scraps, Odds & Ends -- A Baker's Dozen

I'm currently reading Frederick Forsyth's fascinating memoir The Outsider: My Life In Intrigue. Forsyth is yet another Brit writer who used his literary cred as a cover for secret service work. The success of his first novel Day of the Jackal provided him the means to follow his passion and make a living as a writer.

To fellow writers I recommend at least his intro to the book in which he talks about the writing life, and how the character of a writer is formed. At least in his case.

The following is an anecdote that caught my attention, the story of a plane lost in a dense fog. The pilot and co-pilot were being guided in by the control tower because they had zero visibility. They believed they were fling at 12,000 feet and gave this information to the tower. They had misread their altimeter and were actually flying at an altitude of 2,000 feet. This proved a fatal mistake because there was a 3,000 foot peak between them and the airstrip. The lesson here is that when we misread a signal there can be unexpected consequences.

* * * *
Yesterday Duluth Dylan Fest finished with a brunch at Zeitgeist in which friends old and new were able to say farewell for another year and let the dust from this whirlwind week begin to settle. I doubt anyone got a suitable amount of sleep the past few days, but no one seemed to mind. My first serious jobs afterwards including getting the lawn mowed and pilfering notes from the scraps of paper on my desk, integrating "to do" lists and sorting. Saturday night's concert featured songs from the Basement Tapes which included a rousing rendition of Odds & Ends by one set of performers.

SO, without further ado, here are some odds and ends from my now discarded notes.

1) Natural Reader... software that reads the written text of a website or your own files.

2) Why do we always measure things?

3) Miscellaneous topics that noodle the mind.

How can we tell whether our feelings are real or just a result of the way we've been programmed by DNA and our socializing experiences while growing up?

4) The Problem of Image Management

5) Metaphor of the Blacksmith Forge
First the piece of steel is placed in the fire until malleable enough to be shaped, then it is removed from the fire and hammered, then placed back into the fire till malleable, and then hammered again. This is the process of creating something useful out of the original block of steel.

It could also be used as a metaphor for life: Either you're going back into the fire or being hammered. It takes a lot of time to make us truly useful.

[This latter observation took place at the Armory Annex, where the Dylan Postal Stamp Cancellation took place. Dawn Hulmer, an official from the U.S. Postal Service, came to the Armory Annex to stamp stamps with the official dedicated stamp. I learned that the John Beargrease sled dog races do this every year as a fund raiser. The stamp is valid for cancellations for the next six months.]

6)  Fierce Pajamas

7) Social Intelligence

8) Dialogue for future story:
"Is that a word?"
"I wouldn't have made it up if it wasn't."

9) FestivalForPoetry.com
(Deadline: June 4)

10) Infographic -- Five Dylan Facts

11) Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Prize-winning economist, observed a phenomenon he called "the illusion of validity." People have a tendency "to view their own beliefs as reality."

We observe phenomenon selectively. We live in an uncertain world and to fail to have all the facts, yet make illusory correlations.

12) "What the righteous desire will be granted."

13) Four Fish Four Seasons -- Lac Courte Oreilles Elder

* * * *
It's been a crazy busy week for some folk. Slow down if you can and catch your breath.

Meantime, life goes on all around you. 

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Eli Hebl Nails It. Winner of 2016 Duluth Dylan Fest Singer/Songwriter Competition

Dylan Days in Hibbing had many highlights, but one of the most talked about and anticipated was the Singer/Songwriter contest. When Dylan Days in Hibbing passed, the Duluth Dylan Fest Committee sought to fill in the void. Though last year's effort at the Red Herring was a good first effort, this year's competition at Clyde Iron Works had just the right ambience. The room was packed and the performers were seriously prepared.

John Bushey of KUMD welcomed everyone and thanked Zimmy's for having started this event years ago. He then turned the program over to our hosts Pat and Karen. Pat is a singer songwriter himself and Karen, originally from California, hails from the Iron Range. The judges this year would be Karen Sunderman of the Playlist, musician Jim Hall, Chris Harwood, a TV guy who is also a musician, and Christa Lawler, who covers the arts and entertainment scene for the DNT.

Time does not permit a full replay here, so we'll just share a few highlights. One limitation that I've become painfully aware of is that attempting to write about music has a massive limitation. Music is its own language. To fully appreciate the songs and sounds, you really do have to be there. I can show photos but there's no real correlation.

Daniel Botkin, the artist from Illinois, took the first slot on the slate. Botkin introduced his song by stating that he has six daughters and this was written for them, with accompanying picture cards that he drew. Someone assisted him and held the cards in the manner of Dylan's famous Subterranean Homesick Blues video. "The Ballad of Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Priest" was a clever take-off on Dylan's song of similar name, and it made for a memorable opening number last night.

Troy Atkin, wearing a Minnestoa Twins ball cap, took the stage with a guitar and a trombone. He used the brass instrument for the introductory licks of Rain Day Women, and brought smiles with his two songs. John Adler and Iris Kolodji followed and it became apparent that there was a lot of talent in the room.

A young man wearing a blue and white mesh baseball cap took the stage and explained that he grew up about 30 miles North of Duluth in the small town of Two Harbors. His song was written after something of an epiphany in which he realized that if he "didn't do something" this would be his whole life. He sang, "In the morning when you cry beneath the family tree, the fallen leaves and twisted branches, loss will set you free."

