The Arlo Guthrie Concert Massacre (with apologies to 'Alice's Restaurant')

October 3, 2013
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This is a blog called Arlo Guthrie’s Concert at the Palladium and it’s about Arlo Guthrie and the concert. But Arlo Guthrie’s concert is not the name of the concert. That’s just the name of the blog and that’s why I call this blog Arlo Guthrie’s Concert at the Palladium.

Now it all started 33 summers ago—33 summers ago on a summer night when I went up to Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, to hear Arlo when he was doing a concert there at the Valley Forge Music Fair. Arlo doesn’t live in Valley Forge and neither did I.  He just performed a concert there and I was just a guy who wanted to go see Arlo Guthrie. Along with me came my friend Lou who, to avoid confusion, we called The Greek. And on the way, in Philadelphia, we picked up a young woman I had met weeks ago at the Jersey shore and with whom I was interested in pursuing a romantic relationship.

We got up there and we found the Arlo Guthrie concert and it was a good concert—a great concert—and we decided to stay the night at the young lady’s home but in the middle of the night her father didn’t like what he was hearing and threw us out so, with tears in our eyes (well, in mine) we drove off into the darkness back home to the Jersey shore where the sun came up as we drove over the George Redding Bridge.

Living at the shore and working all summer you don’t get a lot of days off but you do meet a lot of people and the next summer, on my one day off, I took another trip to see Arlo Guthrie play at the Valley Forge Music Fair. This time, planning to meet another young lady who I had met at the shore who I was less interested in pursuing a relationship with (but who was more interested in pursuing a relationship with me). We had a terrific time at the Arlo concert followed by mixed messages and awkwardness that lasted months.

The next year, I got up the nerve to ask yet another young lady who I had fumbled a date with years earlier. It was another great Arlo show but, intimidated by the massive one-year age difference between me and the older woman, I failed to ask her out again.

Four, maybe five, other times I’ve seen Arlo Guthrie in concert—including a lovely concert with my lovely wife (who, for the record, isn’t one of those three young ladies). But seeing seven or eight Arlo Guthrie concerts doesn't mean I'm one of those fans with 27 different 8-by-10 color glossy pictures with a paragraph on the back explaining what each one was.

I’m just a guy who has happily punctuated his life with Arlo Guthrie concerts.

What I came to tell you about.

They got a building up in Carmel. It’s called the Palladium. I went up there to see Arlo in concert and I walked in, sat down, and said hello to a man and his wife who had moved their seats because a fellow next to them had been talking to himself too loudly. Arguing even. I thought it was a good idea that they did move their seats and promised I’d keep my self-conversations to a minimum.

And then he said “Kid, have you ever seen an Arlo Guthrie concert?”

And I proceeded to tell him about the eight or nine other concerts but not about the young ladies and the Greek and the irate dad.

And then Arlo Guthrie and his drummer Terry a La Berry (who I remembered from the first time I saw Arlo) and Arlo’s son, keyboardist Abe Guthrie, bounded on stage and proceeded to play a set of primarily Woody Guthrie tunes including “1913 Massacre” and “Do Re Mi” and “Pretty Boy Floyd” and “Oklahoma Hills.”

Arlo seemed tentative at first like something about the birthday cake colors of the hall or the relatively sparse crowd was making him uncomfortable. But then he found his groove and the stories got more casual and comfortable and the smiles of his musical partners seemed more sincere and by the time “The Motorcycle Song” was sung and intermission came everyone seemed happy there.

In the lobby at intermission there were Woodstock wannabees and twentysomething outsiders and hippy seniors. Hippy seniors right there in the lobby next to me. And I realized that I had no business really calling myself a true Arlo Guthrie fan because I hadn’t bought an Arlo Guthrie recording since the 1980s—except “Baby’s Storytime,” a collection of kid stories that my eldest daughter spent a section of her toddler-hood going to bed to every night. (Her favorite was “The Little Red Hen.”)

The second act kicked off with a funny story about a recent airport security incident, leading in to Arlo’s semi-hit “Coming Into Los Angeles.” Songs by folk pioneers Lead Belly and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott were mixed in with a poem Arlo wrote for his grandkids about a moose at the window and a pairing of children’s songs written by both Woody and Arlo. (It was at that point where I was hoping to get an even stronger taste of the Guthrie musical legacy, expecting Arlo to let his son take over a song. Alas, it was not to be.).

“City of New Orleans” made it into the mix, of course. Along with a song I’d never heard him do in concert, “Highway in the Wind,” about the first time he saw his wife—who died of cancer last year after 43 years of marriage. Which may account, justifiable, for why the energy was a little lower than the past Arlo concerts I’ve seen. Or why it was only at the end, with “Peace,” a relatively unknown song by his father, that he invited the audience to sing along with him.

