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A New Crop of Wallflowers

You know yourself better than anyone else knows you. That's a simple expression of a complex thought. We can go into the meaning of self, the actualization of dreams, the over-analyzed self, the under-analyzed self. We can ask each other a million questions that make us uncomfortable in their probing. We can agree to exist anonymously, isolated, Uni-Bomber style, and relish the ignorance or our bliss. Everything and nothing makes sense like the tormented genius of Lewis Carroll who wrote "Alice" in Wonderland.

Rock and Roll is like this:

Relatively obscure kids pickup instruments, learn to play them, write songs, get discovered, tour around with little or no sleep, get treated like kings, get treated like trash, meet starlets, get screwed by their business manager, get divorced, get called washed up after their second record fails to impress the critics because they failed to do a requested interview, meet Robert Downey in rehab, make a huge comeback album, join a cult, write a best seller and become mayor of Palm Springs.

So I'm always amazed at "normal" rock stars.

I grew up in an era where the name DYLAN didn't mean Dylan Thomas. Dylan meant the poet laureate of the rock and roll generation – Bob Dylan. He's only just now writing his chronicles explaining quite eloquently why he's been media averse and people shy all these years. It's a fascinating tale.

And this morning, getting out of the van in front of me is the band, The Wallflowers, which means I'm meeting his son Jakob. I've spoken with Jakob before but we've never met.

Jakob Dylan, whose friends call him "Jake", is quiet, friendly and down to earth. He's not a big talker. No big deal there. You immediately pick up his intensity.

The Wallflowers are on the radio tour advancing their fifth album REBEL, SWEETHEART, their first studio album in almost three years. That's rebel as in rebellious if you want to pronounce it properly.

On this day, the band consists of three members - Jakob, Rami Jaffee, and Fred Eltringham. Jakob and Rami formed the band 15 years ago. They weren't an overnight success. Being a Dylan probably raises many expectations. And to his credit, Jakob has never played off the name. That's why the band is not called Jakob Dylan and the Wallflowers, (I have to admit, at times, I find myself introducing their songs on the radio with the legendary moniker.)

The first thing they do is set up. This private show is being recorded for KPRI FM 102.1. Jakob is asked to sing his vocal so the recording unit can get a read on the levels and after the first verse drops his voice a complete octave. "Come on Jakob," says Rich Modica, the tour manager. "This is how I sound in the morning."

Once they get set, I hook up the band with food. "Crab Cakes for everyone." And when they are through, we let in the audience and for the next 20 minutes the show is riveting. Jakob is not a showman but his intensity more than makes up for the histrionics. He's also a gifted lyricist with a talent for capturing a mood and that he does. As I looked at the crowd, it was apparent they were having a great time.

I have to admit that this is the third time I've seen The Wallflowers play. And it's the best. Jakob's deep and resonant voice often gets lost in the "wall-of-sound mix" in bigger rooms and virtually disappears. In this small acoustic setting, every nuance in tone of voice and every irony in the songs shines through.

On these tours, the band has been performing three songs, but we get four. Two new songs from the forth-coming album and two fan favorites (The Beautiful Side of Somewhere, We're Already There, Three Marlenas and One Headlight.) Maybe it was the crab cakes.

All done, the band takes the time to hang with the listeners. Someone buys each person in the band a shot of tequila. The band poses with the shots for a picture but no one drinks. is too early for normal people. (Yes it's 5 o'clock somewhere but that's not The Wallflowers mentality.)

Finally, Rich says it's time for a final photo and we get a group picture. As we wait for the photographer to snap, one particularly happy girl loudly exclaims "Jakob Dylan is HOTTTTTT!", getting a laugh and smile from everyone including the band. Before Jakob leaves, she tells him that she named her son, Dylan...after the poet Dylan Thomas, like Jakob's father. Jakob smiles."You're supposed to say you named him after me."

You don't get more normal than that.