Tuesday, May 22, 2018

A Plug for 3 Noteworthy Upcoming Events: Blood on the Tracks Express, Battle of the Jug Bands and DuSu Film Fest

"Come along and ride this train..."
--Johnny Cash

Blood on the Tracks Express
In the VIP Car Jim Hall will entertain. Appetizers provided by Valentini’s. Music on train going up and back: The 4ontheFloor, Black River Revue, The Basement Tapes Band,  and Father Hennepin. 
The Dylan show in Two Harbors will feature the Rolling Blunder Review with Nate Case of Dirty Horse, Brad Nelson and more. Board at the Depot, 5:30 p.m.. Train leaves the station at 6:00.
 Tickets Here


"All Aboard!"

Tara Lynn Austin: Without Limits (An Artist Interview)

This summer the Duluth Art Institute is featuring the work of Tara Lynn Austin in the Morrison Gallery at the Depot. The show, titled Boreal Ornament, will be on display through July 1. Ms. Austin recently completed her MFA in Madison after having previously studied art as an undergrad here at UMD.

With it being Duluth Dylan Fest this week, there is an impressive installation in the Great Hall at the Depot by the artist Skye called Shakespeare's in the Alley featuring 44 textile panels adorned with Dylan song lyrics. Wednesday the artist will be giving a talk at 5:30 in the Great Hall followed by a Poets of the North Country event in the Playhouse. I would strong recommend coming early to the artist Skye's exhibition and visiting the DAI upstairs on the fourth floor for the three exhibits there as well.

What follows is an exchange with Tara Austin about the work she is doing.

EN: As I look through your website I see that colors and designs have been a long time interest. Were you fascinated by colors and design as a child? Can you share a story about your first recognition of patterns and design in your world?

Tara Lynn Austin: I grew up near Grand Marais, MN, so I was fortunate to be surrounded by nature. I was fascinated with plants and spent a lot of time reading plant identification books. Identifying plants takes careful observation and recognition of pattern and detail. The changing seasons and variety of colors found in nature inspires me, from the iridescence of hummingbirds, the vivid green of spring growth, the sugar maples in fall and the purple skies in winter.

EN: Who were your biggest influences at UMD? You really make a lot of vivid designs from our natural world.

TLA: I worked with Professor Ryuta Nakajima who reinforced the notion of science and art. I became interested in Victorian botanical illustrations while I was at UMD, especially those of Ernst Haeckel, and I spent a lot of time in the greenhouse. I started reading about the mathematics found in nature, like golden spiral, Fibonacci sequence, and fractals.

EN: When did you begin working on plexiglass? What kind of materials do you use to create the works now on display at DAI?

TLA: Boreal Ornament is all paintings made on plexiglass or glass. I became interested in working on these transparent materials when I saw a painting by Barbara Rossi at the Milwaukee Art Museum in 2016. The depth she was able to create was amazing and since then I have been experimenting with different painting techniques on both the front and back of the plexiglass or glass.

EN: I can’t help but believe you’ve gained a following of people interested in where your work will lead you. Whats your next step?

TLA: Right now I am working on a plexiglass painting as well as completing a rosemaling apprenticeship. The organic nature of this Norwegian folk art is beautiful, and I have enjoyed learning about the technique and history. I hope to continue my research of rosemaling and incorporate some of its process into my paintings.

EN: Do you have any favorite artists whose work inspires you?

TLA: I was fortunate to see Gerhard Richter’s exhibition in Prague last summer, and I enjoy the op art of Briget Riley. I also find inspiration from Scandinavian textiles like Markimekko and Josef Frank.

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Related Links
Opening Reception for Boreal Ornament
Online Gallery, Tara Lynn Austin
Interview with the artist Skye

Meantime art goes on all around you. Engage it.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Visions of of Duluth Art Show at Zeitgeist: Opening Reception Features Tom O'Keefe, a Selfie Wall and More Bob Dylan

"Chairishing Young Bob" by Kris Nelson
Tom O'Keefe (center) & Friends lifting spirits at 2017 Dylan Fest.
Let's just say it like this: Duluth Dylan Fest is off to a great start and we've only just begun. Tonight there's an Art Show Opening Reception at the Zeitgeist Atrium from 5-7 p.m. and we have several special features to go with it. For starters, it's Tom O'Keefe's birthday, so I'm personally inviting you to come say "Happy Birthday" to Tom as a way of saying "Thank You" for all the generous music he has shared with us in the Twin Ports these past many years. Tom O'Keefe and Friends will be creating ambience for us throughout the reception, which will also include libations and finger food courtesy Zeitgeist Cafe. The theme this year is Visions of Duluth, synthesizing many of the Northland influences that helped shape the character we know as Bob Dylan.

