Local musician Gregg “Cheech” Hall, and a large array of musical collaborators, have put together a number of successful tribute shows over the years — although it has been almost two years since the last one.
Previous shows have mined the music of the Allman Brothers, The Rolling Stones, Tom Petty, Neil Young and Pearl Jam — as well as recreating “The Last Waltz” by The Band.
Hall is particularly excited about his latest venture: a tribute to American musical icon Bob Dylan set for next week at the Court Above Main. The downtown La Crosse venue is not yet known to many in the, area but Hall would love to change that.
“The whole atmosphere at the Main is awesome, and not a lot of people know about it yet,” Hall said. “It’s set up perfectly for these (kinds of) shows. I want to make people aware of how awesome it is.”
Situated on the third floor above The Wedding Tree, the Court Above Main has room for almost 200 people. It opened in the summer after a reported million-dollar renovation. The restored wooden floors were once part of a basketball court at the YWCA, and Hall said he loves the 16-foot ceilings and floor-to ceiling windows.
“We did one show there, and the room sounds really good,” Hall said
Besides the new venue, Hall is excited about who he has helping him with the Dylan tribute — The Mayer Brothers Band. Brothers Hans and Kit Mayer are widely known to area music fans from previous projects that include Northern Comfort and Blind Baby Olin and the Workbenches.
“Hans has always been a hero of mine,” Hall said, “and I’ve seen Kit play a lot of Dylan over the years. The two of us have thrown around the idea of doing Dylan for a long time. We’ve never done anything together, so this is a good opportunity for our paths to cross.”
Asked why he believes Dylan is worthy of a tribute, Kit did not hesitate. “It’s because he’s part of the fabric of our lives, if you’ve been on this planet for 70 years or less. He’s like the Beatles or the Rolling Stones, and he’s as recognizable as Sinatra,” Kit said.
“He’s influenced every musician I’ve ever known — whether they know it or not,” Kit said. “ And he’s been cranking out song after song, album after album since the 1960s. No one you can name even comes close to that. People think of him as just a songwriter, but he’s doesn’t get enough credit for being a good musician.”
The plan for Friday’s show is for Hall and his band to play the first set, with the Mayer Brothers Band performing a bunch of songs for the second set. At some point, Hall said, he and Kit also will do a couple songs together, and the evening will finish up with members of both bands playing together.
Because Dylan is so incredibly prolific, the show will most likely stick to his most familiar songs. Even so, Hall said, that putting together the show was uniquely difficult. “It’s been a big challenge as far as homework,” he said. “Although the songs are mostly verse, chorus, verse, there are a lot of verses. The hardest part has been learning all those words.”
Still, Hall said, recent rehearsals have gone well. “I can tell it’s going to work,” he said.