Backstory on A Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan and a Reminder of Dylan's Fondness for Duluth -- Introducing Magic Marc Percansky (Part I)
Marc Percansky has been in the entertainment business since his youth. Early on he used to do magic shows, entertaining not only friends and family but also taking his act out to the world outside. In short, he has been a lifelong extrovert, easy to talk with and wholly engaging. He is currently the producer/promoter for Duluth’s upcoming A Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan.
Sunday evening he spoke with me from his mother’s home in St. Louis Park, beginning with a quote from Douglas Brinkley’s May 14, 2009 Rolling Stone interview with Bob Dylan. Percansky wanted to immediately demonstrate to naysayers that Dylan has now and always had a heart for Duluth. But whatever the question, his heart overflowed with things he wished to share and stories to tell.
“Listen to what he [Dylan] said in Rolling Stone magazine,” Percansky said, reading an excerpt from the interview:
I [Brinkley] asked Dylan if he minds people visiting Hibbing or Duluth or Minneapolis searching for the root of his talent. “Not at all,” he surprisingly says. “The town where I grew up hasn’t really changed that much so whatever was in the air before is probably still there. I go through once in a while coming down from Canada, I’ll stop there and wander around. As for Duluth where his grandparents lived, he said thinks it’s one of the country’s forgotten gems. You’ll never see another town like Duluth, he says. It’s not a tourist destination but it probably should be. It depends what season you’re in there. There’s only two seasons, damp and cold. I like the way the hills tumble to the waterfront and the way the wind blows around the grain elevators. The train yards go on forever, too. It’s old age industrial. You’ll see it from the top of the hill for miles and miles before you get there. You won’t believe your eyes. The air is so pure there. The brooks and rivers are still running, the forests are thick, and the landscape is brutal. And the sky is still blue up there. It’s still pretty untarnished, it’s still off the beaten path.”
Marc Percansky: You can only be born in one place. He does have a strong affinity for where he came from. He spent twenty years there. That shaped him. He’s talked about that and I can see that. That’s the thing with this show. It’s hard to figure… The whole state, we have a different connection than the rest of the world to him. When he says “Twilight on the frozen lake, North wind about to break, On footprints in the snow, Silence down below…” (Never Say Goodbye, Planet Waves)
We know about that frozen lake. We’re from here. We feel the same as him.
EN: What’s your background?
MP: I grew up in the Cities, a suburb called St. Louis Park. I spent most of my life here, except ten years out of here. Five years on the east coast, New York City, and five years on the west coast, Los Angeles. I know like with Bob, I’ve seen it first hand, he’s most proud of his newest work. I remember one time he had a cassette or something and he said, “Wait till you hear this.” It’s funny, because it’s like he’s never done anything great in the past. He’s got this great body of work but he’s most proud of his newest things. That’s the sign of a great artist so they can keep creating till the end.
He’s doing six or seven Tempest songs now. That’s as good an album as any of them. And I think we’ll get a few more out of him, too. He looks healthy and he’s going good. 100 dates a year.
EN: What’s the history of these concerts and how did the first one come together?
MP: There have really been three people that made this happen and kept it going. That would be Paul Metsa first, who convinced Kevin Odegard back in 2001 to get the original session players of Blood on the Tracks together and do a concert. It was at First Avenue here where Prince shot Purple Rain. And I went to that show, it was great. There were sixty bands. It was an incredible thing. They did the songs and that was the first time since 1974.
2004 comes along and there was a concert at the Pantages. Paul Metsa asks me to do a cue card skit imitating Don’t Look Back and go on stage during Lily. Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts. O.K. so I did that. That’s the video I sent to you. That’s the night I met Kevin Odegard. We became friends instantly. I felt like I’d known him forever, a great guy.
2005 comes along. I go with Kevin Odegard and Chris Weber to St. Cloud where they were inducted into the St. Cloud Hall of Fame. I ride out there with Kevin, his father and Chris Webber and I induct them. They do a few songs. There’s a museum there, the Stearns History Museum if you’re ever in St. Cloud.
2009 comes along…. There were a couple concerts I wasn’t involved in. I think they went to Hibbing. Kevin had been asking me to be more involved. I did this at my home base in St. Louis Park where we’ve had these outdoor venues every year. They’ve been benefits for Guitars for Vets, which Kevin brought in that cause. My role has increased through the years. Kevin Odegard for several years, then Billy Hallquist became involved. So it’s really those three guys. Billy has kept it going and really, my role just got bigger and bigger, and we’ve done it every years since. We added Maple Grove. They’re always in the summer, outdoor concerts, which is why this show feels a little different. It’s indoors and not really the heart of summer. There’s a different feeling about it. Also it’s not for Guitars for Vets. It’s for the Armory.
That’s where it’s at right now. And now we have a fourth person to really thank, and that’s Nelson. This wouldn’t happen without them.
The name changed because none of the original BOTT people are involved.
TO BE CONTINUED
EdNote: The full article from which Dylan's remarks about Duluth can be found in David Brinkley in-depth interview titled Bob Dylan's Late-Era, Old-Style American Individualism.
This blog entry and others like it have the aim of raising awareness for the upcoming Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan concert which will kick off the 2014 North Country Dylan Celebration in Duluth and Hibbing. For tickets to this great event visit dulutharmory.org/events.