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Folk legend Arlo Guthrie is coming to town

Posted by Greg / October 28, 2009

ArloGuthrie.jpgThe art of storytelling - of literally telling a story, out loud, to a group of real people - has pretty much gone the way of the rotary phone. We exchange information all the time but rarely put any heart into it. Any of you ever read The Decameron? Imagine that scenario playing out today: a group of ten young people, secluded in the countryside, with nothing to do for ten days, decide to amuse themselves by telling stories. Our generation would probably suffer from e-mail withdrawal for the first 48 hours then start sniffing glue. Point is, we distract ourselves with flashier things than storytelling and lack appreciation for the power of the spoken word.

That's why its such a refreshing and precious experience spending time in a room with someone like Arlo Guthrie. Dude simply has a way with words. His most famous song, "Alice's Restaurant," is an eighteen-minute story about Thanksgiving Day hijinks (or about much more, depending on how high culturally literate you are) that comes off as a one man theatrical production. In fact, "theatrical" would be a good way of describing his live performances in general since they are full of witty banter and tales about his immensely interesting life.

He is, of course, the son folk music patron saint Woody Guthrie and a living relic of the mid-60s folk revival. While some artists downplay their pasts, Alro Guthrie puts his front and center, drawing on a lifetime of experiences and tapping into his family line. His most recent release, Stories From '69, is a recently discovered recording of his Long Island concert just prior to Woodstock. On his current tour, entitled "Guthrie Family Rides Again," he is joined by three generations of Guthries as he plays his own songs as well as interpretations of unreleased Woody Guthrie compositions. He regularly closes his sets with "My Peace," a song Woody jotted down for Arlo while on his death bed in the early 60s.

As if his visit wasn't enough to rouse my excitement, I'll be stopping in on his sound check tomorrow at Theatre Outremont to get a preview of his show. I don't quite know how this will go down. Will I get a chance to meet with him? Will I get a special concert? Will it be an hour of the Guthrie family tuning their instruments? In any case, I'll check back in afterward and tell everyone how it went.

Update: So here's how the sound check went down. I showed up at Theatre Outremont at 4:35 and had to explain who I was to a jaded tour manager. He led me through the stage wings and into the theatre's front row. There I sat alone (no other press members present) and watched Arlo and the family play two songs: folk standard "Keep on the Sunny Side" and a Sarah Lee Guthrie original that I didn't recognize. Both sounded polished and full, promising a powerful show later on. Then Arlo stood up, said, "That sounds good to me," and everyone left the stage. I was out of there at 4:48. Didn't get a chance to meet the guy, but I still had my own private Arlo Guthrie concert. Overall a memorable if slightly absurd experience.

Arlo Guthrie is playing at Theatre Outremont on Thursday, October 29

Photograph of Arlo Guthrie playing live via sjrowe53's flickr page



Michael Black / October 29, 2009 at 03:24 pm
"Death bed" seems misleading, after all Woody went into the hospital in 1956 and died in the hospital in October of 1967. He was increasingly immobile, but he was hardly on death's door all that time. He had a serious burn, shades of his mother, before that which kept him from playing a guitar long before his body couldn't move the way he wanted it to.

Joe Klein had a biography about Woody out in 1980, "Woody Guthrie: A Live", he got interested after writing a story about Arlo in Rolling Stone about 1976. It actually glosses over the later years.

In 2004, Ed Cray had "Ramblin' Man" which gives much better coverage of Woody's later days, including how lousy it must have been for Arlo at the time, a sometimes violent father, yet still his father. Initially,they didn't even realize Woody was sick, just thought he was drunk and abusive. It also gives more attention to Arlo's mother, who was a Martha Graham dancer and apparently one of the few who Graham trusted to teach her technique. It's an amusing story about how they met, someone wanting music to do a dance piece to, and they discover it won't work since Woody was always improvising and the dancers were expecting fixed music.

Arlo Guthrie last performed in Montreal on December 6th 1996, at the Concordia Concert Hall. Tickets were 18.50. I seem to recall his son Abe performed with him. That was still a period when you'd bump into "Gypsy Davy" in the newsgroups, and

Before that, it was December of 1985, maybe 1986, I can't find my ticket stub, at Place des Arts with Pete Seeger. That was when Sam Gesser was still bringing in acts.

And while I didn't see it, he was of course in Montreal with Pete Seeger in the seventies at Place des Arts, some of it landed on the live recording "Together in Concert" that came out in 1975. I did see Pete when he performed at PDA in the fall of 1978.

I should have asked my friend Lselie if Arlo performed at the Youth Pavillion at Expo '67, apparently quite a few Big Names made it there that summer.

Today is the 80th anniversary of the Wallstreet crash. It's also the 30th anniversary of a demonstration there against nuclear power, to take the issue to the source of money. So maybe Arlo will play "The Story of Reuben Clamzo and his Strange Daughet", which is about the anti-nuclear Clamshell ALliance.

Greg / October 31, 2009 at 02:04 pm
Thanks so much for filling in the details. I have a lot of respect for Arlo Guthrie but don't have the same in-depth knowledge of his career (mostly a function of age) so I'm glad you wrote in.

You're right that "death bed" is a bit of a stretch, since he was hospitalized for over a decade. I just meant the place where he ultimately passed away.

Hope you caught the show!
Devendra / February 4, 2015 at 03:55 am
I'm currently syndtiug my Bachelor if IT, at Otago Polytech.We do a lot of pair-programming, they're starting to try and push it.I must say though, that I really do enjoy it.I find that it helps that if you don't know something, the other person may do.While also, everybody thinks differently, so your partner may think of something that may improve your code's efficiency, or fix a bug.
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