It started when Bob Dylan turned 60. May 24, 2001. Billy Bob Productions decided to throw a party at Club One, the basement club on lower Crescent St. which had become our unofficial headquarters for many a visiting artist. (Fred Eaglesmith, Chris Smither, Steve Forbert, Chris Whitley, Tom Russell, Ray Bonneville, Dan Bern, Jimmy Lafave, Alejandro Escovedo, Eric Andersen, Melissa Ferrick, Stacey Earle, Todd Snider & Ron Sexsmith all played there.) I don’t remember much but I do remember a constant stream of musicians, fans and other assorted types (including legendary Montreal DJ Dean Hagopian) from early evening until closing time when Frank Marino blasted out “Like A Rolling Stone” while being backed up by The Capones (Scott Mitchell, Steve Creep & Brian Smith). I also remember a lot of smoke. And what had to be a great night at the bar for owner Gerry O’Regan (but we never could get a straight answer from Gerry-although he always did follow through with those promised U2 tickets).
Four months later Dylan delivered one of his finest albums ever – Love And Theft. It was released on September 11. And our world changed forever.
It was a more subdued affair five years later in the music room upstairs at Hurley’s. We met an impressive young woman named Leela for the first time, who belted out a soulful version of “Oh Sister” and left me wondering why I hadn’t previously heard of her. And there was a younger guy – name unknown – who’s proud immigrant father beamed the entire way through an incredible version of “Abandoned Love” that bowled over the many Dylan vets in the room.
We finally moved off Crescent Street for Dylan’s 70th – a loud, lively, ramshackle, curfew-busting, bursting-beyond-capacity event at Petit Campus. If you still haven’t heard about it this one’s for you.
Which brings us up to date. At 75 Dylan is still confounding critics and fans alike. He’s into his Sinatra phase, which doesn’t make for the liveliest of concert dates but who doesn’t already know this and who really cares? I find it all so amusing. Just listen to his commitment to the words of American songwriting masters on his last two Sinatra-inspired albums “Shadows in the Night” and “Fallen Angels”. This is very heavy shit to Dylan. And if you’re not moved by his performances I don’t know what you’re doing still reading this. Or maybe you just haven’t lived enough.
But back to the birthday bash. We knew we’d need a bigger room this time. Club Soda – with a cabaret seating capacity of about 540 – was the perfect fit. Once our spiritual advisor Andrew Besner passed away, we also knew we needed to present the night in his honour. And once again, Montreal and area musicians answered the call without hesitation. Sam Roberts was in Europe and sent not only a classy note of encouragement but a rare recording of his version of Dylan’s haunting “Dark Eyes”. Paul Deslauriers was being honoured by his hometown of Cornwall. Rob Lutes was at a music festival in the Maritimes. Some of our favourite female vocalists couldn’t make it as well. Felicity Hamer and Laurel Jackson both gave birth (congratulations ladies!) while Bobby Dove was recording in Nashville. We tried to get Nikki Yanofsky to represent the current Sinatra phase and while she gave it some serious thought, she ultimately had to pass while deep into production of her next album, a project that includes Wyclef Jean. The fact that Dawn Tyler-Watson was able to surprise and wow the crowd as a (very) late addition more than made up for a couple of other major surprises we had planned but didn’t materialize.
As most of you know by now, the night was beautiful and long with so many memorable and touching moments in front of a sold out crowd. Photographer Tim Snow captured it all. Please check out the photos – many appearing for the first time – in a separate blog underneath this one. Or you can find them here.
Before I get to the complete set list – I must point out that the event would not have been possible without the considerable time and energy and hustle and Montreal music smarts of Shane Murphy. (Shane elicited some grumbling – I’m told – for veering away from the Dylan songbook. This was done at my request. I asked Shane to pay tribute to some of the music giants we had recently lost by performing “He’ll Have To Go”, a Jim Reeves classic Shane initially heard via Ry Cooder’s Chicken Skin album. It’s a highlight of any Shane Murphy set and it certainly registered with the vast majority of music lovers in the club. Were the sourpusses also upset that he saluted Gord Downie with a brief acapella version of “New Orleans Is Sinking”?)