"Forever Young" by Daniel Botkin
based on Norman Rockwell's
famous triple self-portrait.
The artists on tap have produced a range of really fun images again. Time does not permit me from detailing everything, but I would like to point out a few especially fun paintings that you owe it to yourself to see. Daniel Botkin of Chicago has once again outdone himself, producing four pieces based on classic and historical American paintings, Dylanized. These include Christina's World, Washington Crossing the Delaware, American Gothic, and Norman Rockwell's hilarious painting of himself doing a self-portrait. Mr. Botkin has suitably altered each to feature Bob Dylan in the "title role."  Do not miss these.

I commend our Aussie co-curator Susan Laing for her having become inspired to take up painting and expand her creative horizons here. Her painting of the late John Bushey, founder/host of KUMD's Highway 61 Revisited radio hour is noteworthy.

Other artists include Timothy J. Beaulier, Sue Rauschenfels, Margie Hellstrom, Kim Buskala, Tanya Beyer, Jim Hall, Kris Nelson, Susan Krochalk, Susi Watson and Ed Newman.
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Co-Curator Susan Laing in front of her tribute to John Bushey.
"When the Ship Comes In: Dylan Crosses His Delaware." 
Timothy Beaulier's "East on 8th Street"
Kris Nelson's "Chairishing Young Bob" at the top of the page is one of literally hundreds of chairs painted by the former art teacher, and one of many unique submissions that have made the Dylan Fest Art Shows so much fun. But in the Spirit of the Times, we've also added this year a...

We've also assembled a Selfie Wall which we encourage you to use. When you take your Selfie, be sure to post it on your favorite social media sites with this year's art show hashtag #DDF2018. The Selfie Wall will be in place all week, so if you can't make it to our reception, stop by another time for lunch, supper or a look at our show... and share your Selfie.

And why not you?

for a Chance to Win
We're also giving away one piece of original art at tonight's event. We screen printed a half dozen Double Dylans and everyone who joins us is invited to write their favorite Dylan song, Dylan lyric or Dylan album on the piece, after which you can put your name in the hat for a chance to win. At the end of the night there will be a drawing. If you put contact info on your submission, then you needn't be present to win. On the other hand, if you stay you'll likely be glad you did. The music is free, the energy uplifting. Will you join us?

Do not miss Shakespeare's in the Alley, the exhibit in the Depot's Great Hall by the artist Skye. This fabulous display features 44 panels of Dylan lyrics which took ten years to complete. Read Christa Lawler's DNT story "Tangled Up In Lyrics." and my interview with Skye in January.
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More about Kris Nelson's Chairs
Schedule for the rest of the week.
A Shout Out to our Sponsors

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

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Weekend Open House Shows Why the Great Lakes Academy of Fine Art Is a Gift to Our Community

Friday evening at the GLAFA  (Photo courtesy Ramona Marozas)
Tricycle by Jeffrey T. Larson
How does light work? How does perception work? How do we synthesize everything in our minds to form images of the material world? Light reflects off the surfaces of things, yet we do not see the light waves moving through space as it strikes the surface of things. How is it, too, that while our eyes are in motion everything appears fixed in time and substantial. We move about within a space and yet the room doesn't move with us, unless you've had too much to drink. Why do colors shift when the light is brighter or more restrained?

Photo courtesy Ramona Marozas
The Great Lakes Academy of Fine Art is having its second annual student/instructor exhibition this weekend. The school uses a method of teaching that was developed in the 17th century called the Atelier method. Students spend hours every day drawing a two-dimensional reproduction of a 3-D object using techniques that enable them to accurately depict reality. The first year is devoted to drawing and learning to see. The second year students also begin painting, but it is not till year three that they introduce color to their paintings. Next year's open house is expected to be a yet more vibrant one as second year students look forward to the broadening of their pallets.

