First Friday, Part One: Seventh Annual Bob Dylan Birthday Bash

This was a bit of a different First Friday for me. I missed the art galleries and ate at home, both of which are rare in my usual M.O. The primary reason was the Dylan Bash though, as I’ll discuss in a separate post, there were other things happening, as well. The Dylan Bash started at 5:00 and went to 10:00, so any attempt to do anything else meant missing part of it, which hurt. I missed The Black Cadillacs and I love when they do Dylan, so I hated that, but I knew I would see them opening for Warren Haynes at the next Sundown, so I dealt.

Steve Dupree and David Dwyer at the Bob Dylan Bash, Knoxville

 Steve Dupree, longtime downtowner and David Dwyer, who you may recognize from lottery commercials and numerous movies emceed the event as they have most of the past Dylan Bashes. They both seem like very nice guys, but their in-between sets patter wears seriously thin. I’d rather see them play it a little more straight.

Matt Morelock and Steve Horton, Bob Dylan Birthday Bash, Knoxville

Matt Morelock and Steve Horton – who helps organize the event and shares a birthday with Bob – opened. I caught just the last few minutes of their set, which was pretty straight-forward folk music.

Dirty Dougs, Bob Dylan Birthday Bash, Market Square, Knoxville

The Dirty Dougs were up next and I enjoyed their set, but I was disappointed during “All Along the Watchtower” to hear the vocalist replicate Jimi Hendrix’ muffed nonsensical lyric. I love Jimi’s version and the muffed lyric adds to its charm, but if you do “All Along the Watchtower,” use the real lyrics. Unfortunately, this was only the beginning of forgotten lyrics for the night. Even with sheet music most of the artists repeated verses accidentally or forgot lyrics all together and simply stopped. It was about the worst I’ve ever seen, almost as if it was contagious.

Michael Crawley and the Crawdaddies, Bob Dylan Birthday Bash

Michael Crawley and the Crawdaddies really got things cranked up even though they had technical difficulties which ruined “Shelter from the Storm” and got the entire event behind – which ultimately caused Robinella’s set to be abbreviated. Michael played harmonica for many of the acts throughout the night and was one of the one or two best musicians to take the stage all night. He’s a great harmonica player and, apparently, all-around nice guy. The highlight of their set for me was their raspy version of “Blind Willie McTell,” which came as little surprise to anyone who had noticed Michael was wearing his Blind Willie McTell t-shirt. Hurricane was also a good choice for them, with Michael’s harmonica replacing the parts played by Scarlett Rivera’s violin on the original recording.

Lonetones, Bob Dylan Birthday Bash, Market Square, Knoxville

The Lonetones were solid, favoring music from New Morning, which was a good choice for their style with its gentle country sound.

Kelly Jolly, Bob Dylan Birthday Bash

Carole Borges and a very large cardboard guitar

Kelly Jolly’s set was played with a ukulele band and assisted by local writer Carole Borges taking up an over-sized cardboard guitar. I never quite understood the idea, but it was interesting. I enjoyed Kelly’s version of “Mozambique.”

Big Wooly with Michael Crawley

Big Wooly’s set was predictably excellent. Why predictable? Because probably the best two instrumentalists of the night were on the stage: Michael Crawley, of course, and John Montgomery, lead guitar player for the band. Most of the band are former members of Garage Deluxe and that was referenced with what sounded like bitterness. The drummer sings excellent versions of Band songs and so they focused on Basement Tapes/Big Pink era songs.

Y’uns, Bob Dylan Birthday Bash, Market Square, Knoxville, June 2011

Sabrina flips the cards, Allen Ginsburg looks on.

Y’uns had fun, as always and performed a version of “Subterranean Homesick Blues” featuring Sabrina (pulled from the audience) and a surprise appearance from the afterlife of Allen Ginsberg as they re-created the groundbreaking video from that song.

Robinella, Bob Dylan Birthday Bash, Market Square, Knoxville

Robinella wound up only doing three songs and suffering through technical problems resulting in bad audio and a changed guitar. She bravely tried born again era songs like “When He Returns,” but never built any momentum. Her voice also sounded ragged, which just isn’t her.

Tim O’Brien, Bob Dylan Birthday Bash

Dancers during Tim O’Brien

Tim O’brien, Bob Dylan Birthday Bash, Knoxville

Tim O’Brien was the big draw of the night bringing his bluegrass take to Bob’s songs. He forgot more than his share of lyrics, incorrectly said that “Senor” came from “Empire Burlesque” (it came from “Street Legal,” my all-time favorite Dylan album) and ditched the Dylan theme in the middle of his set to sing his own songs because, as he said, “I can.” I didn’t like his attitude. He’s a very talented man, but there was just something that rubbed me the wrong way about him.

“Blowin’ in the Wind” closes the show

In the end, the entire troupe took the stage for “Blowin’ in the Wind” in which they – are you ready for this – forgot the lyrics. It ended a disappointed celebration for me. I’m glad they moved it to First Friday and Market Square and I hope they continue that idea. The night had some good moments, but the best years I’ve come away amazed at the depth of our local talent and amazed all over again at what can be lovingly done with this enormous catalog of great music. Maybe next year.
I’ll end with the video I mentioned earlier. If you’ve never seen this, it’s imperative that you watch it.