Things Have Changed … But Not Everything
The Is It Rolling Bob Band made its debut last night at Oskar Blues in the small but musically mighty village of Lyons, about fifteen miles north of Boulder.
It was Bob Dylan celebration night at Oskar, and there were 20 or 21 various combinations of solos to bands, each getting the chance to do two songs written by Uncle Bob. In a little over four hours.
Sharon and Kris and I had gone up in January for Beatles night, and Sharon and Steve were there in December for Neil Young night.
So we put in a bid for Mallworthy (Gil Asakawa, Sharon Meyer, Steve Meyer and me) to play Bob Dylan Night and were selected by intrepid promoter and musician Jami Lunde to perform a (relatively) recent song, “Things Have Changed,” and “I Shall Be Released,” an old favorite that Gil and I have closed our sets on the Boulder Mall with for twenty-five years,
After the selection Gil and Steve both found they would be out of town that night. A flurry of emails later, and Sharon, who plays mandolin, and I were joined by Kris Ditson, a drummer who most recently has worked with Pete Wernick’s Flexigrass, Rob Ober, who lives two doors up the street from me and plays about anything you put in front of him, on bass, and Patrick Cullie, our local connection (he lives about two blocks from Oskar), who has picked with Gil and I in the past and plays a mean slide guitar. I was humbled to be working, if only for two songs, with such talented people on short notice.
We practiced without Patrick once and then Tuesday night we all got together and ran through the two songs a few times each. We figured driving up that since Oskar Blues is the home of Dales Pale Ale, king of craft beers, it wouldn’t matter if we sucked.
It was already crowded when we got there, and with fifty musicians as part of the crowd in the basement, it stayed that way all the way to the end. And it was really noisy.
Watching the talent on this night, all I could think of was that Lyons, a town of less than two thousand, is a little mini version of Austin, Texas, with talented musicians in many genres. The song selection was eclectic and unpredictable. I didn’t take notes, but I’d guess the most popular Dylan album of the night was Blood on the Tracks. Among the highlights I remember was a bluegrass quartet, Steamboat Zephyr, that absolutely smoked its way through “Quinn the Eskimo” and “Odds and Ends,” both from the Basement tapes and perfect candidates for their picking frenzy.
Several solo performers did courageous performances of intricate Dylan songs in a room that was filled with too many people to properly appreciate the subtleties. Everybody cheered loudly as Dave McIntyre, who books the entertainment, sat on the other side of the mike for the first time ever with a mandolin player named Greg Schocket and played spirited versions of “Spanish Harlem Incident” and “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues.” Schocket later accompanied Lunde for two numbers, included a nice “She Belongs to Me.” Reed Foehl kept the crowd’s attention with great versions of “Visions of Johanna” and “Every Grain of Sand.”
We were 18th on the bill, so I missed a few in front of us getting ready, but the biggest surprise was the debut performance of the Blue Maddies, five or six ladies in various western outfits that included stage manager KC Groves. I can’t remember the first song, but I will never forget the closer, “Boots of Spanish Leather.” As they reached for the high harmonies I had never heard on that song before, I felt like I could have been in Ryman Auditorium fifty years ago hearing the Carter Family. Just one of those moments where it all comes together.
With that to buoy us, the Is It Rolling Bob Band moved onstage and made its way through “Things Have Changed” and “I Shall Be Released.” I seldom work with amplification, but everything seemed to work pretty well, and thanks to a cheat sheet scotch-taped to my guitar, I made it through “Things Have Changed” for the first time without blowing the words. Everybody danced and sang along to the final chorus of “I Shall Be Released” as we sang it a capella.
And you know, for those of us who perform even just occasionally, that’s what it’s all about, folks. Thanks to Jami and Dave and KC and Michael and Sean and everybody else who helps put on these lunatic affairs. Hope we get to do it again sometime.
p.s. There was video shot of our performance. i’ll keep you posted on when that will become available.