This fellow was followed by a singer who said his optometrist is Bob Dylan's cousin. He lives in a town on Highway 61, and the connections were vividly being laid out. A fellow named Terry had a conversational style of singing. Kim Naglin and Joel Wyblode of Hibbing shared how it was fun to play music on the same stage that Dylan played on half a century ago. They did a song from Time Out Of Mind, and the evening was just so perfect for its mix of Dylan and the inventiveness being displayed.

A number of performers clearly have fans here. Dan Lang and Joe Hauge play for a band called Minnesota Buick. Gene LaFond and Amy Grillo have been strengthening their fan base, having moved this past year to the North Shore. Brian Stelmaszewski, better known as the right hand member of the team "Lefty & Stel", was another of the many familiar faces -- and voices -- here.

When all was said and done Eli Hebl, that young man from Two Harbors, was voted the winner. Dan Lang garnered second place and Iris Kolodji third. Congratulations all around and thank you to everyone who came and shared.

* * *
Just a reminder. Today and tomorrow there are still more events. A U.S. Postal Clerk will be at the Armory Annex this morning from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. with an official Duluth Dylan Fest cancellation stamp. Bring your letters to be mailed and have your stamps "cancelled" here today. Or buy our post cards and stamps on the spot. Afterwards, grab a bite to eat across the street at Valentini's and enjoy the music of Marc Gartman, another talented transplant to the Northland.

Tonight it the Armory Benefit Concert featuring music from the Baement Tapes. You can purchase tickets here, or pay a little extra at the door. It promises to be another great evening of music, all for a good cause. To learn more about the basement tapes, check out my blog post Story of the Great White Wonder -- the Original Basement Tapes Bootleg. There's always more to discover.

Tomorrow we'll do a Sunday morning coming down kind of thing at Zeitgeist Cafe downtown, and exchange farewells with friends old and new. Thank you to everyone who has been so faithful in making this another great week.

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

Friday, May 27, 2016

Duluth Dylan Fest 2016: The Rex, the Films and Blood on the Tracks Express

First off, a plug for the new Bringing It All Back to Duluth Does Dylan which was introduced on Bob's birthday. Like, wow. This is an exceptional CD. Each of the performers has risen to the occasion. Definitely not a CD you buy just be be Minnesota nice to your friends.

Here's the thought I had Tuesday night at The Rex as the various bands performed at the CD release party. We have all been to a major fireworks show at one time or another, if not annually for the Fourth of July. The way the show is produced, rockets fire up into the sky and through physics and pyrotechnics all kinds of spectacles occur, stimulating and dazzling the eye.

So the observation I made as all these bands were interpreting the many fabulous tunes they selected was this: the rockets that propelled all those colorful explosives skyward were the songs of Bob Dylan. Each song then get interpreted, re-invented, revitalized, re-created into this sensational display that defies confinement, defies explanation, is nothing short of a phenomenon.

Feeding Leroy, gettin' down.
And earlier that evening we saw two songs that were reconfigured in an altogether domain, into the visual realm of film. As I watched Amanda Sundin and Lindsay Wayt's interpretation of "Things Have Changed" I had an immense grin the entire time. The film was told with scenes and settings that translated the lyrics into story. Being familiar with the song, a favorite of many including myself, made it all the more enjoyable.

Team two tackled "To Ramona." Kate Harrison demonstrated her skills as a director and editor. The rest of the team included Chris Linder, Leander Van Ess, and Ramona (KDLH news producer Mona Jeanne.) Both films will be aired again during the "shorts" portion of the DuSu Film Festival.

Bringing It All Back To Duluth Does Dylan will not disappoint any Dylan fan. Whatever your expectations, it is my expectation that this compilation of Duluth musicians interpreting Dylan will exceed your expectations. You can purchase the CD at Duluth Does Dylan.

* * * *
As for the train, it was treat to have a couple extra cars attached at the front, The Million Dollar Bash Car which included music by CowboyAngel Blue, and a car for getting access to service as well as a little quiet.

It's been my experience that no matter where you hang it is a good time, especially when shared with friends or lovers. At on end of the train is an acoustic car and the tail is an electric car. Feeding Leroy fed the crowds on the trip to Two Harbors and Superior Siren stirred them on the return trip in the acoustic car. These two groups were tremendous fun. At the far end there was a packed crowd listening to Erik Koskinen going North, and the4onthefloor rocking on the way back.

And then, of course, there is the destination experience as the Boomchucks change their names to the Freewheelers and amp up the crowd with funtabulous frenetic energy. This year included a very nice four page handout with information about the bands and a few rules of the rails. It was nice addition to a special evening.

Here are some photo to help give you a sense of the event if you weren't there. Maybe we'll see you here next year? We had friends from England, California, France, Texas and Australia, among other places.
"May we interest you in Jello shots? Two for a dollar."

* * * * 
So much for the hoopla. I think most folks got home safe. Some folks wisely took Friday off so they could sleep in, get rested for tonight's Singer/Songwriter Contest, a popular event from Hibbing's Dylan Days that is now incorporated into our week. 

Tomorrow morning at 11:00 is the Official Dylan Fest Postage Stamp Cancellation at the Armory Annex, with music across the street by Marc Gartman in the afternoon at Valentini's. 

Then in the evening the Basement Tapes / Great White Wonder Concert will take you home.  Show starts at 7:00 but arrive early because there's a bit of road construction that will inhibit your path to a premium parking spot. The show will be worth it though.

