WALTHAM, Mass. — In May 1963, a little known musician came to play at Brandeis University’s folk festival.
“Pete Seeger headlined it,” notes Jesse Manning, a 20-year-old Brandeis senior. But the other fellow, “Bob Dylan was an unknown. Two weeks later [his second album] ‘Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan’ came out and he became Bob Dylan.”
In 2011, Columbia Records put into wide release a newly discovered recording of Dylan’s Brandeis performance. (A limited edition version had been released a year earlier.) It got the attention of Manning, who’s now general manager of Brandeis’s student radio station, WBRS, and chief of staff of the university’s Student Union.
“I went to two friends and said, ‘We should bring him back,’” Manning says. “And they looked at me like I was nuts.”
But they came around. So he and these two buddies, Alex Pilger and Michael Zonenashvili, approached Brandeis administrators with a proposal for a two-day, outdoor folk festival in spring 2013 headlined by Dylan in honor of the 50th anniversary of the star’s first Brandeis appearance. (Dylan played Brandeis again during his 1975 “Rolling Thunder Revue” tour.)
Brandeis administrators were, well, open to the idea. Andrew Flagel, Brandeis’s senior vice president for students and enrollment, says the university has been mulling the logistics (security, parking, etc.) and costs. It’s been roughly a decade since Brandeis was a regular stop on the rock concert circuit. “We’ve never held an outdoor festival [open to the public] of this type,” Flagel adds.
The proposal as it now stands would be a one-day festival headlined by Dylan. Some 2,000 Brandeis students could get in free, while another 4,300 tickets would be sold to folks outside the school.
Will it happen? Manning says, “It’s still completely up in the air.”
And what of Dylan? Manning says Dylan’s agent, Creative Artists Agency, indicates that if Dylan’s fee is met he can likely find time to perform.
“It’s Bob Dylan, the biggest recording artist in rock and roll history,” Manning says. Though he admits, “I’m not a huge fan of Bob Dylan. You hear different things about how good he is today. … It’s more about the importance of that moment in time.”