Arlo Guthrie on Buying the Freakin' Church

Categories: Concerts
Courtesy of Arlo Guthrie

​Arlo Guthrie's current tour marks the 45th anniversary of "Alice's Restaurant," but don't expect the melodic bard to settle into a rendition of the epic hippie tale when he comes to Parker Playhouse on Friday. 

He only plays "Alice's" on tenth anniversaries. "It'll be on the set list in a few years, unless the Aztecs are right and the world ends this December."

The milestone of the 45th year is cause for a bit of reflection. Much has changed in the world since the son of the legendary Woody Guthrie first delighted his long haired peers with the 18 minute song back in the '60s. 

Also, though, there is a sense of a continuum. For instance, Arlo will be accompanied on stage by his son Abe and his grandson Krishna. And later in the summer, he's bringing the rest of the family on the road to celebrate Woody's 100th birthday.

His shows tend to draw representatives from each generation that is also represented on stage. "I love that stuff," he says. "Having that continual, generational process going on."

This theme goes beyond Guthrie's stage show. The old, deconsecrated Massachusetts church, which was the home of the actual Alice--the restaurant was nearby--in the '60s and the setting and inspiration for Guthrie's famous song, now plays home to a whole new generation of creative, collective activity as The Guthrie Center.

After years away, Guthrie returned to the scene back in the early '80s. As he was walking around the current property, someone came out and told him that the building was for sale. So, he called up a few friends and decided to buy the place. Since then, it has become a community center which hosts a range of events, from weekly open mic hootenannies to yoga classes to summer concerts.

This may come as a surprise to folks who are only familiar with the story as it was told in the 1969 major motion picture Alice's Restaurant, which paints a portrait of a group of hippies who have fun with their dream of community, peace, and joy for awhile, but ultimately are left disillusioned, sad, and church-less.

"In real life it ended up a lot better than in the movie," says Guthrie. "There is this sort of despondency at the end of the movie when the cameras pull away in slow motion from
Alice, who is standing at the church all alone. But in real life, we bought the freakin' church!"

That ought to be an inspiration for all contemporary freaks with big dreams. And if you'd like more, there is plenty where that came from. Though Guthrie may not be talking too much about that place around the back, just a half a mile from the railroad track, he will be talking a lot, and his raps are as delicious as Alice's Thanksgiving meals.

Arlo Guthrie. 8 p.m. Friday, February 24 at Parker Playhouse, 707 NE 8 St., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $37.50-$47.50. Click here.

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got great pic of Arlo outside 25th anniversary gig in Springfield Ma.First time i saw him was Woodstock program!

David Buckley
David Buckley

Arlo is a hero of mine. guess you could say I was an arlo stalker when i was a kid. made my parents drive from Lowell Massachusetts all the way to stockbridge to look for Arlo.Don't know what i would have said to him if I  found him!!Hi, maybe?  However, Norman Rockwell the artist also lived nearby and I'm sure we went to a little museum. I was lucky enough to see Arlo perform with Doc Watson on the Boston Common around the time of 'City of New Orleans'. 72' or 73'. Really great and memorable! What would I have done if he had said 'hey dave, listen to this...I don't want a pickle......' !!! Later on after art school I moved to London and ruined my own life by joining a band!! I still write songs and play when they let me yet there is no bitterness nor blame. In fact I am more of an Arlo fan now than ever before!!! Even showed up in Stockbridge in the middle of the night with an Hungarian friend and music lover. Found a lone hippie (last one) who showed us alices restaurant! He said Arlo lives on a mountain nearby and comes down sometimes......Was he a ghost?

David Wade Smith
David Wade Smith

I live right around the corner from the Guthrie Center. It's a wonderful place. Actually, the restaurant wasn't that close to the church; the restaurant was in Stockbridge, MA, and the church is in Great Barrington, about 7 miles away.


 Remember it as a kid when Alice and Ray lived there, my cousins lived right at the intersection of Division St and North Plain Rd (Rte 41) 2 or 3 houses up the street. Have seen a couple great shows there in the Troubador Series they do each Summer. Great place doing good things for the community.

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