Sunday, May 21, 2017

Robby Vee Sets Duluth Dylan Fest In Motion with His Rock N Roll Caravan

There's a reason Robby Vee and his Rock N Roll Caravan are in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. They're just that good. And they make you want to move your feet.

Last night Vee & Company produced mounds of smiles at Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum, the former Christian Science Church building that sits across from St. Luke's. Despite the bitter rains, the house was packed for the kickoff to Duluth Dylan Fest.

The show opened with Nelson French of the Armory Arts and Music Center (AAMC) board welcoming us and giving an update on the status of the Armory for which this event was a fundraiser and awareness raiser. French shared that there is an investor ready to do the renovation once the last hurdle is overcome pertaining the parking. He then introduced three students from the AAMC who did an admirable set of five songs before yielding to the main event.

Robby Vee proved to be the perfect entry into the week. Nearly every hard core Dylan fan is familiar with the Dylan/Buddy Holly connection. What many have forgotten is the Dylan/Bobby Vee connection. You can read the details here and here. Vee's show last night demonstrated how all these events were intertwined in Bobby Vee and Dylan's careers.

The acoustics at Karpeles are second to none. This is a sanctuary designed for effective music appreciation, whether chamber music or last night's rockabilly. The band had perfectly modulated their sound for the occasion. (It would have been easy for them to have blasted us out of the place.) You could tell Jeff "Crash Boom Bang It Out" Bjork on drums had his kit set up so he could indeed bang it out while not blowing us away.

In fact, the show opened with Bjork giving a wake up call that brought to mind the Gene Krupa classic Sing Sing Sing and made you appreciate what drums can add to a show.

Robby Vee and the Caravan are not only talented musicians, they're also professional showmen, as was demonstrated on many occasions during their two sets. The second half of the show featured a lot of music by Vee's father Bobby and the great rock inspiration Buddy Holly, and of course a bit of Dylan along with heartfelt comments showing his appreciation for the Northland's Native Son.

I had an epiphany last night during Robby Vee's slammin' set  of classic Buddy Holly covers, perhaps it was during Peggy Sue, or perhaps it was during one of his father's hits like Rubber Ball and Come Back When You Grow Up Girl. The insight was something like this. I've always felt there was a great divide between the dance music of early rock and roll and the intellectual themes that Dylan injected into the pop music scene. That would not have been so terrible to see two different streams of rock and roll, but what I've done most of my life is to see the latter as superior and the former inferior. As a result I never embraced what Elvis had brought to the table, nor Buddy Holly to the extent that we've since come to call his death "the day the music died." It's apparent that Dylan himself never made this distinction, speaking most highly of these important singers, including Robby's father. Dylan's inspiration came from mining all of the "great American songbook," internalizing it and making it new.

There's no business like show business.
By the second set last night there were a lot of people on their feet, shuffling, potato digging, doing the watusi, and just plain having fun. If you weren't there you missed a great show. You can make up for it, though, as they will be playing at the State Fairgrounds during the Back to the Fifties care show June 24. Classic cars and classic music... a nostalgic walk through time.

I'll write more about the Bill Pagel exhibit soon. Meantime, life goes on all around you. Get into it. 

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