Local Current Blog

Blood on the Tracks Express: Celebrating Bob Dylan on rails from Duluth to Two Harbors

Clover St. Cronies. Below, top to bottom: Clover St. Cronies, Black Eyed Snakes, Wolf Blood, Tin Can Gin. Photos by Bridget Bennett for MPR.

One of Duluth’s most unique musical events, the Blood on the Tracks Express, took place on Thursday evening on a train, and you’ve probably never heard of it.

The sold-out Blood on the Tracks Express is part of the Duluth Dylan Fest, a celebration of Bob Dylan’s birthday, making this its fifth year on the rails. The train departs from Duluth and is Two Harbors bound with two train cars of music—acoustic at one end and electric near the caboose—separated by passenger cars. The train stops in Two Harbors for another show, and then makes its way back to Duluth for more music.

Clover St. Cronies started off the night and took on the acoustic car first, followed by Feeding Leroy. Warming up the electric car was Social Disaster. The Black-Eyed Snakes were second in electric, formed by Low’s Alan Sparhawk featuring Bob Olson on guitar and the event’s organizer Brad Nelson on drums.

The train pulled into Two Harbors with Feeding Leroy still playing in the acoustic cars as passengers got off and headed into the Two Harbors American Legion for Boomchucks as “the Freewheelers.” The band played mostly Dylan covers in a room that was at least ten times the size of a box car. The crowd took advantage of the extra wiggle space and danced until the train departed: a trail of patrons and their beer-filled bellies eagerly waddled their way from the American Legion to the train like little ducklings.

Wolf Blood wrapped up the night in the electric car. Moving from the electric car back to the acoustic for Tin Can Gin was a much different sight. Earlier, you would find groups sitting in the chairs happily engaging in conversation. By this time in the night, people were reclined in the chairs, some nursing a slice of pizza and a few passed out. Some were still rambunctious, though: yelling, dancing, and throwing themselves against the wall of the car.

Duluth Dylan Fest continues into the weekend, with various other events; with Hibbing’s Dylan Days on indefinite hiatus, the Duluth celebration is now the Northland’s most prominent celebration of its native son. For more information on the weekend’s remaining events, see the festival’s Facebook page.

Bridget Bennett is a student at the University of Minnesota—Twin Cities.