Meantime.... what a great week of events so far. See you on the scene.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

2016 Duluth Dylan Fest Day 5 -- Blood on the Track Express

Poets of the North Country @ The Underground
It's been a great week of Dylan-inspired music, art, poetry and activities here during Duluth Dylan Fest 2016. Tonight is another event for the highlight reels, the Blood on the Tracks Express, from Duluth to Two Harbors and back. Here's a Throwback Thursday peek into what the ride is about.... music, friends, dancing and music. This is one of the most memorable and talked about events each year during Dylan Fest, no matter what the weather.

VERY IMPORTANT REMINDER: The train will board at the Depot this year. Do not stand in line in the rain behind Fitgers.

HERE'S ANOTHER TIP: There is an opening reception at the Duluth Art Institute for Naomi Christenson's exhibition Pattern Conspiracy from 5 - 7 p.m.  Of course if you stay too long you will miss the train. Don't worry though, it takes a little time to board 300 people. The DAI reception is free and looks to be an exceptionally interesting show. Here's Naomi's statement about her work:

Woven into the fabric of reality is pattern. It’s written in our DNA … in fact our DNA is delicate, undulating pattern of information, an amazing combination of form and function. Everywhere you look, whether through a microscope or a telescope, there's pattern. Conspiracy? Maybe. You see it, feel it and live it every day. Pattern gives poetry it’s meter, music it’s rhythm. It dazzles our eyes and moves our hearts. My obsession with this conspiracy leads me to respond in kind, celebrating the patterns I love most and allowing that celebration to move through me and into new expressions of pattern. In the process of observing and creating, I'm able to explore the conspirators and see the beautiful connections we all share.

* * * * 

Current Duluth Poet Laureate Jim Johnson
Last night's Poets of the North Country event at the Underground was well attended and much enjoyed. Our featured readers were Barton Sutter, Ellie Schoenfeld, Jim Johnson and David Pichaske, each of whom spoke for twenty minutes. Each had stories to share and read from their work. After a short intermission local poets shared briefly, most being the familiar to us who follow this region's rich poetry scene, though as Bart noted beforehand it was not always so. He shared how in the early 80's he and Louis Jenkins would meet somewhere to share their work with one another. How diverse and broad the Northland poetry landscape has become.

The local poets who shared were Gary Boelhower, Jan Chronister, Don Dass, Steve Downing, Phil Fitzpatrick, Julie Gard, Michelle Mathees, Liz Minette, Nicholas Nelson, and myself. Master of Ceremonies Jeffrey Woolverton, who graciously organized the event, closed the evening with a reading of his own.

Phil Fitzpatrick is always a favorite of mine.
The colorful setting made a visually interesting environment. The Playhouse has been performing Chris Monroe's Some Sneaky Sheep and Other Tales. Anyone who knows Chris Monroe's picture books knows that this has been a fun week of shows here in The Underground.

I took lots of notes and there were many great moments, some that made us laugh out loud and some, like Boelhower's "Listen to the Canary" and Nelson's "I Don't Have a Definition," that made us reflective. As time permits I hope to gather a few more thoughts related to this event.

Big thank you to everyone who helped make this happen, and to the writers who enriched us with their sharing. And an additional thanks to Cowboy Angel Blue who entertained us at the afterparty at Karpeles.

* * * *
Tonight it's the Blood on the Tracks Express, boarding at 5:30 from the Depot, but there are more events coming that you will want to be aware of. Thank you to the Duluth News Tribune for helping get the word out. Here's a summary of the next three days. We do hope you will join us somewhere along the way.

* * * *
ONE MORE REMINDER: Fast on the heels of Duluth Dylan Fest is the annual DuSu Film Festival. Richard Hansen, who hosted the 48-Hour Dylan Fest Film Contest showing Tuesday is exceedingly enthusiastic about this year's offering of films. If you go http://www.ds-ff.com you will find links to the full schedule from June 1-5. Richard is, by nature, exuberant about film but this year seems especially so. Note: the entire film fest is free, a true love offering to the Twin Ports community.

Meantime, art goes on all around you. Engage it!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Almost Wordless Wednesday: A Moveable Feast Here At Duluth Dylan Fest

Unveiling the Marker at 519 Third Avenue East
Screening of the 48 Hour Film Fest
Bringing It All Back To Duluth CD Release Party

Poets of the North Country @ The Underground
Doors open and Reception @ 5:30 
Program begins @ 6:00 

After Party
Cowboy Angel Blue @ Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum
902 E. First Street

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

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Duluth Dylan Fest: Religious Themes Pervaded His Life's Work

Wailing Wall by Daniel Botkin
Back in the late Sixties or maybe early Seventies (someone may remember this and even have the article) I saw an article about Bob Dylan predicting that he would one day become the center of a new religion, much like Jesus or Muhammed or Buddha. Much like the label "voice of a new generation," it's a sure thing he'd have distanced himself from that expectation as rapid as any other defining epithet. What prompted that early prediction was the earnestness of the religious themes which permeated his songs.

This memory was brought to mind yesterday when I read one of the countless "Happy Birthday" articles wishing him the best on his 75th birthday today, Jeffrey Salkin's article suitably titled, "Happy Birthday, Bob Dylan!" from the Religion News Service.

This is all especially interesting because we've lived in a era where one of the fundamental givens of our time is that humanity evolved from lower life forms and that we are simply a bi-product of countless millenia of stimulus-response experiences. Many would cite that Capitalism is soulless by nature (survival of the fittest, he who has the most toys wins, etc.) and philosophical materialism declares that there is really is nothing more than a Material world. Our politics, too, reflects this in its own way, At least at its higher levels it appears Machiavellian to the core, power brokers committed to gaining and maintaining power at any cost.

