Hibbing, Minnesota-Dylan Symposium Review

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The trip to Hibbing was great. The weather was unnaturally warm – at this time of year the ground is normally covered in snow and there are winds with temperatures below freezing. Instead Minnesota was in a heatwave with temperatures in the 80s (f) and no snow at all. The first thing that struck me about Hibbing was its sheer isolation – it was a 3.5 hour journey north from Minneapolis and the number of towns diminishes as you get further north. The landscape is totally flat & covered in trees. Hibbing itself is small – it really only has one main street that is not very long – you could walk its complete length in about 5 minutes. It was really strange being in a place that I had read about so many times. It gave me a much clearer appreciation of where Dylan came from and the type of life / culture / geography that he fled from.

We went on a tour of Hibbing, including the open pit mine, the school and Bob’s house. We were able to go in the house and chat with the current owner (who admitted to not being a great Dylan fan, although he had Dylan music on). The house is really small with only three rooms downstairs – only a few people could get in at once. The current owner has painted a mural of the Blood on the Tracks cover on the garage.

We eat at Zimmy’s Bar and met up with BJ Rolfsen.

I sat next to a guy from New York who had seen Dylan many times in NYC including the Abandoned Love performance. He also told me a story of how he smuggled a tape recorder into the Night of the Hurricane Concert and taped it from the third row. He arranges to swop a copy of the cassette for some photos a woman was taking. He gave her the cassette and heard no more. His copy of the cassette warped – but he recently downloaded the concert from a well known Dylan forum and is convinced that it is his copy…..

The symposium was great. Not that well attended – maybe 250 people in the keynote sessions. Many sessions were quite academic but others more fan based. Highlights for me were the Christopher Ricks session (including a number of barbed comments on Michael Gray and his encyclopaedia); the Michael Gray talk ( I also went for a drink with him & had a good chat); a session on Bob Dylan in Italy which was very entertaining and Griel Marcus talking about Highway 61. All in all a very good conference.

Thanks to Mark Booth for the above info on the Dylan Symposium.

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