Weather Forecast


Duluth Dylan Fest: Annual event returns with music, poetry and more

Illustration by Pascal Kirchmair

The annual weeklong celebration of all-things Bob Dylan is set to begin this weekend with a variety of events including concerts, poetry readings, art openings, pub trivia, and the ever-popular Blood on the Tracks Express.

Kicking off Duluth Dylan Fest's seventh year with a concert on May 20 at Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum, Robby Vee and His Rock-N-Roll Caravan will be on the bill, and it will benefit the Duluth Armory Arts and Music Center. Robby Vee is the son of Bobby Vee, a Fargo, N.D., musician who had an early but lasting impact on Dylan.

"(The Duluth Armory is) actually a really critical place in the annals of the rock 'n' roll story in this country," said Nelson French, vice president of the Music Resource Center at the Armory. He also explained the connection to Vee and the significance it had in Dylan's life.

Bobby Vee took over the headlining slot on the Winter Dance Party Tour after the plane crash that claimed the lives of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper. Dylan famously has credited seeing Buddy Holly on that tour's stop at the Duluth Armory, only two days before the fateful crash, as being a watershed moment in his life. At some point later, Dylan, going by the name Elston Gunn, would join Vee's band The Shadows for a few gigs as a piano player. Dylan said he considered Vee a "brother," and at a show in St. Paul in 2013, said Vee was the "most meaningful person I've ever been on stage with."

The concert coincides with the opening of an exhibit of Dylan memorabilia at the museum from the collection of Bill Pagel, a Dylan historian. The exhibit will run through June 20.

The festival continues with a trivia event on May 21 at Carmody Irish Pub, and an art show opening at the Zeitgeist Arts Atrium on May 22. The show will have a Dylan theme and feature music by Tom O'Keefe and friends. The art will be displayed through May 28.

May 23 will feature Greg Tiburzi playing at Sir Benedict's Tavern on the Lake as well as an open mic hosted by Marc Gartman.

May 24 is Dylan's 76th birthday, and festivities will run throughout the day. Kicking off the day's events will be music at Dylan's childhood home in Duluth. Cake will be served. This will be followed by the Poets of the North Country at the Spirit of the North Theater at Fitger's.

Ellie Schoenfeld, Duluth's poet laureate, will take part in a panel along with the three past poet laureates focusing on Dylan's lyrics and his contribution to literature, in recognition of Dylan receiving the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2016. There will also be readings of original works by the poet laureates, as well as other local poets reading original Dylan-themed work.

When asked how Dylan's work has influenced her own art, Schoenfeld pointed to the content of his lyrics and the rhythm created when put to song.

"I like his voice. I know it is a very controversial topic, but I like his voice."

She said this is true for all of Dylan's vast catalog of music. "Even when he changes the songs I love," she said. "I get it why he does it."

Ending the day's celebration will be music by The Basement Tapes Band at The Rex at Fitger's. Described as a Duluth "supergroup" by a festival organizer Zane Bail, the band will offer their take on Dylan classics.

May 25 will be the popular rolling-train concert with numerous local acts performing as the train makes its way to Two Harbors for a freewheeling performance by the Boomchucks at the American Legion before returning to Duluth.

The Duluth to Hibbing and Back Bus Tour will take place on May 26, as well as a singer-songwriter contest at Clyde Iron Works. May 27 will see a presentation titled "Roots & Echoes from the North Country" as well as a party with music at Carmody.

May 28 will say farewell to this year's Dylan Festival with a brunch at the Zeitgeist Arts Cafe and music by Jim Hall.

If you go:

• What: Duluth Dylan Festival

• When: May 20-28

• More info:, or visit Duluth Dylan Fest on Facebook, or email


• May 20: Robby Vee & His Rock-N-Roll Caravan - Armory Arts & Music Benefit, 7:30-10:30 p.m. at Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum, tickets start at $25, available at

• May 21: Dylan Pub Trivia, 9 p.m., Carmody Irish Pub, free

• May 22: Dylan themed art show opening reception, 5-7 p.m., Zeitgeist Arts Atrium, music by Tom O'Keefe and Friends, free

• May 23: Greg Tiburzi, 6:30-8 p.m, followed by Dylan Fest open mic hosted by Marc Gartman, 9-11 p.m., Sir Benedict's Tavern on the Lake, free

• May 24: Bob Dylan's 76th Birthday Celebration, 3-4 p.m, 519 N. 3rd Ave. E. (Dylan's childhood home), music by Greg Tiburzi, free. Poets of the North Country, 6:30-8:30 p.m., the Spirit of the North Theater at Fitger's, free. The Basement Tapes Band, 9 p.m., The Rex at Fitger's, tickets are $10 at the door or available at

• May 26: Blood on the Tracks Express rolling-train concert featuring Red Mountain, Rich Mattson and The Northstars, Gaelynn Lea and Al Church, Kyle Ollah, Erik Berry & Ryan Young (of Trampled By Turtles) and The Freewheelers. Train boards at 5:30 p.m. at the Duluth Depot. Tickets available at or at the Electric Fetus.

• May 26: Dylan Bus Tour from Duluth to Hibbing and Back, leaves from the Armory Arts and Music Center Annex at 9 a.m. returning at 5 p.m. Tickets are $40 at Dylan Fest singer/songwriter contest, 7 p.m., Clyde Iron Works, free

• May 27: Presentation of "Roots & Echoes from the North Country" by Dylanologist Phil Fitzpatrick, 3 p.m., at Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum, free. Dylan Fest Party with Cowboy Angel Blue at 8 p.m., Jim Hall at 11:30 p.m., at Carmody Irish Pub, free.

• May 28: Farewell brunch with music from Jim Hall, 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Zeitgeist Arts Cafe, no cover for music