Guthrie’s ‘Alice’s Restaurant’ turns 50 at the PAC

by Gloria Locke, Staff Writer 615 views0

AliceRestaurantPoster arloguthrie_PACPromopicSanta Clarita Performing Arts Center is celebrating its 10th anniversary, during which two 50th anniversaries have been celebrated, including folk music icon, Arlo Guthrie, celebrating the 50th anniversary of ‘Alice’s Restaurant.’

The PAC filled with eager fans and followers, like Darlene Roker, a photographer from Ventura. She was not sure if she would obtain the long-awaited autograph, but today her persistence paid off.

“Arlo was at the second Jazz and Heritage Fair in New Orleans in the ’70’s. I had a chance to watch him up close and personal and he said, ‘I’m going to introduce this new song I wrote’ and he went on for 25 minutes of “Alice’s Restaurant,” said Roker. “He had just introduced it at that venue and I have been following him, as it were, ever since.”

Others from as far away as Italy made their way to hear the songs and stories from the “like father, like son” musical genius. After a humorous claymation video about a pickle on his motorcycle (pronounced ‘motor-sickle’), the auditorium warmly receives Arlo Guthrie on guitar with four band members.

“I come here to study and to see shows. Arlo never comes to Italy,” said Irene, a guitarist, her first time seeing Guthrie in concert.

“Sometimes when I am coming to a city, I hear, ‘I thought that guy was dead. Well, I’m working on it,” said Guthrie, opening in song with a love song, “My Darkest Hour.”

“I’m fighting a cold, and I thought I sounded like crap. Someone said ‘you sound great, you know your voice hasn’t changed in forty years,” he said. The audience enjoying his sarcastic style.

Guthrie dished out throw-back songs during the first half including Woodstock favorites, like “Coming into Los Angeles” while giving a first-hand account of his Woodstock experience. He admits that whenever the press asks for a comment, he simply says, “I just remember getting there.”

Arlo credits his father, Woody Guthrie, for growing up around extraordinary musicians and entertainers. As a toddler, Arlo Guthrie remembers holding on to the pants leg of Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter, acclaimed 12-string guitarist and vocalist, credited for introducing the songbook of folk standards. His other good friends had similar metamorphic music experiences.

“I have a good friend, Pete Seeger, who stole everything from Lead Belly, and I stole everything from Pete,” he said before playing “City of New Orleans” bringing cheers just before the intermission.

The main course came right after intermission opening with the 18-minute “Alice’s Restaurant” complete with the original film starring Guthrie as a teenager. It was a “throw-back” moment as the audience was transformed to relive a favorite place and time when a Thanksgiving meal at a local church results in a littering offense causing Guthrie to be arrested. From jail he was taken to court, and from court to the “Selective Service Department” to be drafted into the military. Clad only in his skivvies, Guthrie is sent to Group W, a waiting area for hardened criminals where he is ultimately deemed unfit for service. He is released and goes back to the restaurant (not actually called Alice’s Restaurant, he just went to see Alice at the restaurant) just as he started, for a meal with friends.

The actors in “Alice’s Restaurant” were portrayed by the actual people, including the officer who arrested Guthrie and the judge all from the town of Stockbridge where film director, Arthur Penn also lived. The actual Alice was in the film but the ‘Alice’ character was portrayed by actress, Pat Quinn, who attended the Santa Clarita concert.

Guthrie paid tribute to his mother, father, his wife, grandmother and their Scottish heritage. Soldiers were also esteemed in word and song.

“Highway in the Wind” a sentimental tribute to Guthrie’s wife featured family photos through the years while a sobering “Nobody Seems to Care When a Soldier Makes it Home Alone,” speaks volumes for the countless military heroes coming home with less than a hero’s welcome.

The American songbook classic, “This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land” written by Woody Guthrie closed the evening with shouts of ‘encore’ throughout the PAC. Guthrie re-entering the stage, sat down with his guitar stating that ‘the show was over’ but he would like to leave on this note:

My Peace
Words by Woody Guthrie, Music by Arlo Guthrie
My peace my peace is all I’ve got that I can give to you
My peace is all I ever had that’s all I ever knew
I give my peace to green and black and red and white and blue
My peace my peace is all I’ve got that I can give to you

My peace, my peace is all I’ve got and all I’ve ever known
My peace is worth a thousand times more than anything I own
I pass my peace around and about ‘cross hands of every hue;
I guess my peace is justa ‘bout all I’ve got to give to you

For followers of folk music, Arlo brought a “peace” of the music legacy to the PAC as he has for over 50 years in the industry.