Local musicians will be performing the music of Bob Dylan at the Englert Friday Night. Artists include Brian Johannesen, David Zollo, Kevin “BF” Burt, Greg Brown, The Recliners, Elizabeth Moen, and Ingrid Streitz.
By Troy Aldrich
Producers of original music claim a wide variety of influences; in the popular-music world, few are mentioned as often as Bob Dylan. The Englert will host a tribute to the artist’s music for the second year in a row on Friday: “This Wheel’s on Fire.”
“You can’t call yourself a songwriter if you don’t claim Dylan as an influence,” Brian Johannesen said, one of the musicians playing on Friday night. “I didn’t get to go last year, but it sounded as if it was a blast.”
The lineup consists of all Iowa-based musicians: Johannesen, David Zollo, Kevin “BF” Burt, Greg Brown, The Recliners, Elizabeth Moen, and Ingrid Streitz. Zollo, Burt, Moen, and Streitz all played the event’s inaugural year; joined by William Elliott Whitmore and Iris DeMent.
The idea originally came about to celebrate Dylan’s 2016 Nobel Prize. Kevin Hanick, a vocalist for The Recliners, originally organized the event in 2017. The event is also a fundraiser for the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature nonprofit organization.
“Stuff like this is very important,” Zollo said. “My father moved here to attend the Writers’ Workshop, and I grew up working at Prairie Lights.”
Zollo has a few different music projects he is working on, both solo and as a band. His band, Middle Western, is still touring its first album, When Your Demons Are Underground … and You’ve Got to Dig Them Up. Zollo also plans to leave to tour Italy and Switzerland in July.
“Anytime we can bring awareness to the writing, it’s a good thing,” Zollo said.
The local musician also discussed the pleasure of playing Dylan’s music. While he doesn’t generally cover his influencer’s tunes often, they mean a great deal to Zollo.
“The three songs we are playing are just great songs,” Zollo said.
Zollo and Johannesen will perform a few tunes together as well. They have a history of playing together, as Zollo and his band have performed behind Johannesen when he plays locally and in the studio.
One of the other artists, Burt, has also gained traction in the national scene in the last year. He received three awards at the 34th-Annual International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee: First Place Solo/Duo, Best Solo/Duo Guitarist, and the Lee Oskar Award for Best Harmonica Player.
Burt’s take on Dylan’s music will give the audience an interesting perspective. His own mission reflects some of the same ideas Dylan expressed in his original music.
“I’m hitting this mark at a good time, because as a society, we’re coming back to wanting something that’s real,” Burt told The Daily Iowan during an interview in February. “We’re starting to be OK with somebody that could be perceived as a nice person. That’s not a thing that’s out there that much.”
The performance at the Englert also falls between many large acts that have stopped to play at the historic stage. This provides a change of pace for the theater and allows it to stay true to its roots: local musicians.
“We are here to serve the community with national artists, while feed interest with what’s happening locally,” Andre Perry, talent buyer at the Englert said in a previous interview with the DI.
The large stage will be no stranger to any of the musicians playing on Friday night. However, when local artists venture outside of state lines, the venues don’t always hold up to their home base.
“For local artists, I’m not playing stages like that all the time,” Johannesen said. “It’s a top-of-the-line stage.”