An extra nod as well to several of the musicians who played until after 2 AM for, well, me basically. I didn’t get a chance to really unwind until it was over at about 12:45. And I wanted to hear more from the comfort of a table facing the stage rather than where I spent most of the night side stage or from behind a curtain. So me and 20 or so of my closest friends appreciated the extra effort of Jesse Stone and his band (“Is Your Love in Vain?”), The Jimmyriggers (“Queen Jane Approximately” & “Trying To Get To Heaven”), Terry Joe Banjo (“Ballad Of Hollis Brown”), Annakin Slayd, Leesa Mackey & Dennis Peikos (“Jokerman” & “History”), Alec McElcheran, Alex Lebel & Shane Murphy (“It Ain’t Me, Babe” & “Tangled Up In Blue”) and Bilal Butt who closed out the proceedings with a wonderful version of his own composition (again – at my request) “Soldier Girl”.
Thanks again to Rubin Fogel, Arlene Slavin, sound man Yves Moquin and the entire staff at Club Soda. Thanks as well to Steve’s Music (especially Lenny), Pat Steele, Anna Mushynski, Leonard Yelle, Kesh Dheer, Allyson Rennie, Bill Brownstein, Walter Lyng, Erik Leijon, Aaron Rand, Barry Morgan, Terry Dimonte, Bilal (for the) Butt, Chris Bury & Mathew Wood.
Special thanks to Shane Murphy, Howard Bilerman, Lloyd Fischler, Gary Silverman, Howard Stotland, Cheryl Besner and Sheila & Jerry Kreaden. And Andy.
- Opening remarks – PHOENIX
- “Subterranean Homesick Blues” – Jesse Stone (Vocals), Daniel Mayer (electric guitar), Claude Remillard (electric guitar), Alec McElcheran (electric bass), David Lines (keyboards), Daniel Moscovitch (drums), Michael Lett (saxophone), Scott Bevin (trumpet), Alex Desjardins (trombone), Tennessee Maciol (cue cards).
- “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” – Jesse Stone & same as above.
- “Gotta Serve Somebody” – Jim Zeller (vocals & harmonica), Jesse Stone (vocals), Jean Millaire (electric guitar), Alec McElcheran (electric bass), David Lines (keyboards), Daniel Moscovitch (drums)
- “When I Paint My Masterpiece” – Norm Rennie (vocals & acoustic guitar), Jim Zeller (harmonica & backup vocals), Terry Joe Banjo (mandolin & backup vocals)
- “Song To Woody” – Terry Joe Banjo (w/mandolin)
- “Masters Of War” – Jason Rockman (vocals) & Rhishi Dhir (acoustic guitar)
- “It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry” – Chris Pennington (w/electric guitar)
- “License To Kill” – Juarez 5 – Hallie Gyles (vocals), Jaime Roskies (electric guitar), Barry Goodz (electric guitar), Mitchell Goldberg (electric bass), Tony Odze (drums)
- “Day Of The Locusts” – The Steamfitters – Peter Kalichman (vocals & acoustic guitar), Marc Gold (electric guitar), Gordon Langsner (electric bass), Richard Weiss (drums)
- “I Wanna Be Your Lover” – The Steamfitters
- “New Morning” – Lazarus Moan – Mark Goodwin (vocals & electric guitar), Ron Stutz (electric guitar & vocals), Stuart Patterson (electric bass), Eric Lemoyne (keyboards), Robert Harris (drums)
- “Shelter From The Storm” – Bilal Butt (vocals & acoustic guitar), Alec McElcheran (electric bass), Daniel Moscovitch (drums)
- “Switching back and forth from academic to literary publishing will be as easy as dancing on the hood of a car or so it says in the latest Quarterly Review of White Snake videos” – poem by Dave McGimpsey (from his latest book Asbestos Heights)
- “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding) – Annakin Slayd (vocals), Dennis Peikos (acoustic guitar), Leesa Mackey (tambourine & vocals)
