Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan - 2014

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Fans of Dylan unite in St. Louis Park

Musicians perform a Bob Dylan song. The Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan returns to Maple Grove and St. Louis Park this year. (Submitted photo)

Musicians perform a Bob Dylan song. The Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan returns to Maple Grove and St. Louis Park this year. (Submitted photo)

With five years of Bob Dylan tributes at St. Louis Park’s Veterans Memorial Amphitheater complete, another crowd is set to gather for the annual concert – and that’s just on the stage.

About 20 musicians are booked to perform at the Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan concert 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 9, at the amphitheater in Wolfe Park, 3700 Monterey Drive. The concert comes shortly after another Dylan tribute show 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 6, at the Town Green in Maple Grove.

The annual event began its life as Blood on the Tracks Live and featured musicians who performed with Dylan on his “Blood on the Tracks” album. The show is no longer a reunion of those musicians, per se, but has become an opportunity for Minnesota musicians like Patty Peterson and Dan Israel to celebrate the songs of one of Minnesota’s most famous native sons.

California-based violinist Scarlet Rivera is set to join this year. She contributed to Dylan’s “Desire” and “Hard Rain” albums.

The shows have a history of drawing a crowd in the audience as well, including on a cool, damp day at last year’s St. Louis Park performance.

“We even drew last year even though it was about 9 degrees,” joked Billy Hallquist, who has taken over organizing the tribute concerts. “It was raining right up until it started. It was a large, enthusiastic crowd. Very few left because of the cold. They were still rocking when we were ready to quit.”

The event has become popular enough that Hallquist said he has to turn away musicians who want to participate.

“It’s an established event, so I actually have requests from people every year who want to join the fold who I can’t honor because I already have enough bodies to fill the stage and more,” Hallquist said.

The music sustains its fan base because Dylan became an iconic figure back in the ‘60s who still tours endlessly, Hallquist said.

“There are people my age who grew up and became fascinated with him and the music,” Hallquist said. “If he wasn’t such a prolific and extremely talented songwriter he would have faded, but he maintains that edge.”

When Dylan performs, he sometimes adds a twist to one of his classic songs. The Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan this year also will provide a few unusual versions of his tunes, like a reggae version of “Blowin’ in the Wind” and a blues version of “Don’t Think Twice.”

“We kind of take the stuff and we breathe a little bit of new life in it,” Hallquist said.

The musicians at the tribute will also play some songs in styles similar to the original versions.

All of the Twin Cities tribute shows have benefited Guitars for Vets, which provides guitars and lessons as a type of therapy for veterans.

Hallquist met Rivera at another tribute show, a Duluth concert at Sacred Heart Music Center that benefitted the restoration of an historic armory. She is set to play a handful of songs at the Twin Cities tributes, including “Hurricane.” At the Duluth concert, Hallquist noted that he and Rivera spontaneously played songs they had not rehearsed previously.

Hallquist is among several Minnesota musicians who are also scheduled to play with  her at the Dakota Jazz Club in Minneapolis 7 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 10. She will play some original songs as well as some Dylan covers.

Hallquist said her planned appearance at the tribute shows has energized the other musicians.

“The addition of Scarlet really takes it to another level,” he said. “Everybody’s just chomping at the bit and rarin’ to go.”

Rivera declined to discuss her original chance meeting with Dylan in New York but said she appreciates playing Dylan’s tunes in Minnesota.

“I like playing with the great musicians. Minnesota is filled with great musicians,” Rivera said. “Any time I can be involved in a salute with Bob Dylan it’s a given that I would want to do it, especially in Minneapolis.”

Dylan introduced her to many of her friends in Minnesota, she added.

“Of course, I owe pretty much my career to Bob Dylan,” she said.

As for the tribute show, she said, “I can’t comment on something I didn’t do yet.”

However, she briefly discussed her thoughts on her association with Dylan.

“It was the most extraordinary part of my life and my career,” Rivera said. “It’s the springboard to everything I’ve done.”

When asked about Dylan’s music, she said, “Genius, in a word. There is no other lyricist that has the depth of lyrics that he has that has appeared in this century or into the 21st century. He’s the inspiration to all the other ones. No matter how good they are, they’re not Bob Dylan.”

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