Then again, maybe it was something else. I don’t know.

I’m just glad Arlo’s still touring. Glad I can anticipate more chances to see him over the next I-don’t-know-how-many years. Glad that he’s keeping his father’s songs alive and glad that he still seems to love making music and that he’s got friends and family around him to make it with.

And that’s the Arlo Guthrie Concert at the Palladium blog. All you got to do to join is see him next time he comes around.

With feeling.

So we’ll wait for him to come around again…

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  • Oh, I got this.
    I see what you did there. I loved this blog! I wish I'd been able to go to the concert. I have some great memories about Alice and her restaurant. Signed, an old hippie chick.
  • $
    Would have loved to have gone if I had known about the show, but doubt that I would have gone anyhow with the price of tickets at the Palladium, which are ridiculous.
    • Brilliant
      I know this worked because as I was reading it, I was hearing Arlo Guthrie's voice in my head. But wait, Arlo Guthrie is a GRANDFATHER?! Not possible.
    • Nostalgia
      I agree with Inky's comments above; would have loved to see the show, but didn't know and couldn't afford it anyway. However, I was fortunate enough to see Arlo and his son play at the Dunegrass music festival in Empire, MI in 2008. Since his album "Alice's Restaurant" was one of the first I ever purchased back in Jr High School (we didn't call it "middle school" way back then), it was an awesome event to experience him live. Plus, that audience was far from sparse (and comprised of many more "hippy seniors" and "Woodstock wanabees" than found in Carmel). I just feel fortunate for the opportunity to see this legend live. P.S. "Highway in the Wind" is my favorite song by him, although I did not know the story behind it. I will hear it differently now, especially in the wake of his wife passing. :-( Thank you, Lou, for a terrific review!
    • Arlo would probably like that, and I know I did.
      Nice homage to a fine artist and a distant time Lou...you took me back there...
    • Great Review
      Yes, I, too, heard Arlo's talking blues delivering Lou's words. I laughed out loud, too. So, Lou, job well done. I, too, was unaware that Arlo was playing in the area. It's been a long time since I've seen him. Too bad I didn't know.
    • Great read
      We'd gotten back from vacation, realized we had tickets and weren't that enthused about going. Really wrong! It was terrific; one of the most entertaining concerts I've heard. A very memorable evening listening, laughing and hearing super songs.
    • Best blog every
      Lou, that was the best blog ever. What a great tribute to a great artist. LOVE IT. Wish I could have seen the show.
    • $$$
      Single seats for Buddy Guy went from $65 to $135. Ridiculous. Tickets in Charlotte at the Knight Theater at Levine Center for the Arts start at $34.40 and a VIP ticket is $69.50. Tickets for Blondie and Devo at the Palladium were almost twice what they were in Chicago. Yes, the Palladium is expensive and they still lose money on every show that they put on.
    • Seats
      Oh, and some of the seats, according to the Palladium's website, have a limited view.
    • Tickets under $40...
      You are mistaken, HarveyF. I'm on staff at the Palladium. The concert had seats available under $40. You are incorrect on ticket prices! Use the website to see price ranges: TheCenterPresents.org
    • Arlo, Alice, and Valley Forge
      This is a story, well, not really a story but it's like a story. See, I saw also saw Arlo at Valley Forge back in the '70's. A number of times and at the Philly Folk Festival too, when it honestly was a folk festival. Saw Prine, and Emmy Lou, Steve, Bonnie Raitt, and Linda as well. But Arlo, Arlo was the best. Philly was hot with folk concerts at the time. When I moved back home from there, I thought I grew up and stopped going to concerts for a while. But I didn't really grow up and kept going to concerts but lost track of Arlo. Then, just this fall, I got an overwhelming urge to see Arlo again. I started playin' Alice's Restaurant and video clips of him at Woodstock. Singers come and go but legends, well, legends just keep on keepin' on. So I searched and searched until I found a concert close enough to go. It's all the way up in Bethel Woods and darn it, if Bethel Woods ain't Woodstock. Fancy that. See, Arlo's still the same laid back, long haired story tellin', sweet tongued, soft voiced performer he's always been. He's grown, I've grown, we've all grown but not always grown up. See, I don't know 'bout him, but even though I thought I grew up, I'm still a peace loving long haired liberal hippie chick that sees the possibilities instead of the improbabilities. What I'm tryin' to say, is there is nobody like Arlo. He's the link. I am sad for his great loss, but I am happy he is still on the road, ridin' his motorsyckle and singin', honoring his dad, and working through the hard stuff like the rest of us because, really, isn't that what it's all about? About coming around to it again

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