- “Buckets Of Rain” – The Muddy Wheel – Michael Di Re (vocals & acoustic guitar), Gabriel Forget (stand up bass), Eric Kappauf (pump organ)
- “Ballad In Plain D” – Lee-la Baum (vocals & acoustic guitar) & Tom Shemmer (electric guitar
- “Spanish Harlem Incident” – Lee-la & Tom (The Damn Truth)
- “My Back Pages” – Craig Morrison (lead vocals & electric guitar), Alex Nesrallah (keyboard), Pat Loiselle (electric guitar), Stuart Patterson (electric bass), Terry Joe Banjo (banjo), Robert Harris (drums)
- “The Times They Are A-Changin'” – Alex Nesrallah (lead vocals & acoustic guitar), Same as above w/ Morrison on keyboards
- “Watching The River Flow” – Pat Loiselle (lead vocals & electric guitar), Same as above
- “Stuck Inside of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again” – Hotel2Tango All Stars (Blonde On Blonde Tribute) – Howard Bilerman (drums), Molly Sweeney (lead vocal & keyboard), Neil Holyoak (vocals & acoustic guitar), Steve Herskovitz (vocals & harmonica), Chris Velan (vocals & electric guitar), Joel Katz (electric bass)
- “Visions Of Johanna” – Neil Holyoak (lead vocal)
- “I Want You” – Steve Herskovitz (lead vocal)
- “Absolutely Sweet Marie” – Chris Velan (lead vocal)
- “One More Cup Of Coffee” – Tim Kingsbury of Arcade Fire (lead vocal & acoustic guitar) w/ Hotel2Tango All Stars
- “Mr. Tambourine Man” – Kirk Fontaine & Larry Cassini of The Echo Hunters (vocals & acoustic guitar)
- “With God On Our Side” – Johnny Griffin (lead vocal & acoustic guitar) & Mackenzie Myatt (violin & vocals) of John Jacob Magistery
- “If You Gotta Go, Go Now” – The Jimmyriggers – David Pearce (lead vocal & electric bass), Andre Kirtchoff (vocals & electric guitar), Kevin Moquin (electric guitar), Robert Harris (drums)
- “Lay Lady Lay” – The Jimmyriggers
- “Everything Is Broken” – The Nils – Carlos Soria (lead vocals & electric guitar), Mark Donato (electric guitar & vocals), Phil Psarakos (electric guitar & vocals), Emelien (drums) & Peter Wark (harmonica)
- “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” – The Nils
- “Ballad Of A Thin Man” – Bud Rice (lead vocals & electric guitar), Dave Gossage (electric guitar), David Pearce (bass), Alex Lebel (keyboard), Anthony Lombardi (drums)
- “Positively 4th Street” – Bud Rice Band (same as above)
- “Forever Young” – Dawn Tyler Watson (lead vocal) & Bud Rice Band
- “New Orleans Is Sinking > In My Time Of Dying > He’ll Have To Go > Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat > Baby Let Me Follow You Down” – Shane Murphy (vocals & electric guitar), Tony Albino (drums), JB Carbou (bass), Julie Lamontagne (keyboard)
- “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” – Kevin Parent (lead vocals & acoustic guitar) & Jim Zeller (harmonica & back up vocals)
- “Quinn The Eskimo” – Kevin Parent (lead vocals & acoustic guitar), Jim Zeller (harmonica & back up vocals) & Terry Joe Banjo (banjo & back up vocals)
- “Like A Rolling Stone” – Shane Murphy (lead vocal 1st verse & electric guitar), Kevin Parent (lead vocal 2nd & 4th verses & acoustic guitar), Jesse Stone (lead vocal 3rd verse), Tony Albino (drums), JB Carbou (bass), Julie Lamontagne (keyboard)
- “All Along The Watchtower” – Shane Murphy (lead vocals & electric guitar), Kevin Parent (acoustic guitar), Tony Albino (drums), JB Carbou (bass), Julie Lamontagne (keyboard)
- “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” – Everybody