The images here are from this weekend's open house, which continues today for several hours, from noon till three. After that the students and instructors will break for the summer. Jeffrey T. Larson and son Brock are looking forward to a painting trip to the mountains of Colorado later in the week. And the students look forward to seeing what new themes will spring from their own imaginations, with more advanced skillsets for translating their visions to reality.

Co-founders Jeffrey T. and Brock Larson (Ramona M photo)
Ramona M, right and center. w/ artist Daralyn Berg Peifer
Showing how it's done when working from real life.

Photo of student by Ramona M.
Early in evening. Students eager to share their achievements with friends
family and fans.
Friday evening was another stellar open house for the school. I paid a visit Saturday afternoon to grab some of the photos here and offer my best wishes to the students who have clearly demonstrated their willingness to commit to a very demanding regimen. The proof of the pudding is in the eating they say... They have achieved new levels of eye-hand coordination, learned new ways of seeing, and have promising futures. I can hardly wait till next year.

REMINDER: Doors will be open this afternoon from noon till three. Take advantage of this opportunity to get inspired.

Related Links
How the Eye Sees
The Atelier

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Were The Beatles Ever More Popular Than Jesus?

This spring I took a renewed interest in The Beatles, in part due to some of the writings of David Pichaske, author of From Beowolf to Beatles and Beyond, among other things. As a result I've been picking up a number of other Beatles' related books including Geoffrey & Brenda Giuliano's The Lost Lennon Interviews, which I was perusing Thursday evening as a bedtime read.

Early on there are a pair of brief newspaper articles dealing with John Lennon's infamous declaration that The Beatles were more famous than Jesus. The incident took place during the Beatles' last American tour in 1966. One result of this statement was this incident: bonfires were lit where young people could burn their Beatles records.

What's ironic here, if not bizarre, is that some of the bonfires were built by the Ku Klux Klan, as if they held the moral high ground. In South Carolina, for example, the Klan Grand Dragon Bob Scoggins nailed a Beatles record to a large cross and set it on fire. (Source: AllThatsInteresting)

As with many things, the media can be partially blamed for attributing the most heinous motives for John Lennon making this statement. Lennon afterwards stated in another interview, "I wasn't saying whatever they're saying I was saying... I was sort of deploring the current attitude toward Christianity."

His observation was that Christianity seemed to be shrinking at a time when pop culture was rising. "I'm not anti-God, anti-Christ or anti-religion. I was not saying we are greater or better."

But if fanning the flames would sell more newspapers, then let the Beatle memorabilia burn. (OK, that harsh indictment of newspapers crosses the fairness line, so we should be careful not to tar them all with this brush.)

* * * *
The second half of John Lennon's statement as regards being "bigger than Jesus" was that Rock 'n Roll would outlive Christianity. It's worth noting that Thomas Paine made a similar statement about the Bible, that as a result of Enlightenment thinking the Bible would be dead in 50 years. Paine died in 1809.

* * * *
Two years ago Slate published an interesting article on the 50th anniversary of John Lennon's "bigger than Jesus" quote. It's eye-opening because Lennon, by today's standards, violated a whole array of PC language regulations.

All this is on my mind in part because today is the beginning of our weeklong Duluth Dylan Fest and tonight David Pichaske will be giving a talk in the first John Bushey Memorial Lecture Series at Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum. Pichaske is more than familiar with the challenges of having a career in the academic world. Author of numerous books--Beatles to Beowulf, A Generation In Motion and Song of the North Country most relevant to our Dylan celebration--Pichaske's most recent book, Crying in the Wilderness, is a collection of essays, many of them dealing with the shifting sands of post-modern academia and free speech.

Pichaske's dedication should tell you a lot: "This book is a written memorial to the Southwest State University English Department, 1976-2016. blessings upon those who built it, a pox upon those who dismantled it."

His 2015 essay "Speech Cops on Patrol: How P.C. Language Regulations Undermine Communication" details some of the changes he has lived through and had concerns about. How far the pendulum has swung. In the Sixties the fight was for Free Speech, a right established in the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Over time, the lit professor was asked to no longer teach "Howl" by the beat poet Allen Ginsberg "because some students were uncomfortable with its homosexuality." In other words, let's only teach things that are "safe." Hence, the Duluth school district this year banned Huckleberry Finn and To Kill A Mockingbird from being taught in its curriculum. Despite the dignity of its message, it contains a bad word, which makes some people uncomfortable.

