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Arlo Guthrie to perform at CAC

In the history of American folk music, few figures have enjoyed careers as distinguished as the iconic Arlo Guthrie. As the son of professional dancer Marjorie Mazia Guthrie and legendary singer-songwriter Woody Guthrie, Arlo could have easily been overshadowed by the success of his parents. But in 1967, at the young age of 19, he gained international attention of his own with the release of his debut album, “Alice’s Restaurant,” and never looked back. More than 50 years later, his knack for storytelling through song is as strong as it ever has been.

In less than a week, those in the area will get the chance to see Guthrie’s engaging musical style for themselves, when he performs at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday at the Community Arts Center, 220 West Fourth Street. The show, which is a part of his “Alice’s Restaurant Back By Popular Demand Tour,” will be coming to the CAC at the perfect time, just eight days before Thanksgiving — the day that the “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” track revolves around. And that isn’t the only reason that Guthrie’s visit to Williamsport is timely.

“The Woodstock concert experience is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, and we are excited to have a performer that played on the stage at Woodstock,” said Greg Ray, the CAC’s transitional executive director and programming consultant. “He will be here at the Community Arts Center celebrating that 50th anniversary. That is pretty awesome.”

Much like his father, a large portion of the Guthrie’s catalog is dedicated to songs of protest, though they lean much heavier into satire. Some of his most beloved hits include original tracks like “Coming Into Los Angeles,” “Massachusetts” and “The Motorcycle Song.” He’s also enjoyed a lot of success covering tracks like Steve Goodman’s “City of New Orleans” and the traditional folk song “Gypsy Davy.”

Of course, Guthrie’s most popular song is the one that helped him break out as a folk star — “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree.” The tune, which runs a staggering 18 minutes long, sees Guthrie retell the mostly true story (with heavy comic exaggeration) of the time he was arrested and convicted for dumping trash illegally on Thanksgiving, which ultimately rendered him ineligible for the Vietnam draft. Despite its long running time, the song gained so much popularity that it inspired the movie “Alice’s Restaurant,” in which Guthrie starred, and remains a staple of Thanksgiving listening for many people to this day.

“This (concert) is a retrospective on ‘Alice’s Restaurant’ — that is part of the show,” said Ray. “There will be video in the background while he’s singing that will show the church where he was eating Thanksgiving dinner at — where the garbage comes from that he was illegally dumping that he sings the whole song about.

“You are going to get the inside story on how the song was created, the people he based the song on, the experiences he had, and the places that are involved in that song,” he added.

Guthrie’s show at the CAC comes on the heels of Buddy Guy’s performance at the venue back in October and Art Garfunkel’s performance there last March. Ray said this is because the CAC has been making a conscious effort to bring “legacy performers” to Williamsport.

“Quite honestly, we don’t know how much longer these musicians will be touring,” Ray said. “Buddy Guy is in his 80s. Arlo Guthrie has pulled back to only doing two days in a row to save his voice at this point.

“These are performers that have amazing careers and we get the opportunity to have them in Williamsport, and they may decide to retire very soon,” Ray added. “We have them now and we are celebrating that.”

With storytelling being the primary ingredient in Guthrie’s performance, Ray said that the folk star has a way of taking fans back to the ’60s and ’70s — even those who are too young to remember that era.

“We envisioned this show for people who have been longtime fans of Arlo’s, and maybe even saw him at Woodstock. But we also think that even a younger generation of music fans will enjoy the show because of his great storytelling, and his ability to transport you to the times, places, people and events that he is singing about,” said Ray.

The last time Guthrie played a show in Williamsport was during the CAC’s 2000-01 season, and his stop in the city next week could very well be his last. Ray said he has already heard from many patrons who are thrilled to take in Guthrie’s unique performance for a second time.

“They are excited to come back and experience some of their highlights again,” he said.

For more information or tickets, visit Caclive.com

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