Local musicians pay tribute to Bob Dylan's influence

Contact Reporterhbridges@vagazette.com

Bob Dylan may have turned 75 a week ago, but his birthday celebration continues this weekend in Williamsburg.

Five bands from around the region will present nearly four hours of Dylan's catalogue in "Forever Young: Bob Dylan's 75th Birthday Celebration," a tribute concert at Kimball Theatre.

With no song repeated, and no interpretation the same, the tribute is fitting for an artist whose musical influence stretches across nearly five decades and counting.

"It's really great to hear all these people's take on it," said Steve Fisher of Tin Can Fish Band, a Richmond-based folk rock and roots group.

Tin Can Fish Band joins Williamsburg's Blind and Dirty, Exit 231, Willie Tintype and Blue Ribbon, from Hampton Roads, on stage Saturday.

The concert is one of a series of musical tributes, organized by Second Sundays founder Shirley Vermillion and Blind and Dirty guitarist James Drake, uniting and highlighting musicians from the area's music scene. You might remember the Grateful Dead tribute show that filled the Kimball last fall, as well as a musical homage to the 1950s held earlier this year.

The tributes will now continue under the umbrella of CultureFix, a cultural events nonprofit recently formed in Williamsburg. Vermillion said an '80s tribute is on tap for late summer.

But Dylan takes the spotlight on Saturday, and for many of the musicians taking the stage, the songwriter's influence is largely personal.

"When I first heard his music, it inspired me to write my own songs," said Wyatt Baldwin, 18, who opens the show.

Baldwin plays around Williamsburg with his band South Bound Hounds, but he performs solo as Willie Tintype, a folk and blues one-man band. The Warhill High School graduate reminded Vermillion of a young Dylan when she first watched Baldwin perform.

Baldwin said, in addition to Dylan covers, he's planned some Woody Guthrie tunes and other traditional folk songs that likely influenced Dylan years ago.

Similarly, other bands performing Saturday made unexpected choices in set list.

You'll hear the classics as, say, Tin Can Fish Band performs "All Along the Watchtower." But in that same set, the band also plays "Buckets of Rain," an acoustic number off Blood on the Tracks that Fisher said Dylan rarely performs live.

Blue Ribbon, a four-piece alternative group, chose a similarly eclectic set.

"They're kind of deep cuts," said Chris Ambrosino, Blue Ribbon's guitar and keyboard player.

"We're the kind of band that plays music that's off the beaten path," he said. "I would expect our Dylan set to be the same."

They'll be joined for one song by Claire Gordon, 15, daughter of band member Jim Gordon. It's a fitting touch – Ambrosino said many of the band members discovered Dylan through their parents, himself included.

James Drake, of Blind and Dirty, has been a Dylan fan for more than 25 years.

"Personally, he's a big influence on a lot of the music that I play," Drake said.

Blind and Dirty will close the show with the group's high-energy rock sound.

Dylan's is the rare catalogue that could unite five bands with five different sounds.

"He's been so monumental in the field," Ambrosino said. "And he's written so many great songs for so many people besides himself."

"It was so very poetic," Ambrosino said of Dylan's lyrical genius.

But it was genius without pretentiousness, and therein lies much of Dylan's impact on Fisher, vocalist and songwriter for Tin Can Fish Band.

"They just have a lot of layers in them without being too self-conscious," Fisher said of Dylan's songs. "They just connect in a really cool way without a whole lot of bells and whistles."

Bridges can be reached by phone at 757-345-2342.

Want to go?

When: 7 p.m., June 4

Where: Kimball Theatre, 424 W. Duke of Gloucester St.

Tickets: $20, available by calling 565-8588 or online at tinyurl.com/jtvmjbx.

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