Into this contemporary stew, Bob Dylan became a prophetic Voice. He was like a voice crying in the wilderness. A hard rain's gonna fall. His songs addressed issues of injustice, covetousness, greed, pride, and the need for a moral vision that included justice, temperance, faith, hope and charity.*

Today in Duluth his fans are celebrating Bob Dylan's 75th birthday by unveiling a marker in front of his birth home here in the Central Hillside. (3:30 p.m. @ 519 East Third Street). For years I have felt that the city should do more to honor its native son, the way the other cities have done with their "offspring." But as Jesus himself stated, "A prophet is without honor in his own country."

So it is that a handful of people have been laboring to bring greater recognition to Dylan's significance to and in this Northland region, something more than acknowledgement, more in keeping with his stature. And yet, how acknowledge Dylan without turning these touchpoints into shrines? But it becomes quite the dance, because Dylan himself would not wish to be enshrined. Or worshiped. Dylan's life was about something higher.

Dan Botkin discusses his work with WDIO reporter.
Last night Chicago artist Daniel Botkin gave a talk in which he explained his various paintings and the meanings behind the images. Religious themes pervade Botkin's work because religious themes pervade Dylan's lyrics, not just the early ones. (c.f. The Dark Side of Dylan, Christianity Today column about Tempest.) Even when painting the passing of a guitar (symbol of carrying the music to a next generation) Botkin uses a scene from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel where the finger of God touches Adam's finger, transmitting the spark of the divine. In this case, it is Woody Guthrie handing Dylan the guitar from a cloud where he is perched with "Cisco and Sonny and Leadbelly, too."

It's been a fascinating week as the world tries to find creative ways to pay tribute in an authentic way, while attempting to avoid mythologizing. But maybe mythologizing can't be helped when you try to place any man on a pedestal. There are so many new stories being told and the mythologizing starts to feel so thick you can cut it with a knife.

It's an exciting time here this week, though. People who knew Bob when he was growing up are in the circle of admirers paying respects, looking back at photos on display at Karpeles, for example.

Today there will be music, a mayoral proclamation, prayers for good weather, and a birthday cake. Some of it (like the birthday cake) is probably normal for any 75 year old with a family or friends. The mayoral proclamation is not. And if you're in town, the CD release party is at The Rex tonight, Duluth Does Dylan IV, featuring many of the bands from Duluth's previous CDs on the same theme. It'll be a memorable birthday bash, I'm sure. Especially if you're there.

* * * *

There were news stories last week about the auction of a 1980 letter in which Bob reveals his Christian faith.  Here's a second on the same letter from Toronto. What's apparent here is his earnestness. The opening lines from one of my own poems comes to mind at this point.

We're a complicated people,
a mixed and crazy breed.
We can always blame our parents,
for we're all of Adam's seed...
The future remains unwrit.

Here's my salute to Bob on his 75th. Happy Birthday.
And my tip for long life: Keep having birthdays!
Stay busy being born, and you will never get bored.

*See Christopher Ricks' Dylan's Vision of Sin

Monday, May 23, 2016

Six Articles Of Interest Leading Into Duluth Dylan Fest and Bob's 75th Birthday Week

I can't remember exactly when I began to feel myself to be a part of the Duluth Dylan Fest team. I've been covering this event here for years it seems. Two years ago I was asked to create the trivia contest that takes place on Sunday evening at Carmody's Irish Pub so that this year marks my third year of "official" involvement, though I've participated on the periphery for many years previous. The big surprise as I've gotten more deeply involved is the number of things I've learned about but can't talk about. And then there are all the rumors. As Dylan himself once song, "I've heard rumors all over town..." Or as Tina, Marvin and a host of others have sung, "believe half of what you see and none of what you hear." For the record, if you live here in the Northland you start to hear a lot. For myself, it's been a privilege to help promote the week's events, which kicked off last night with the new Dylan Music Video Contest at 7 p.m.

This team leaves to produce "To Ramona"
A pre-selected set of 5 minute songs had been placed in a box and each team that signed up wwas instructed to draw a name, as if drawing names out of a hat. Tomorrow night we'll re-convene at the Zinema Theater for the screening. 48 hours is the time frame. The winning music vid will be aired during next week's DuSu Film Festival. The four contestants included: Justin Anderson (Just Like A Woman); Ramona, Kate, Chris and Leander (To Ramona); Amanda Sundin and Lindsay Wayt (Things Have Changed); and Tamaye Ceannaideach (Mississippi.) The Dylan song that immediately came to mind: "I Can't Wait."

This was followed at 9 p.m. by the Dylan-Themed Trivia on Sunday nights at Carmody's, now in its sixth season, and it was nice to see such a healthy crowd for the event. Big "shout out" to Frank & Patty, who flew in from California for the kick-off of Dylan Fest and won first place by correctly guessing 24 out of 25 answers. Congratulations!

* * * *
Here are a half-dozen links to stories you can find online related to Bob's birthday tomorrow or Duluth Dylan Fest.

Our View: It’s OK to celebrate Dylan

"Duluth Dylan Fest kicks off Sunday and includes music — lots of music — a bus tour from Duluth to Hibbing and back, a film festival and the unveiling of a commemorative plaque at Dylan’s first home in the Duluth hillside."

