I was apprehensive about attending this year’s Dylanfest. The ghosts of Dylan parties and other things past floated heavily about my mind that morning. It was the first big party we threw in a brand now house by a fairly new newlywed all those years ago. Fast or not so fast forward 25 years later and I attend this year’s festivities as a fairly new divorcee. So many gone but a few still remain from those long ago days. So many new and wonderful faces now and even a few brand new shiny pennies at this year’s event for the first time, like the wonderful friend of Renee, Patrick and Andy’s, Chris from all the way across the pond and my bass playing business partner, Michael who had the good fortune of both first time attendance and a first musical debut with Al Diesen, the Italian Dylan and the Title Trackers.
Still, I didn’t want to go. I thought back to how many of these new and improved out of the backyard Dylan events I had been to. In my mind, I always think I’ve only been to one of these and yet this will be the fifth one in a row for me. That surprised me. A few more years and it overtakes the number of backyard parties, which as one of the logistical hosts all those years ago, takes on a quite different patina both in heart and head of those days gone by.
But go I did and miss I did the surprise rendition of Desolation Row. Not only my favorite Bob song but my favorite song ever. I was stunned at first as I was given so many reasons why a song like that could not be done at Dylanfest by Andy, one of the co-hosts. I guess it was the Sierras talking that night or as good seeds often do when planted well, they grew into a fine conclusion. No matter. That song belongs to just Bob and me. Always will. I can hear lots of folks do lots of Dylan but Desolation Row is just different for me. I discovered and loved it sometime in my late teens. I don’t remember quite the circumstances and they truly do not matter. It is not a song brought to me a by a beau or a concert or a trip to Italy. It just WAS one day and there it has always stayed and always will.
It was such a beautifully buoyant event this year. Perhaps that’s just the mind playing tricks when juxtaposed against the stormy finale of last year’s downpour but I don’t think so. A bout with a fascist foot and lots of heel pain kept me in my chair for most of the day. I saved the dancing for only the choicest of songs. I didn’t spend the day doing a marathon of running around fueled by caffeine and booze and missing most of the music as I always do. I sat my chair outside the musician’s tent and had the most enjoyable of conversations with some long time folks there 25 years ago in the backyard like Karen and Bobby and some brand new ones, one kind or crazy enough to share his fine mix of wine and ginger ale with me. The absolute hilarity of watching Dave do his sign language for the deaf and demented during the Mr. Tambourine Man finale was nothing short of brilliant and brought to mind how much fun that boy was all those years ago and can still be. It did my heart so good to see my long time neighbors and friends who hosted the 1997 Dylan party the year my son was born, shed their sorrow for awhile to come out and get a shot of musical joy so much needed in their lives today. The power of music to heal unbearable wounds and to join humanity in a communion of camaraderie is no better evident than at these events. It is a nod to the passion and the power of Bob’s words and to those who truly hear those words, like our hosts Andy and Renee and the other 400 some odd attendees this year.
I did walk about a bit certainly, but the restful and calming effect of just listening to the music undisturbed by the blurred passing of hundreds of people in my frenetic pace to see and say hello to all was bliss. Movement in our lives is inevitable if we choose to lead a life of wonder and interest. In a recent talk by Maria Shriver I attended, she said she told her children that she did not want to see their 20 or 30 or 40 or 50 year old selves as the same person. She wanted to meet someone different each time. A thought well put. If we stay stagnant and in the same shoes cemented to the same ideas and thoughts year after year, decade after decade, we will miss the joys and excitement and enlightenment unique to each period of one’s life. It is not necessary to abandon our old selves completely, but rather to bring with us the best of what we were and weave our newfound wonders around it. If I had succumbed, as unfortunately many do, to the sadness or the anxiety that enveloped me that morning, I would have missed the joy of one of the best Dylanfests I have ever attended. If I had not chosen stillness over painful prancing yesterday, I might have missed a lot of nice conversation and certainly a lot of great musical moments. There is a time in life to move and a time to sit quite still, the trick is doing both well and at the necessary intervals.