More than a dozen contestants gathered at the 400 bar in Minneapolis Tuesday night to pay tribute to the poet laureate of rock and roll.
The participants ranged in age from those just barely over the 21 age limit, to folks who could probably count candles with Dylan himself. There was even a female Dylan impersonator in the crowd.
"I've never tried to sound like him or look like him. I just get up there and enjoy it and do my thing," says college student Liz Long. "That's my tribute to him, to just be up there and doing it, instead of just sitting back and listening to everybody else."
Like Long, everyone seems to have their own approach to Dylan's music. Some play his acoustic material, others go electric. Some have their own take on his music while others try to nail that classic Dylan croon.
For Roger Holmes, sounding like Bob Dylan was never a problem.
"Sometimes I can't help sounding like it. I've got my own CD out and people say, 'Hey! You sound like Dylan.' I go 'I wasn't trying to, but yeah I guess I do.' So when I'm doing a show like this I put a little extra effort into it," says Holmes, who performed one of Dylan's trademark songs, "Tangled up in Blue."
Holmes does a pretty good job, but there isn't an air of competition to his performance. In fact, the whole thing is pretty casual for a contest.
Most people in the crowd are performers, and many of those who didn't come to sing ended up borrowing a guitar and playing a song anyway. Tom Sullivan, the owner of the 400, says the contest wasn't always this relaxed.
"It's changed over the years. Some years it's been more serious and competitive," says Sulllivan. "Some years, there've been guys who are kind of comedic as emcees. It's more like an open mic now."
For Sullivan, the night is less about impersonating Bob Dylan than it is about having a good time. He hopes for more of a communal sing-along than a competition.
"I like the ones where people forget the words, and the audience helps them out with the next chorus," says Sullivan. "It's fun that it's a bunch of people that don't often get to be up on stage. A lot of people practice their song all year just to play it one time."
Lance Staricha is one of those people. He's been coming to the contest since 1999. He admits that his playing is less than perfect. But Staricha isn't here to show off. For him, the contest is about connecting to something deeper.
"Bob Dylan has been around in my life for 40 years now. When I was single, when I was getting married, when I was married, when I was having kids," says Staricha. "So, there are two dozen, three dozen, 40 Bob Dylan songs that through my life, meant something to me. And again, you get to relive that minute -- you get to pretend you're Bob Dylan. It's a great experience. I love it."
So who was the best Bob Dylan this year? Well, truthfully, the answer my friend, is blowin' in the wind. No one was crowned the winner.
Tom Sullivan says he didn't see the point of singling anyone out. He says he'd rather let everyone be a winner. So maybe, the times they have-a changed. The contest really isn't a contest anymore. But no one seems to mind.