Joseph O’Connor: a letter to Bob Dylan ahead of his 75th birthday

"I don’t know how many times I’ve since listened to Desire, but it must be hundreds. As for Blood on the Tracks, Slow Train Coming, Saved, the magnificent Street Legal, Empire Burlesque, Knocked Out Loaded, Time Out of Mind: they were part of the soundtrack to my life. You’re a wintry walk on Dún Laoghaire pier with my first girlfriend, you’re a voice in a student bedsit at dawn, then a presence from a car radio late at night as I drive the streets of London with my baby son, to help him sleep."

Duluth rallies around Bob Dylan's 75th birthday as Hibbing struggles

"Duluth is commemorating the birthday in a variety of ways, including an impressive exhibit of Pagel's items, a tribute album and concert, and the unveiling of a plaque at Dylan's childhood home. But 75 miles away in Hibbing, where he lived from ages 6 to 18, the only formal event will be a bus tour — from Duluth."

The Photographer Who Captured Bob Dylan’s Electric Transition
"Daniel Kramer took intimate photographs of Bob Dylan during the musician’s transformation from king of folk to rock pioneer. Here they are in a beautiful new book."

What's really cool about this story is that you can see some of pages from Daniel Kramer's earlier version of his book of photos... covered with Bob Dylan's handwriting. These are on display at Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum which you must take time to visit this week while you're here. (Pictured top right.)

Forever young: 25 things you should know about Bob Dylan on his 75th birthday

The photo on the right headlines this Trib story.
There are a lot of interesting facts in this story which appeared in Sunday's Minneapolis Star Tribune. Here's one I wanted to draw attention to:

"3. The turning point in Dylan’s career was a New York Times review by Robert Shelton in September 1961. It led to his contract with Columbia Records."

This original NY Times story is also on display this week at Karpeles in the Bill Pagel exhibit here in Duluth. In addition, the photo used to lead into the article -- Dylan receiving the Medal of Freedom from President Obama -- is also in this exhibit.

Dylan Art Seen: Daniel Botkin's "Busy Being Born" at The Red Mug

Ok, so this one is a reminder that a special reception for Daniel Botkin's "Busy Being Born" is happening tonight. Music starts at 4:30 p.m. with an artist talk at 6:00. Join us!

* * * * 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Story of the Great White Wonder -- the Original Basement Tapes Bootleg

"If the past isn't alive in you, the future will be empty." 
~Greil Marcus on The Basement Tapes

This year's Duluth Dylan Fest culminates with a concert featuring musicians performing songs from The Basement Tapes. There are a whole host of activities slated to make this year an especially special week. Dylan will be 75 on Tuesday, an occasion is being marked with events around the world. You're invited to join us. Learn more at the Duluth Dylan Fest Facebook Page.

Most of the events are free, starting with the opening of the film contest at 7 and Dylan Trivia Contest at 9 p.m.
At Carmody's. With prizes. For events requiring tickets visit the Duluth Dylan Fest connections at Eventbrite. The Basement Tapes: Great White Wonder concert tickets are on sale here. The concert, "curated" by Gene LaFond, is a fund raiser and awareness raiser for the Armory Arts & Music Center.

* * * *
Most Dylan fans already know the story of how Dylan and the Band ended up in Woodstock after a world tour that was met with hostile reactions toward his "new sound." Nevertheless, with each telling from various points of view a new picture emerges. Below is a YouTube video that offers up some of the significance of that moment in time. There are also a few additional links to Bob himself sharing how the songs were created and Robbie Robertson telling his story.

Watching this video brought back a few memories for me. The Basement Tapes bootlegs were probably the most famous in history, though they weren't the only bootlegs being circulated. Pirating music has become a whole different animal in the digital age. In the days of vinyl, bootlegs were a physical product sold under the counter. When I was in high school, we had a little record store in Somerville, NJ where I used to buy albums. One day I heard about a Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young bootleg that was available. I was told to be discreet, so when no one was around I asked the long-haired guy behind the counter for a copy of the bootleg. I was a very straight-looking kid in high school, so the guy studied me suspiciously, but I knew the record was going for three bucks and threw three George Washingtons on the countertop. He reached under the counter and pulled out an album sheathed in a white, unmarked album cover. It had a real cloak-and-dagger feel to it. As I left the store I couldn't wait to get home and play it.

As you watch this video you'll see how the Basement Tapes bootlegs went global. In one scene you can see how some folks in L.A. stamped the unmarked white cover and gave it a name. Hence, the Great White Wonder.

Eventually, as in eight years later, the Basement Tapes was released as a real album. In the 1990's the "Official" Bootleg Series was initiated, currently comprising 12 sets of outtakes from the various periods of Dylan's career. The Basement Tapes (2014) is called Bootleg Series: Volume 11, and is available as a six CD or two CD set. Or, if you desire, in as three vinyls for those sensitive to the sound fidelity.

Greil Marcus, Clinton Heylin and Sid Griffin talk about this chapter in history.

Here's a soundtrack of Bob Dylan talking about where the songs came from that he wrote there at Woodstock that year. And here's a segment where Robbie Robertson talks about the making of Basement Tapes. And for an in depth account of this period read Levon Helm's This Wheel's On Fire.