When Lenny Bruce fought the "status quo Goliaths" of his era, he was made to suffer for it. Today there are new Goliaths.

All this to say that I look forward to welcoming David Pichaske to our city tonight. He begins his book with a quote from David Masciota: "One of the most important challenges for any American in the twenty-first century is to remove the mask and shed the persona that regulates life, to actually work to achieve a fulfilling and freeing identity."

Inasmuch as Herman Hesse begins his book Demian with a similar sentiment, I half wonder whether this is a contemporary issue or a universal one. "I wanted only to try to live in accord with the promptings that came from my true self. Why was that so very difficult?"

The answer here might come from Nietzsche, who observed that most of us are kept in line by our fear of being shunned. As a result, we are weaker people rather than stronger because we're afraid to raise the questions that are rattling around inside our heads.

This is likely what attracted me to Dylan in the first place. When I heard "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" I realized I wasn't alone. There was at least one other person who understood what I was feeling and thinking.

Related Links
The Letters of John Lennon
Lenny Bruce: Challenging the Status Quo
For the Benefit of Mr. Kite: How Creativity Works
Duluth Dylan Fest Schedule 

Will we see you tonight at Karpeles?
Meantime life goes on all around you. Engage it.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Local Happenings This Weekend: Art, Music, Poetry, Dance and TWO FREE TICKETS

Straight up, you have to make decisions. Too much to see, too little time.

Tonight, jazz/blues singer Pippi Ardienne will be at the Oldenburg House. It's sold out, so your decision has been made for you.

Tonight, the Great Lakes Academy of Fine Art is hosting its Second Annual Student/Instructor Exhibition. If you can't make the opening, the art school will be open throughout the weekend. Check the link for hours.

The Hibbing Dylan Project will be offering a Bob Dylan themed tour of Hibbing on Saturday May 19th. The tour will be given by Mary Keyes, a Hibbingite who has been giving Dylan themed tours of Hibbing for over a decade. Mary’s tours are always informative and entertaining. Dylan fans should not pass up this learning opportunity. The tour is part of a day long celebration put on by The Hibbing Dylan Project acknowledging Bob Dylan and his accomplishments.

The cost for the “Bob Dylan’s Hibbing Experience” bus tour is $30 and seating is limited. Tickets may be purchased at Security State Bank in downtown Hibbing, or may be reserved for will-call by emailing hibbingdylanproject@gmail.com. Refreshments will be served on the bus.

I HAVE ONE FREE TICKET that was purchased and donated for a giveaway here. The first person to contact me via email (ennyman3 AT gmail DOT com) or FB or Twitter (ennyman3) will receive this ticket if we can get it to you and you're planning to go.

Proceeds from the day will be going towards the Hibbing Dylan Project’s tribute of Bob Dylan’s achievements.

* * * *
The Largest open studio weekend of the year Nationwide is this weekend in Minneapolis. If you are in the Twin Cities, check out the Art-O-Whirl.

* * * *
I ALSO HAVE A FREE TICKET TO SEE BIG WU. This is a concert to support the Armory Arts and Music Center vision and to raise ongoing awareness for the Historic Armory. The first person to Buy a Ticket gets this FREE TICKET FOR A FRIEND.

Big Wu got its start in late 1991. Their first couple gigs were on campus in 1992. According to Mark Castino, "We weren't all that interested in school especially after we began having success with the music. Initially we learned and performed classic rock and funk tunes with an emphasis on Grateful Dead and Allman Brothers, thanks to Jason's influence. I had virtually zero knowledge of the Dead when I joined the band. Today I can safely say that Jerry Garcia is a guiding light for my guitar playing for the last 25 years."

After four years of playing cover songs in or around Northfield, the band mostly graduated and relocated to the Twin Cities with the intention of trying their luck in that music scene. "We quickly realized that we needed original music now, so I began writing music that would end up on our debut album in 1997. Terry also began writing. He and I have always been the main writers in the band."

This year the ban is putting the finishing touches on their ninth official release, due out this summer. No official title yet, but all original music with the exception of one song which utilizes the lyrics of Robert Hunter.

