When music journalist and singer/songwriter Geoffrey Himes put together the inaugural Night of 1,000 Dylans last year, he had high expectations for the showcase of Bob Dylan's music.
But Himes was surprised at just how great the response was: Baltimore music lovers came out in droves, packing the Creative Alliance at the Patterson and selling out the show.
This year, Himes organized the second Night of 1,000 Dylans, which takes place Saturday at the Creative Alliance. While there won't exactly be 1,000 Dylans, there will be seven local acts, each playing about three songs from Dylan's catalog. Few of the numbers from last year will be repeated, and none of the artists will duplicate songs, Himes said. That isn't a problem — there are, after all, a host of tunes to pick from.
Dylan "created a body of work that's inexhaustible," Himes said. "There's always some nook or cranny in the song that you've never discovered before, and it's a pleasure when you do discover it."
The lineup spans the musical spectrum, from power-pop singer/songwriter Ellen Cherry to rock group the Beltways and blue-eyed soul singer Junior Cline. Himes is particularly amped about Howard Markman and the Stone Hill All-Stars, a band that features members from two Baltimore bands of years past — Two Legs and the Polkats.
"I didn't want to have an all-acoustic show," he said.
He didn't give the bands much direction, either.
"I picked people who I like and who I trust, and said, 'Pick three Dylan songs and do them however you want to do them.' The more original, the better."
As far as Himes is concerned, Dylan's songs were meant to be rearranged. Dylan himself makes it a point to change up his own songs as often as possible. No two performances are the same. Sometimes it can be a minute or two before the audience even recognizes what he's playing.
The three songs Cherry plans on performing span Dylan's career: "Things Have Changed," "Beyond Here Lies Nothin' " and "Obviously Five Believers." Of those three, "Things Have Changed" is Cherry's favorite; she has performed it live for years now, she said.
"I love the words," she said. "It talks about being out of the loop, and how he used to care about stuff that's no longer important to him. That appeals to me, because I'm trying to focus on the things that are really important and not worry about the white noise going on in the rest of the world."
Cline will be playing "Knockin' On Heaven's Door," among others, and Lea Gilmore will play "Blowin' in the Wind."
"It draws some attention to amazing songwriting, and it brings in musicians from a lot of different backgrounds and areas of interest," said Megan Hamilton, Creative Alliance's program director. "People may not recognize the band names, but they know Dylan's name, so they come and they get to know who Ellen Cherry is."
It's been almost 50 years since Dylan's first, self-titled album, and in that time, Dylan has put out dozens upon dozens of records. He's still making new music and releasing bootlegs on a regular basis, and turns 69 two days after the Night of 1,000 Dylans.
"He's done it so long, and he's still making interesting music and writing interesting songs," Himes said.
Typically, Dylan tributes end with an ensemble performing one of two songs: "Blowin' in the Wind" or "I Shall Be Released." But a lot of Dylan fans are tired of that same old routine, Himes said. Saturday's show will close with "Chimes of Freedom," which has six verses — more than enough for all the performers to be featured.
If this year's event also sells out, Himes plans on making it an annual tradition — just like the Night of 1,000 Elvises.
"I'm a huge Elvis Presley fan, too," he said. "You can make an argument that Elvis is the greatest American singer of the 20th century and Bob Dylan was the greatest songwriter. There's a symmetry in that sense."
If you go
Night of 1,000 Dylans starts at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Creative Alliance at the Patterson, 3134 Eastern Ave. Tickets are $15 at the door or $12 in advance and for members. Call 410-276-1651 or go to creativealliance.org.