Lancaster PA was my first stop on the 2005 Bob Dylan vacation tour.

By Stephen Pate – While I have been a Bob Dylan aficionado since 1963, I never thought of myself as a fan.

So I know the words to 500 plus Bob Dylan songs and the chords for half as many – everyone has to learn some music. I also know a Trini Lopez tune or two.

So I play harmonica with a rack, practicing in front of the dining room mirror when I was 13. So my late blooming performance repertoire contains tunes by the Bobster and my friends say I have a perfect voice – for Bob Dylan songs. They usually add…we mean that as a compliment.

When Bob Dylan performed in Montreal in the 60’s, I refused to go – too obviously a fan activity. I liked the music but the man – well, that was something else.

In 1997 I relented and went to see him in Moncton. The Coliseum was 2/3rd full of white guys with gray hair and the sweet smell of the 60’s.

In 2002 I went to see him again in Halifax and then followed him to Moncton the next day. OK that was almost a fan thing, although I was going there anyway.

Lately things have changed. I realize there have been one too many mornings and a million miles of wasted time not being a Bob Dylan fan. This year’s penance is the Bob Dylan vacation – three concerts in 5 days from Pennsylvania to Massachusetts. Bob is touring with the Greencards from Aussieland and Willie Nelson. Wow Willie Nelson and Bob on the same bill.

I came up with the inspired idea of a Bob Dylan vacation: get tickets for 3 concerts, drive down, hang around the concert cities and catch the fun.

Bob helped by holding his concerts in small ballparks. He knows I am a sucker for baseball. My next inspiration was to talk my girlfriend into coming along. She is more a “me” fan than a Bob Dylan fan. As she sleeps soundly in my bed while I write this blog, I know she is becoming a real Bob fan.

I won’t bore you here with the drive down, playing folk songs in the back seat, being called a Deadhead by US Customs and Immigration at Calais or the bad nights in cheap hotels. We made it to Lancaster, the first concert was a blast and it’s the next day.

Some of this is the same as the previous night but quite a bit is different. Cool. He covers everything from the beginning to the latest.

I hope he does Masters of War or Idiot Wind later this week. Positively 4th Street is inspired. Each song created an enormous wave of pressure for me. Bob likes to paste new melodies over the old ones from time to time so I was challenged once or twice to name that tune for my girlfriend in the first few bars – thankfully, I got them all right. I did mis-name the bass player but she forgave me when I corrected myself later. I think she knew I was wrong but politely let me get it straight.

Have you ever been to a 4.5-hour outdoor concert? Your butt gets sore. Guess that’s why some people around us made their way to the exit after the 3.5-hour mark. Wrong choice – they missed the hottest All Along the Watchtower in my memory.

I made myself a promise to go the front of the stage in Connecticut to get closer, allow myself to bop, catch the wave and maybe get a puff of whatever was blowing smoke in Lancaster.

In the stands you drink beer and eat fattening foods. People applaud but don’t dance. These are nice people for buying their tickets and souvenirs but not my kind of people.

I want to feel the music inside my body and mind. I promise not to mosh…unless it seems like a bad idea. Anyways, Bobster fans don’t mosh: they mostly sway and toke. (One culture note: in Canada there would have been more open use of loose joints. In PA, beer was the replacement item)

Willie Nelson – man is that guy good. So smooth and he gets inside the rhythm of a song. I made a mental note to either practice my guitar more, buy a Martin N-20 or both. I actually found a couple for like $10,000 on the Internet.

Dylan – he is the man. Didn’t disappoint me or my girlfriend – well she told me! I got get breakfast but I’ll drop you a line later with detailed notes. I need to practice more and get me a crack back-up band real fast.

Bobster – in Amish country

Next –