* * * *
SUNDAY After there will be a Celebration of Motherhood in all its forms at Beaners.

* * * *
ALSO on Sunday, Duluth Poet Laureate Ellie Schoenfeld is presenting an event called Wordy Dancing, a celebration of poetry through the movement of dance. DETAILS HERE

* * * *
AND FINALLY Duluth Dylan Fest begins tomorrow evening with the opening at Karpeles featuring a presentation of a portion of the William Pagel Dylan Archives, accompanied by the first of two lectures in the John Bushey Memorial Lecture Series. David Pichaske, who teaches literature and writing at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, is the author of more than two dozen books including A Generation in Motion: Popular Music and Society in the Sixties and Song of the North Country: A Midwest Framework to the Songs of Bob Dylan. Doors open at 6:00 p.m. and the Dylan lecture will begin at 7:00 p.m.  Learn more about our speaker at DavidPichaske.com.

I myself will be at this event (the lecture at Karpeles) as well as Sunday evening's Dylan Trivia at Carmody's, 9:00. This is the fifth or sixth year that I've assembled the trivia questions, and as usual there are some special ones. You don't really have to win to have fun. Join us.

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Duluth Dylan Fest Complete Schedule

Meantime, how do people find time for television?

Patrice Wolf Discusses Her Life as a Painter

"Backview" from Patrice Wolf's Landscape Series
I discovered the art of Patrice Wolf by a somewhat circuitous route. At least a few times over the years I tried to make a connection with Frank Holmes, one of my Ohio University painting instructors whom I respected. This past fall I succeeded in making this connection, writing several blog posts about his work. This spring I had the opportunity to visit his home/studio in Narrowsburg, New York whereupon I also met his wife Jill Mackie, who is likewise an exceptionally talented painter. While visiting, Frank showed me a book that was produced in conjunction with a 50 year retrospective by yet another Ohio University art professor, Ron Kroutel, whom I believe was one of my roommates biggest influences as a painter. It was a privilege to share Ron's work here, though I would have much preferred seeing the show itself.

As it turns out, his wife is likewise an artist whose work is similarly impressive. I asked permission to share her work here, as well as some of her story.

EN: How did you come to recognize that you had a gift (or knack) for the arts?

Patrice Wolf: I guess I would credit the support and reinforcement from my parents. I loved drawing from life and faces in particular. I made a drawing of Giacometti before I had any art training and didn’t really know who he was. I just wanted to draw his face. A few years ago a friend told me to read “A Giacometti Portrait” by James Lord. It’s one of my favorite books. I do have a particularly strong memory of when I was around 7 or 8 years old. I was walking home from school one warm spring afternoon. Part of the walk home took me through a prairie where there were blackberry bushes that the neighborhood kids would pick. I remember stopping for some berries on the path and looking at a drawing I made at school of a Scottie dog and admiring it. Having a number of sensual pleasures all at one time reinforced the memory for me and I’m pretty sure I got a good grade on the drawing too.

EN: What was it that attracted you to pursue graphic design as a major?

PW: I needed to get a decent paying job. I was a single mom, recently divorced, and I thought it would be a creative way to make a living.

EN: What led you to pursue a Masters in Fine Arts instead?

Ron Kroutel with wife Pat.
PW: My father was a German immigrant and very talented. He had a natural knack for drawing and performed as an operatic baritone. I inherited his great respect and admiration for The Arts. I was working as a graphic designer for a printing company in Athens, Ohio, and was director/designer of the Rocky Boot account, designing/ illustrating catalogs, and brochures, etc. They wanted me to do an advertising campaign for them so I began taking classes in advertising in the Journalism Department at Ohio University. Also, having recently married Ron Kroutel, who taught painting there at the time, I became more and more familiar with University life in general. I just naturally gravitated to the Art Department. I took my first painting class and before you know it I was getting my Masters in Painting. I then began teaching full time at the University.

EN: Who were your favorite artists at that time? Who have been the artists you most admire today?