Meantime, life goes on all around you. Go for it... in Duluth.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

When You Come To Duluth Dylan Fest, Take the Bus Tour to Hibbing and Back -- Five Minutes with Tour Host Mary Keys

Today is May 21. One interesting event that occurred on this day in history was an extensive worldwide survey regarding who was the "most inspirational individual for poets and the dream collaborative partner." The survey was conducted by The Foyle Poetry Society in 2011. The survey asked people which musician and which genre of music most inspired their writing. That Bob Dylan was the most influential did not come as a surprise. What did surprise me, however, is that the people surveyed were young folks from 11 to 17 years old. The next generation is on the move.

BUS TOUR 2016: Friday May 27

Hibbing High School Auditorium
For Dylan fans interested in real history, especially if you're coming to the Northland for Dylan Fest, you can't get a better tour guide for the Hibbing portion of the tour than Mary Keys. The tour will begin at the Historic Duluth Armory where a 17-year-old Robert Zimmerman saw Buddy Holly. All the information you need can be found here on Facebook. The bus will board at 9 a.m. and promises to bring you back in time to freshen up for the Singer/Songwriter Contest at Clyde Iron Works Friday evening. Here's ticket information and a schedule for a day of making memories... or re-visiting them.

Earlier this week I reached out to Mary Keyes, co-owner of the former Howard Street Booksellers, a cornerstone along with Zimmy's of Hibbing's Dylan Days celebration and events.

EN: How did you come to be something of a spokesperson for Dylan's Hibbing relationships and roots?
Mary Keyes: When my husband Joe and I came back to Hibbing (my hometown) in December 2003 to own and run Howard Street Booksellers, we became friends with Linda Stroback Hocking and her husband Bob Hocking. They owned and ran Zimmy's, a restaurant devoted to Bob Dylan. For a number of years at Zimmy's there had been a low-key "Birthday Celebration". Then the Hibbing Chamber of Commerce also began a few events in connection with Bob's birthday. In 2006, along with the Hockings and Aaron Brown, we formed Dylan Days Hibbing, MN, a non-profit organization dedicated to hosting a "celebration of the arts in Northern Minnesota" program of events around Dylan's birthday. So we had a writing contest, writing workshops, art exhibits, Dylan related author events, a singer/songwriter contest, and other music events. We also developed a four-hour Hibbing bus tour, which incorporated Dylan sites and Hibbing history. This tour grew out of requests from so many visitors who came to town to learn about Dylan's roots and discovered a lovely town with an interesting history. Year-round at the bookstore, we met people from all over the world who made a pilgrimage to Hibbing because of their interest in Dylan. We'd talk to them, share stories about the town and Dylan, and sell them a few books.

EN: When people come from out of town, what are the first places they want to see and where are these places located?
MK: We always tell people, "If you've come this far, there are two things you MUST see -- the Hull-Rust-Mahoning mine and the high school." If they are Dylan fans, then we tell them where the house is where Bob grew up. The house is on the corner of 7th Avenue East (2425 Bob Dylan Drive) and East 25th Street. If their visit is long enough, we also send them to the Dylan exhibit at the Hibbing Public Library located at 2020 5th Avenue East.

EN: What are some of the other highlights that a quick visit may not give someone the opportunity to see?
MK: The Memorial Building located at 400 east 23rd Street includes the very fine Hibbing Historical Society Museum (which includes the Hall of Service and Achievement where Bob is honored among other Hibbing folks). The Little Theatre is also in the Memorial Building. There is a special photo enshrined there showing "The Golden Chords" -- one of Bob Zimmerman's high school bands, performing on that stage during a talent contest. The Hibbing Armory located at 2310 Brooklyn Drive is where The Golden Chords put on a "Sock Hop" where they spun records and played a few sets of their own music and thus is the first place where Bob earned money for playing his music.

Grade school, with Bob and classmates. 
EN: What's your favorite point of interest that you like to show people?
MK: I love to show people the high school because most of them think it is going to be your run-of-the-mill school and then they discover something completely different -- a "castle in the wilderness". We also like to take them to a certain railroad crossing where Bob nearly met an early end.

EN: I suppose that there are people around who have memories of when Bob was growing up. Can you share a story or two?
MK: We have heard from one of his good friends that Bob was an impatient guy -- always pounding his foot, always ready to move on. When he and his buddies would go out on their motorcycles, he would always be the leader. "We're on a mission," he'd tell them. They had a "trap-line" of places to go: a store with great motorcycle and music magazines, the music store, a certain cafe, etc.

EN: Anything else you would like to say, feel free to add it here.
MK: Although Joe and I are retired, and our retail storefront is closed, we still order books for people. We also are available to give tours -- we can do JUST the high school, or Hibbing history, or Bob Dylan sites. The cost depends on the amount of time involved and the size of the group. We can be contacted at 218-262-5206.

We will be leading the tour in Hibbing on Friday, May 27, when people come up from Duluth as part of Dylan Fest. It will be a "whirlwind" Hibbing tour, but people will enjoy themselves! There are still places on the bus, so encourage people to get signed up! Maybe you'll be there!?!

* * * *
Maybe you live in Duluth and have never really experienced this Hibbing Tour? If you want to make it a four-day Memorial Day weekend, take Friday off and gain some new insights about our region.

Meantime, life goes on.... all around you. And memory-making, too.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Top Seven Dylan Covers

How can anyone choose seven Dylan covers and say "These are the top seven" or "the top ten." I'm not talking about Dylan songs covered by others... Wednesday's L.A. Times featured a story called Bob Dylan, interpreter: seven of the artist's greatst covers. No doubt the Times is doing what all of us are doing, falling all over ourselves to find original ways to write about Dylan's newest album, an assortment of covers called Fallen Angels, released today on the eve of his 75th birthday.

