By Dan Kunz
Friday, Nov. 13, 2009
Arlo Guthrie is a sucker for a good cup of coffee.I recommend our
local Webster's on Allen Street; a good cup of honest coffee is hard
to find these days, especially because Starbucks has seemingly turned
itself into an ice cream shop for tweens.
"I actually don't mind Starbucks," Guthrie says with a chuckle. "They
treat their workers well across the country. Who knows, maybe they
should start selling their own ice cream. Making my own ice cream and
brewing my own coffee is something I've always wanted to get around
to doing myself."
Thus the fascinating saga of Arlo Guthrie continues. While many of
his Woodstock Nation peers have put their guitars back in their cases
and hung up their beaded vests permanently, Guthrie shows no signs of
slowing down. Next week, he brings his "Guthrie Family Rides Again"
tour to the State Theatre. Guthrie will be flanked by his son, Abe,
and daughters Cathy, Annie and Sarah Lee Guthrie, and Sarah Lee's
husband, Johnny Irion, all musicians and songwriters themselves.
Guthrie could not be more proud of his next of kin.
"They're all doing great on their own," he said. "I didn't think the
majority of my children were going to get into music. They have their
own styles of songwriting, their own way of doing things. I figured,
before they all get too popular, let's get together to do a family tour."
In addition to compositions from all of Guthrie's family members
(including his grandkids), Guthrie plans to pay tribute to some of
his favorite topical singers, including Janis Ian, Billy Bragg and
his proud pop, the late Woody Guthrie.
Arlo himself is, of course, best remembered for his 1968 novelty hit
"Alice's Restaurant," an 18-minute talking blues where he humorously
recalls getting arrested for littering and sent to a local draft board.
Guthrie says that while adding "Alice" to his current setlists are an
anomaly, he has not tired of the tune and enjoys improvising new
lyrics when the band does play the number live. (On his newly
released "Tales Of '69" live album, Guthrie stretches the tune out
for 32 minutes to include Lyndon Johnson and a large marijuana
cigarette.) Guthrie also performed at the original Woodstock festival
and was featured in the documentary and on the soundtrack album.
Guthrie still cherishes the impact that the concert, which celebrated
its 40th anniversary in August, had.
"What really made that event historic was the promoter's decision to
forgo the cash and make it about the well-being of the attending
fans," he said. "The promoters were going around to all the artists
backstage and saying, 'Look, we're going to have to make this a free
show, and we may not be able to pay you. It's up to you whether you
want to go on or not,' " Guthrie said. "To the best of my knowledge,
everybody went on and played. Civility, compassion, and taking a risk
without fear really went a long way that weekend."
The "Guthrie Family Rides Again" tour will stop in State College at 8
p.m. Nov. 17 at the State Theatre, 130 W. College Ave., State
College. Visit www.thestatetheatre.org for more information.