PW: I saw an exhibition of Giorgio Morandi at the Guggenheim that had a strong and lasting effect on me. I loved the immediacy and intimacy of Avigdor Arika. I had always been drawn to Van Gogh’s work at the Art Institute of Chicago on my visits there growing up and then going to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam in the late ‘80s really fired me up. Today I look to the quiet power of Spanish artist Isabel Quintanilla; Tom Thomson, one of the early 20th century Canadian Seven landscape painters; Lucien Freud; William Nicholson, the father of the British artist Ben Nicholson; and Manet’s poignant, late flower paintings to name a few.

"Flight" -- Collaboration, Patrice Wolf/Ron Kroutel
EN: What was the process that preceded your series of collaborations with Ron? For example, did you select a word or concept and then each interpret it? Is each of this a single painting divided in half or is it two paintings photographed side by side?

PW: Ron and I were curious to try a collaboration. Since both of us work directly from life we thought we’d change it up and try working from photographs to see how two visions and two personalities responded to the same photo. We decided on a consistent size and format (24”x24”) paintings on canvas. We would alternate taking a photo of a local landscape, then we would each take the photo to our respective studios and make a painting of it, using it as a jumping off point to explore ideas. This would be done in secret so that we didn’t know what the other was doing. When we were finished and put the two together as a diptych, it was always a surprise. Shown side by side we see the paintings from different perspectives and sometimes an unintended narrative between the two is suggested.

EN: The cups are very cool. How large are these pieces and on what kind of surface? What was the impetus to do a series of cups?

PW: Most of them are 8”x10”, oil on canvas. They are all painted from life within arm’s reach. I think of them as meditational portraits. Most of the cups were inherited from long gone relatives and were chosen intuitively. There is something tender and fragile, intimate and ephemeral about them that I wanted to capture. Years ago while in a glass museum in Venice I spotted a small, simple, glass that was 2000 years old. It looked so vulnerable and ordinary but it had a profound effect on me.

EN: Your landscapes are especially impressive. What is your process for tackling such a complex scene and translating it to canvas? Is there an emotional attachment to this place that you sought to capture.

"Dow Lake Reeds and Grass in Water"
"Dow Lake Summer"
PW: Like the cups, my choice of which landscape to paint is intuitive. I’m not thinking of complexity at all. But maybe I should! The process of doing a plein aire painting for me is a distillation of separate moments in time. Everything is constantly moving and changing; light, wind, temperature, bugs, noises, interruptions, etc. It all gets into the painting as one fixed image. The Dow Lake series was painted in Southeast, Ohio in Athens. It was 2 miles from our home where we lived for 40 years and I definitely had an emotional attachment to the place. I didn’t intentionally try to capture any feelings I had but it inevitably seeps into the work anyway.

EN: Your charcoal self-portraits are very nice. Do you like working in charcoal?

PW: I feel very comfortable working in charcoal. It’s like oil painting in that it’s a very forgiving medium. I can make lots of changes/adjustments and the image just seems to gain in richness and depth.

EN: How has being an artist changed you as a person?

PW: Painting and drawing have given me a focus, a way to understand and analyze the world. It’s made me more humble and appreciative. I feel very fortunate that I have the ability to paint and that I can do so even as I grow old.

* * * *
Thank you, Patrice.

Related Links
Ron Kroutel
Frank Holmes
Jill Mackie

Meantime, art goes on all around you. Be enriched.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Throwback Thursday: Blood on the Tracks Express A Highlight of Duluth's Annual Dylan Fest

One of the highlights of Duluth Dylan Fest has been the annual Blood on the Tracks Express which begins at the Depot and rumbles up to Two Harbors with bands performing at both ends of the train. At the far back is the rock'n car and near the front an acoustic car where acts like Gaelynn Lea and Jim Hall have performed in the past. There's also a VIP Car at the very front with its own special amenities.

Most years the BOTT Express sells out, so you will want to order your tickets in advance. Current weather forecast for next week: Nice. Tickets here at Eventbrite. What follows are two blog posts from previous years designed to give a little flavor as regards what to expect. It is always mamorable

Here comes the train!
Last night was the fifth annual Blood on the Tracks Express experience during Duluth Dylan Fest, and gauging from the energy it was another memorable night for many. There's something about trains that connects with people. I myself am enamored with their power, and their history, which is so interwoven with our own history.

