Are you a longtime fan of Bob Dylan? Do you think you can sound and act like him? If so, then be sure not to miss Michael Meldrum’s Buffalo Song Project’s 23rd annual Bob Dylan Imitator’s Contest, on April 1 at Nietzsche’s on Allen Street. The contest starts at 8pm, with a 7pm signup for contestants. It costs $5 to enter.
Meldrum, a noted singer, songwriter, guitarist, and inductee of the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame, said that prominent members of the Buffalo music community and local media figures will judge the entrants. He said that in past years’ contests, people from Righteous Babe Records, Ani DiFranco’s record label, have served as judges.
Prizes will be awarded for the best overall Dylan, best harmonica, and best interpretation of three major categories, in Meldrum’s opinion, although Meldrum added that the judges “will probably create their own categories.”
“We will give away lots of stuff from Righteous Babe Records,” Meldrum said, “and also cash prizes.”
Meldrum has worked with DiFranco for many years, and she has written songs for him as well. He has known the local singer and songwriter for over 30 years, and she toured with him on his shows when she was only 11 years old.
According to Meldrum, the idea for the contest came from a visit to Greenwich Village in New York City in the early 1980s. He said that he entered a Dylan imitator’s contest there, and saw that many people there had all performed with Dylan. Since he liked the idea, he brought it to Buffalo, where it has been a tradition for 23 years.
When asked what the biggest change has been over this period, Meldrum said that it has been that today’s young people are getting interested in Bob Dylan. He said that students under 21 who would not otherwise be allowed into a bar can attend this contest and, in doing so, are able to discover Dylan’s music. Meldrum also said that over the years there have been many milestones, but no specific ones stood out.
“I probably should be able to tell you about specific examples, but I’m not coming up with it,” Meldrum said. “You had to be there to know what the highlights were.”
For Meldrum, a contest such as this one is also good for the city in that it gives Dylan’s fans something exciting to look forward to year after year, and some of the attendees have been to every contest in its 23 years of existence in Buffalo. More importantly, it has great potential to unite diverse groups of people who are focused on one thing: their love and appreciation for Dylan and his music.
“The most significant thing for this is that it creates community… people who wouldn’t be in the same room or playing together are suddenly in the same thing,” Meldrum said. “My mission as a promoter is to bring people together who wouldn’t otherwise know each other.”
The contest is being sponsored by Planet Love, Elmwood Festival of the Arts, Righteous Babe, Allentown Music, Rust Belt Books, Bella Mia, Spirits of Allentown, Left Bank, and Terrapin Station. For more information about the contest, call 716-886-8539.