Though he established his name and fame as a singer/songwriter, the Times is accurate in noting Dylan's masterful manner of interpreting the work of others. His first album was primarily all covers (with the exception of his Song To Woody) but I'm hard-pressed to select only one or two favorites. Heck, after a hundred listens I can't say there's even one lunker.

It's well-known that more musicians have covered Dylan than any songwriter in recorded history, but the Times has reversed the equation and brought Dylan's covers to the foreground.

And naturally when one sees such a list, it stirs you up inside to make a list of your own. Or rather, that's my initial response. So where does one begin? One might begin anywhere, but let's begin at the beginning.  That's where Randy began with See That My Grave Is Kept Clean, Dylan's rendition of the Blind Lemon Jefferson classic found on his first solo album at age 20. Here's a list from my corner of space and time.

Fixin' To Die
It's a Mississippi Delta blues song originally performed by Bukka White. Dylan modified the original and showed from the start how he would take something and put his fingerprints all over it. Skeletal remains of the Delta gave it birth while Dylan gave it life.

Freight Train Blues
I have a friend who called her small section of Carlton, Mn. Hobo Junction, home of Carlton Bike Rental. When she opened several years ago I made a CD of railroad songs. Because of the railroad lines that ran through there, Carlton famously had three hobo camps in the thirties. The CD included two versions of Freight Train Blues, this one and another by Doc Watson. The Red Foley song has a hundred variations, and Dylan's is exceptional. Like a runaway train, wild and free, Dylan is joyous and smashing.

Lily of the West
Folk music has always been a storytelling medium. In the sales and marketing today there are two essential concepts that companies have work at, Brand and Story. Getting brand recognition is half the battle. Defining and differentiating the brand, and establishing it in the mind of consumers is what you see every time you turn on a TV. But what's your story?

Storytelling is as old as the hills. Storytelling preceded the written word, and probably began with the beginning of human speech. It's in our DNA. Add a Y and and L to that and you've got Dylan, a master storyteller, born out of the folk storytelling tradition. "Lily of the West" has Irish folk roots and bears a clear resemblance in structure to a story of his own, "Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts."

Big Yellow Taxi
When Dylan's 1973 album of covers came out the critics were surprisingly harsh. They wanted their old Dylan back, Dylan the songwriter. Opening with "Lily of the West" it just carried you in. Joni Mitchell, the singer/songwriter who has at this point established herself with numerous songs that were now being recorded by others (e.g. "Woodstock" by CSN&Y) was here recorded by Dylan.

Mr. Bojangles
The song was written in 1968 by country artist Jeff Walker, but it was the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band that carried it up the ladder to number one. Dylan was but one of dozens of performers who liked the song enough to cover it themselves. The name Bojangles probably came from the jazzy dance number from the film Swing Time that featured Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

Barbara Allen
This traditional folk  song is a Scottish ballad first written about in Samuel Pepys's 1666 diary, and recorded many times over once the technology for recording came into fashion, right up through Joan Baez in 1961.

This version begins, "In Scarlet Town where I was born..." and was recorded live between 1988 and 1991. What's very interesting is that just this week I heard someone suggesting Dylan's song "Scarlet Town" from the album Tempest was autobiographical to some extent, and that "scarlet town" referred to Hibbing, whose red ore saturated even the dirt there. Interesting to hear the echo of that phrase back here in "Barbara Allen."

This live recording in 1962 at the Gaslight Cafe shows why the young 20-year-old captured so many hearts and found himself so warmly welcomed in those first frost-filled days in the Big Apple.

Pretty Boy Floyd
Woody Guthrie was Dylan idol/hero/inspiration for a time, and the only song that wasn't a cover on his first album was "Song to Woody." Dylan performed a number of songs by Woody, including one of my favorites, "I Ain't Got No Home." Pretty Boy Floyd may have been an outlaw but Woody, and Dylan, give the story a whole different spin. Whatever the truth may be, it's a story in song, and I enjoy the way Bob tells it.

I'm out of time here, but I'm going to add a bonus track for you, one of my favorite Dylan covers from his 2009 Christmas In The Heart CD, "Must Be Santa." It's a romp.

* * * *

Sunday evening is the kickoff for Duluth Dylan Fest, with the start of the film contest at 7 and Trivia at Carmody's at 9. There are a couple tie-breaker questions for the trivia players, should it come to that. The answer to one of these is found in yesterday's stories at ExpectingRain.com.
Two art events of note for tonight: Art in the Plaza in Superior is having a CD release party for Similar Dogs from 3-6 p.m. and The Red Herring is hosting an opening reception for Shawna Gilmore's Mischief, Memory & Wonder exhibition.

Meantime, life goes on all around you. And music. Dig it!

* * * *
EdNote: Picking seven "top" Dylan covers is impossible. I just happened to share these because I have liked them. Much more can be said, but it's time to embrace the day.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Poets of the North Country: Introducing Jim Johnson and Ellie Schoenfeld

One of the many events I'm looking forward to during next week's Duluth Dylan Fest will be Poets of the North Country at the Underground on Wednesday, may 25. Four guest panelists will have an extended time to share in the first portion of the program followed by readings from a number of local poets including Gary Boelhower, Michelle Matthees, Julie Gard, Liz Minette, Jan Chronister, and others.

