Who could have anticipated that the music leading up to the Run for the Roses would turn into A Tale of Two Dylans?
Sunday night at the Louisville Palace, Kentucky Derby Week will be inaugurated, unofficially, by folk icon-turned-rock renegade Bob Dylan. I say "unofficially" because the concert was booked independently of the Kentucky Derby Festival with perhaps little if any knowledge that it would begin a packed week of concert activity in Louisville leading up to Derby Day.
On Thursday, Bob's son Jakob Dylan leads the newest lineup of The Wallflowers into Waterfront Park. That show is part of a hefty roster of outdoor Derby Festival performances that require only a $5 Pegasus Pin for admission. You will have to pay a bit more to see Dad, though.
The two Dylans have gone to great lengths during the past two decades to separate themselves from each other's careers.
Bob, 71, became an especially active road warrior about the time The Wallflowers formed in the late '80s. These days, he performs with little fanfare as part of small to medium-size bands that regularly enlist a variety of extraordinary players. Blues/jazz guitarist and onetime Louisvillian Duke Robillard is his newest recruit.
His legacy as one of the most influential folk songwriters of the 1960s established the celebrity status of the elder Dylan, but his current performances are playful rumbles of often severe deconstruction. Depending on how much one clings to the familiarity of the Dylan of yore, a concert by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee can be exhilarating or frightening.
Folk and pop hits of decades past, such as Tangled Up in Blue and All Along the Watchtower, are radically reimagined to meet the jagged electric immediacy of newer works including Early Roman Kings and Pay in Blood.
The younger Dylan, 43, is comparatively calmer and considerably more pop-savvy. The Wallflowers has been an active enterprise since 1989, but his career was largely established by a series of radio-friendly pop hits (led by the soul-savvy One Headlight) from the band's 1996 album, Bringing Down the Horse.
Lately, though, the younger Dylan has moonlighted outside of The Wallflowers. He has issued two solo albums (2008's Seeing Things and 2010's Women + Country) and is responsible for one of the loosest, most spirited contributions to the recent Levon Helm tribute album, Love for Levon: a cover of the Clarence Frogman Henry hit Ain't Got No Home, which Helm repopularized with The Band in 1973.
Although the two Dylans don't record together, their newest albums were released a month apart last year. Bob Dylan's 35th studio album, Tempest, surfaced in September; the sixth Wallflowers recording, Glad All Over, came out in early October.
This week they will miss each other by just four days. It's not a family reunion, but it's one of the most intriguing concert coincidences that Derby Week has thrown our way in years.
IF YOU GO
Bob Dylan with The Wild Feathers. 8 p.m. April 28. Louisville Palace, 625 S. Fourth St., Louisville. $49.50, $59.50. Ticketmaster, 1-800-745-3000 or Ticketmaster.com.
The Wallflowers with Jakob Dylan. 9 p.m. May 2. Waterfront Park, River Rd., Louisville. Free with $5 Pegasus Pin. 1-800-928-3378. KDF.org.
MORE DERBY WEEK SHOWS
Here is a quick look at the main concert events Louisville will be hosting in the leadup to the Derby.
April 30, Cameo. Here we are, 21/2 decades removed from Word Up, and Cameo still stands as one of quirkiest — and, certainly, most fun — funk troupes in the land. (9 p.m. Waterfront Park. Free with $5 Pegasus Pin.) KDF.org.
May 2, Bill Callahan. For more than 15 years, Callahan toured under the pseudonym Smog, creating stirring and often dark indie rock and folk recordings. Subsequent music cut under his own name has been equally pensive. Flat Foot and Shedding open. (9 p.m. Headliners Musical Hall, 1386 Lexington Rd. $15. (502) 584-8088. Headlinerslouisville.com.)
May 2, Nora Jane Struthers. Rooted in bluegrass, Struthers creates fascinating songs that balance brittle traditionalism with increasing interest in progressive pop. This might well be the sleeper show of the week. (8 p.m. Jim Porter's Good Time Emporium, 2345 Lexington Rd. $10. (502) 452-9531. Jimporters.com.)
May 3, Kix Brooks and Greg Bates. Half of country power duo Brooks & Dunn resurfaces to headline the annual Derby Eve Jam. (7:30 p.m. Waterfront Park. Free with $5 Pegasus Pin.)
May 3, Lucero, Langhorne Slim and the Law. Probably the coolest non-Dylan entry of the week. Memphis' Lucero is a longtime Lexington/Louisville club fave with a sense of cowpunk soul that ignites onstage. (9 p.m. Headliners. $18 advance, $21 days of show.)