My earliest memory with regard to trains is from when my mom used to bring my brother Ron and I to Mrs. O'Ligney's in Cleveland while she was finishing nursing school. She had a steeply sloped back lawn that dropped off to the tracks behind the row of apartment houses. We were not allowed to go down to the tracks where the Rapid Transit would fly past, but I had not learned this till after I'd gone down there once to see the trains up close. I was maybe three or four at the time, and I could tell by the terror on her face, when I looked up into the yard, that something was wrong.

For many people railroads are endlessly fascinating. At age eight I crossed the continent by train with my grandparents, from Cleveland to Reno. This experience cemented my own fascination with railroads.

For a long time one of my favorite films was Runaway Train starring Jon Voight, Eric Roberts and Rebecca De Mornay. After setting up Voight as something of an existential hero, the rest of the film is one long train scene, a wild ride on a runaway train, a suspense-filled adventure as well as a metaphor for life.

If you think in terms of the history of the world, railroads are a relatively new invention. And when you learn about the history of Duluth and the Iron Range, where young Robert Zimmerman was raised, trains played a critical role in this region's development.

The Blood on the Tracks Express is a celebration of music that takes place on a moving stage. Or rather, it's a party on wheels, which discharges its passengers in Two Harbors and returns them to Duluth a little before midnight. I met new friends and old friends from England and France and Chicago and elsewhere. And our locals who, whether Dylan fans or no, know the music will be good.

The length of the train was surprising to me. At the front end there was a freight car set up with acoustic musicians playing, as in years past. On the way to Two Harbors we were treated to the Clover St. Cronies and Feeding Leroy. The return ride featured Tin Can Gin, a high energy bluegrass group who has been performing around the region from the Porcupine Mountains to Minneapolis and Duluth.

The middle cars had lots of seats, some double-decker style, and the ride up the shore is quite satisfying. The music of Bob Dylan provided a continuous accompaniment in most of these cars. There was even one car that was all dark. Something akin to a tunnel of love?

The other end of the train featured electric powerhouses Social Disaster, The Black-Eyed Snakes and Wolf Blood. And at the American Legion Hall in Two Harbors it's The Freehweelers (aka The Boomchucks) with Brad Nelson on drums and Jamie Ness vocals/lead guitar. The "after midnight" crowd could find still more music to enjoy upon returning to Fitgers, or one could save their energy for tonight's Singer/Songwriter contest (Red Herring) and tomorrow's Acoustic Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan.

Here are a few photos of what you missed.

Danny Fox (R) and his father from Chicago.
The Freewheelers, Brad Nelson (L) and Jamie Ness

Tonight Danny Fax is performing during Grog Time 5-7 p.m. at Tycoons. From there the music moves to The Red Herring Lounge for the Singer/Songwriter Competition. Be there.

The Freewheelers know how to get people on their feet.
Another year of North Country Dylan-themed events is wrapping up tonight. It's the Blood on the Tracks Express, leaving the station in less than eleven hours as I write this.

If you're wondering why the event got drop-kicked away from the rest of our Dylan Days events, it's because the bridge to Two Harbors has been under repair. According to the schedule it appeared that the train ride could not happen last week but the work would be completed for this week. Haha. Wrong. The weather got the better of everyone's plans and the famous North Shore train ride to Two Harbors is taking a detour. The music will remain grand.

The train will be leaving the station at 5:30 this evening. More than 200 tickets have been sold and today's Trib story will probably bring us even more. The DNT's Wave describes the event like this:

The train will travel in a Duluth-based loop then stop at the Depot for music at the Lake Superior Railroad Museum. The lineup of musicians is a sort of “We are the World” of local players, including Black-Eyed Snakes, Freewheelers, Dirty Horse, Red Mountain, Cowboy Angel Blue, Bitter Spills and the Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank.

The word "loop" is probably a misnomer as I do not believe we have any tracks in this area that actually go in a circle. But the effect will be the same for the travelers. There will be music at both ends of the train as in years past, acoustic at one end and electric at the other, a bar car in between. The train will go North till it can't go any further, then South for a spell. Eventually everyone will de-board at The Depot for a party there, most likely featuring The Freewheelers. After the party it's back to the train for another tour up and down the line.

Last year Sparhawk and company projected such a mesmerizing psycho-syllabic bannister of sound that the train car nearly splintered apart...

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REMINDER: Big Wu is coming. This Sunday. Tickets HERE.
Meantime, life goes on all around you. Engage it.