The four panelists include Duluth's first Poet Laureate Barton Sutter, Minnesota author and publisher David Pichaske, author of Song of the North Country, and the two people I'm introducing here today, Jim Johnson and Ellie Schoenfeld.

Jim Johnson is Duluth's current Poet Laureate. I asked him several questions about how he came to be interested in poetry, who have been his influences and why poetry is important. And naturally I asked about Dylan.

Jim Johnson: I became interested in poetry when I attended UMD. After college I participated in a workshop led by Sigurd Olson. I was inspired and wanted to write about plants and animals of the North Country, only I wanted to write poetry. I later wrote about the Finnish immigrant experience and about labor and political issues, especially pertaining to the people of our area. My books are titled: Finns In Minnesota Midwinter, A Field Guide To Blueberries, Wolves, The Coop Label, Dovetailed Corners, Driving Gravel Roads, The First Day Of Spring In Northern Minnesota, and Yoik. That probably gives you a list of my themes, or obsessions as I call them.

While at UMD, I listened to Bob Dylan and read Dylan Thomas. I was inspired by both, even though I don't remember which one was the first. I loved the way Dylan Thomas used words and the way Bob Dylan used ideas I had thought about. BD is a wordsmith as well, but his social concerns are very important to me. Songs like "Blowin In The Wind," "Who Killed Davy Moore," "The Walls Of Red Wing," "I Shall Be Released" have the same concern for humanity as the great poets like Whitman and Neruda. People often ask if BD is really a poet. To put him in the company of Neruda or Whitman is to say he is not only a poet but a great poet.

Feelings are important. Poetry is about feelings. Therefore poetry is important. It will continue even if the forms change.

Here's one of a pair of poems Jim submitted to me, the second was called Rutabagas.

Rock Tripes

Rock tripes are lichen, like an old couple

who depend on each other to live

out their black and white lives. Though

neither will ever admit it. He

traipsing all over the rock they live on. She

cooking up greens for eons.

But O how they liked to polka.

* * * *

For near two decades one of my favorite poets has been former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins. In a 2009 blog post I wrote of him, "There's a down-to-earth whimsical quality to a lot of his work." I share this because reading Johnson and Schoenfeld gives me that same sense of pleasure as the works of Collins who repeatedly brings an original angle to the most ordinary moments.

Of the four I'm most familiar with Ellie Schoenfeld's work, having first met her through the Poetry Harbor group when I came to Duluth three decades past and having heard her read on numerous occasions including this evening in 2014. For the longest time The Dark Honey, her award-winning book of "new and used poems," lay next to my easy chair along with a few other favorites to dip into on occasion at the end of a day. Poetry makes a nice nightcap.

Here's a typical piece that takes one to unexpected places that you might enjoy.

by Ellie Schoenfeld

My country is this dirt
that gathers under my fingernails
when I am in the garden.
The quiet bacteria and fungi,
all the little insects and bugs
are my compatriots. They are
idealistic, always working together
for the common good.
I kneel on the earth
and pledge my allegiance
to all the dirt of the world,
to all of that soil which grows
flowers and food
for the just and unjust alike.
The soil does not care
what we think about or who we love.
It knows our true substance,
of what we are really made.
I stand my ground on this ground,
this ground which will
recruit us all
to its side.

"Patriotism" by Ellie Schoenfeld, from The Dark Honey. © Clover Valley Press, 2009. 
Published here without permission at the moment, but keeping my fingers crossed.

* * * *

Poets of the North Country will be a catered event that begins with an opening reception at 5:30. Readings by featured poets will start at 6:00, with an afterparty at Karpeles Manuscript Museum Library, music by Cowboy Angel Blue. Details here. The Underground Theater is located in The Depot, adjacent to the Train Museum. Note: This event is Free and open to all.

Join us.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Twitter Breakthrough: More Letters Available Soon

Those of you who use Twitter on a regular basis have learned that despite its limitations it can be a tremendously useful form of social interaction. When I first began blogging in 2007 it was through Twitter that I "met" many of the artists I interviewed from all over the world. It was by means of Twitter that the news broke regarding the Mumbai massacre during Thanksgiving weekend 2008. By means of Twitter revolutions have been organized and careers damaged.

As we've seen, 144 characters can really accomplish a lot, though actually if you add links you have even fewer. And if you drop in a photo then you really do crimp what you can say.

Marketers, who measure everything, say that adding a photo increases readership by more than double, so this past year we've seen a real influx of photos being added to the news feed.

This week, Bloomberg News passed along a rumor that Twitter is planning to change the manner in which it counts links. As most Twitter users know, when you drop in a link they (Twitter) shorten it to 23 characters. As most Internet users know well, some URLs are already 144 characters in length, which would render adding a message useless. The Bloomberg article states that links and photos will not be counted. In other words, when you Tweet you do not have to subtract 23 characters for a link and another couple dozen for the photo. You still get to keep your original 144 characters.

As in everything else in life, there will likely be unintended consequences. Twitter has, however, most likely spent a boatload of time and money researching and dissecting the implications of this new development.

EdNote: the article does include a disclaimer on the matter. "The company declined to comment."

* * * *
Naturally all this speculation dislodged from my memory vault this story about Flutter:

* * * *

For what it's worth, one of the cool features of Twitter is the hashtag. If you're following the local arts scene in Duluth you will want to look for #DuluthArt. And if you're a Twitter user you can find Tweets related to next week's Duluth Dylan Fest at #Dylan-Fest. We'd rather have you join us here, but if you can't make it in person, then just follow along on Twitter.

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

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