Pat Guadagno (above) celebrates Bob Dylan’s 75th birthday on the Count Basie stage, while Arlan Feiles (below) takes it to the patio, during Thursday night’s 18th annual “Bobfest.” (Top photo by John Posada)
Don’t look now, but Tuesday marks the milestone 75th birthday of Bob Dylan, the American original whose distinctive songcraft and famously Neverending Tour have served as voice and inspiration to a generation and then some.
In the case of Pat Guadagno, a lifelong admiration for Dylan’s words and music inspired the Jersey Shore “saloon singer” supreme to forge his own lasting contribution to the legend of the Bard of Hibbing, Minnesota — a highly anticipated annual event called Bobfest, which returns to Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre for its 18th edition Thursday.
A promo video for Thursday night’s concert.
It’s an endeavor that evolved from an impromptu set at Red Bank’s Downtown Café way back in 1999 — one that finds Guadagno reconvening his “Tired Horse” brigade of fellow Shore music-scene stalwarts for the occasion while calling in reinforcements of the “fresh horses” variety.
This edition of Bobfest also marks another major milestone on the Dylan timeline: the 50th anniversary of Blonde on Blonde, the 1966 double-disc opus that capped the master’s most electrifying and creatively fertile period.
Kicking off with the Salvation Army street-parade strut of the winking novelty “Rainy Day Women #12 and 35” (a.k.a. “Everybody Must Get Stoned”), the songs of Blonde on Blonde range from the catchy single “I Want You” and the much-dissected ode “Just Like a Woman,” to the prime-Dylan road trip of “Stuck Inside of Mobile,” the loping blues of “Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat,” the upbeat downer “Most Likely You Go Your Way…” and the introspective songs of love and longing that find their greatest expression in “Visions of Johanna” and the album-side epic “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands.” Exploring the LP’s often challenging grooves and themes, Guadagno and friends (a group that’s historically included Mary McCrink, Rich Oddo, Andy McDonough, Phil ”Red River” Rizzo, Yuri Turchin and Rene Woolley) are poised to continue a tradition that begin in 2014, when they conducted a golden-anniversary guided tour of the 1964 albums The Times They Are a-Changin’ and Another Side of Bob Dylan.
As we wrote in this space three years ago — and as we repeat each year at this time, since we simply couldn’t say it any better than this — “with a genial old Jersey Shore casual style, and a physical presence that evokes David Crosby more than it does the dour Dylan, Guadagno neither looks nor sounds the part of a ‘Legends In Concert’ lounge-act impostor — a fact that’s allowed the seasoned interpreter of classic pop songwriters to put his own spin on the Bob songbook, snatching harmony and melody from the jaws of Dylan’s own sinusy sing-speak and raggedy arrangements.”
For 2016, the seasoned troubadors welcome a new generation of musical helpers, when they host the classic-rock conservatory students of the Count Basie’s Rockit! program. The 8 p.m. Bobfest concert will also be keynoted by a special pre-show set on the Count Basie’s open-air patio; a performance that spotlights another celebrated singer/songwriter from the local scene: Arlan Feiles.
New for this year, a portion of the Bobfest proceeds will be donated to Vetwork, a nonprofit organization dedicated to meeting the needs of lower-income U.S. military veterans through services related to housing, employment, transportation, healthcare and self-sufficiency. Tickets for Bobfest 2016 are priced at $20 – $39.50 and can be reserved right here — and, as has been a longstanding Red Bank tradition, you can catch Pat flying solo every Monday night at Jamian’s Food and Drink.