If the marquee outside didn’t make it clear enough, then the copious amount of cars parked along Beck St. on Friday night was hard evidence that something pretty special was going on inside The Garage. To commemorate the 72nd birthday of music legend Bob Dylan, hundreds of people turned out for the third annual “Dylan Birthday Bash.” A bunch of local bands, such as David Williams, Bullets and Belles, Hectic Hobo and Matteo, all played Dylan songs well into the night.
The tunes started a little after 8 p.m., just as the sun began to set, and it didn’t take long before Dylan’s signature sound, with a guitar and harmonica, filled the air. Local musician Christian Coleman kicked off the night with a handful of classic Dylan tunes, “Highway 61 Revisited,” “One More Cup of Coffee,” “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” “Maggie’s Farm” and “Just Like A Woman.”
Following Coleman, Tara Shupe played a set of obscure tunes from Dylan’s Bootleg Series Vol. 1-3, including “Walkin’ Down the Line” and “No More Auction Block.” Up next on the outside stage was Chanda Charmayne, who played great versions of “Positively 4th Street,” “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” and “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” Charmayne also read aloud the song “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding),” which was great to hear Dylan’s lyrics all by themselves, without any music.
As the hours rolled by, I was largely impressed by the performances. It’s impossible to replicate the way Dylan delivered his lengthy, poetic verses and harmonica solos with such strong conviction, but the bands pulled off their sets nicely. You could tell that all of the musicians that played had a lot of respect and gratitude toward Dylan, which helped their cover songs feel more authentic and real.
Some of the night’s best moments included Matteo’s set, as their traditional Chinese instruments probably created some of the most unique Dylan covers ever played. And Hectic Hobo’s lively rendition of “Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35” was also a highlight of the evening, as the crowd sang along to the famous chorus, “Everybody must get stoned!”
Aside from the music, there was also a raffle for some Dylan goodies, including tickets to his Aug. 1 show at USANA Amphitheatre, as well as some bootleg recordings and posters. With two stages to choose from, it was a bit hard to relax and enjoy the music, as I alternated in and out of the bar to see who was playing inside, and who was getting set up to play on the stage outside.
Overall, this was an impressive display of gratitude for Dylan by a bunch of great local bands, and the large crowd that turned out also showed the impact Dylan’s songs continue to have on so many people. Check out our photos from the event here.