My mother tells a story of me as a precocious and disarmingly articulate young rebel. It takes place in the education building of the Reformed Church on Huguenot Street in New Paltz. Presented there with some Bible story and/or precept, my mother has the eight-or-nine-year-old John calmly saying, to the amusement and amazement of those assembled, “I do not subscribe to that theory.” I bet my mom knocked some years off my age, the way one adds inches to fishes in personal lore, and I sort of suspect that it never happened at all; but it does sound like me: contrarian for the hell of it, but well-armed to defend a fundamentally antagonistic stance.
I stood up to Bob Dylan like I stood up to God. I didn’t subscribe to that theory. At the root of my resistance was a simple fact: I loved music – not character, not style, not folk poetry, not politics, not relevance as defined by Jann Wenner. I loved music, and for me, there just wasn’t enough music in Bob Dylan’s music. Like Levon (I would learn years later), I couldn’t find the pocket in Dylan’s rock. It just sounded like unoriginal slop. Like Levon, I excused myself from it (while the rest of the Band went on the road with him). Like Levon, I came around eventually.
You can’t fight Bob Dylan, like you can’t fight the tide. He has achieved a cultural presence so pervasive and lasting that he is practically a feature of the Earth’s ecosystem, for reasons having less to do with Jann Wenner’s mythmaking machinery and more with the inherent properties of Dylan’s work: the poignancy and character of his language, the efficacy of its simple melodic containers, the wonderfully permissive slop of his poetic prosodics in which lines of overblown prose are miraculously pulled into verse just in time for the rhyme. You just want him speaking for you for some reason. I don’t get it. I still prefer music, but Dylan is great. I subscribe already.
In case you are just getting back from your walkabout, the Bardavon is presenting two performances by Bob Dylan: Friday and Saturday, June 23 and 24 at 8 p.m. at the Hutton Brickyards at 200 North Street in Kingston. The Saturday show is sold out, but a few tickets remain for Friday. For tickets and additional information, visit www.bardavon.org.
The Bardavon box office will close on Friday, June 23 at 3 p.m., and tickets will only be available at the Hutton Brickyards, which will only be accessible for non-ticket or non-parking pass-holders by parking at the many lots near UPAC in midtown Kingston and taking a free shuttle bus. Shuttles will begin departing from UPAC, 601 Broadway in Kingston, at 5:30 p.m. The Hutton Brickyards open at 6 p.m. There is no opening act, and the show starts promptly at 8 p.m.