Sunday May 1: Arlo Guthrie in the Jazzfest 2011 Blues Tent

One of the things about Jazzfest is that it’s very easy to pick who you want to see.

The difficulty arises when you look at the array of artists available, and realise that there will inevitably be some clashes within your preferred list of artists you must see, and you must therefore choose who to not see.

Arlo Guthrie
Arlo Guthrie

And so it was for the 5 till 7 p.m. timeslot at Jazzfest. Tom Jones. John Mellancamp. Kenny G. (yes, I know). Arlo Guthrie. And very many more!

Some true legends, and great talents were on the list, and I needed to see at least one of them.

Ever since I first heard Alice’s Restaurant I was enamoured with Arlo’s work, and it was a true thrill to find that he was on this year’s Jazzfest lineup. And thus, with the history that is Arlo – his dad’s work, as well as his own, I decided to forego the others and take in the Blues Tent’s fare to close out the day. I was not disappointed.

Is he a storyteller, or a musician? Who knows? He’s been around, playing and singing, and talking, for a very long time.

With no formal introduction, he just wandered onto the stage, with a keyboard and four guitars ready for his playing.

Those of you who are familiar with his Alice’s Restaurant story telling style will be immediately familiar with what followed. Interspersed with his music came numerous stories of his life: his times with his dad, with Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Pete Seeger, Huddie Leadbetter, and many others., whom he described as his extended family.

What a family to be a part of; this was American music at its finest; legends all the way, and a pedigree that could not be beaten.

And it continues, too: on stage with Arlo was his son Ed.


Arlo Guthrie with Ed, his son
Arlo Guthrie with Ed, his son

The audience was very appreciative of the works he performed, including some very old works, both from his own pen, as well as that of his dad and his extended family. I certainly loved it, and despite being an Australian, the thrill of hearing him perform his dad’s “This Land Is Your Land” tore my heart away. For me, it was truly an amazing moment; one that simply found me overcome with joy.

Yes, it was a good set, and a good day.

All photos are copyright (c) 2011, Gary Stark. Do not use without authorisation