• 24 Dylans croon and swoon
     | November 05,2006

    MONTPELIER – If you have never seen Bob Dylan perform, then Saturday night was your chance to see not just one but all 24 of Vermont's finest Dylans croon, swoon, squawk at the third annual Zimmermania Dylan wannabe contest.

    Some sang a capella, one played electric keyboard and another belted out what he called a Dylan Gregorian chant with Latin phrases and political curses.

    A young Dylan look-alike named Ethan Gilbert claimed the crown with his version of "Girl from the North Country." Dave Halberg took second place with "All I really want to do," and 18-year-old Anna Beerworth from Troy took third place with her personalized version of "Tomorrow is a long time."

    "I like singing Bob a lot," said Beerworth, who didn't even try to imitate Dylan's "sandpaper and glue" (in the words of David Bowie) voice, instead opting for her own sweet vocals.

    By 7 p.m., the venue – the Unitarian Church basement – was overcrowded and heating up as some 300 Dylan fans hoarded chairs and lined the aisles for the standing-room-only show. Twenty-four musicians ranging in age from 13 to 60-something – crossing genders and genres – took the stage and introduced themselves as Bob Dylan.

    "(Dylan's) the best target for a contest like this because of his huge repertoire of music and because he's really fun to poke fun at," said Patrick Timothy Mullikin, who said he started the contest three years ago to promote the store he owned at the time, Riverwalk Records.

    Mullikin has since sold the business, but he said people kept asking him when the next contest would be, so he, his wife and daughter made up T-shirts and buttons ("Dylan in 2008") to sell at the show in the hopes of breaking even. There was no cover charge for last night's event, but if there had been, Mullikin may have found himself a new occupation as music promoter, as it was the biggest crowd yet.

    The cast of nine judges – all robed in what looked suspiciously like disposable graduation robes and donning titles that began with "honorable" – ranged from local musicians to novelist Daniel Hecht and the former deejay for The Point, Ric Tile.

    The performances ranged from ironic to iconic and most of the musicians captured the true spirit of Dylan whether slurring or purring the poetics of the master of shape-shifting.

    One of the crowd favorites was 13-year-old Felix Keydel of Burlington, who twanged and whined around the chords of "Don't think twice," as he captured Dylan's nasal tone and off-key harp-blowing, eliciting giggles from the crowd. Some fans mouthed the words and many swayed and bopped to the songs.

    Throughout the show, performers contended with a sinking microphone that was eventually mended with duct tape by "Bob Dylan's Roadie," an otherwise unnamed man in tattoos, sunglasses and the obligatory flashlight who attended to each of the "Bobs."

    Mullikin told the crowd that about half the performers were returning contenders and opened the show by saying: "Montpelier's a safer place because all the crazies are here. I mean the performers."

    When asked if he will continue the tradition of the Dylan wannabe contest, Mullikin replied: "Why not?"

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