by wjw on May 3, 2007

So the other night we went to see Arlo Guthrie play in Socorro, the Athens of the Southwest.

We noticed that Arlo plays in Socorro about every other year, and that the shows always sell out. Hmm, we thought, maybe we’ve been missing something.

But first we went to Club Macey for what they called the “Hippy Dippy Hour.”

Club Macey is a scheme whereby the university gets to keep its liquor license. Before every concert or event in Macey Center, the Club opens to members with a free buffet dinner and a non-free bar. The dinners are usually themed in some way. When Niyaz played last week, the food was Middle Eastern— apparently they had no recipes for Persian cuisine, which is different, but the Middle Eastern food was tasty, and so I had no complaints.

So before the Guthrie concert, Club Macey laid on a spread of pita bread, spinach dip, stuffed mushrooms, yogurt+granola, and sweet-and-sour tofu. People were urged to dress in Sixties styles, which— glancing about— seemed in practice to mean tie-dye.

Kathy actually had a tie-dyed tee, but I don’t. I briefly considered digging into the closet for an old set of Army fatigues (I mean, you remember your Sixties, I’ll remember mine) but then I decided to opt for comfort and just wore the sort of thing I normally wear to a Macey concert.

((Long digression: Before I’m accused of misleading y’all by claiming to be a veteran when I’m not, I should point out that I never actually served in the Army in the Sixties.

Instead, I was an assassin for the CIA.

Just kidding.

Actually I never served. Too young, and too much wanting not to die.))

It’s not the costumes I want to talk about though, or the army. It’s the food. Spinach dip? Sweet-and-sour tofu?

Here’s what I remember eating in the Sixties:

1. Vast amounts of carbohydrates.

2. Fried things.

3. Huge hunks of dripping red meat. Meat three times per day.

If people were eating tofu, it’s because they were poor. Or grew up in Chinatown.

This is what you get when the kitchen staff was all born after 1985, and only know the Sixties from legend.

What the concert should have had, if they were interested in re-creating the era, were pipes and joints being passed up and down the rows in the theater. For me, nostalgia does not smell like patchouli.

When Arlo came on stage, he was accompanied by his son, his daughter, his son-in-law, his four-year-old granddaughter, the pedal steel player, and the spirit of his father. This was the Guthrie Family Legacy Tour, and it ended up being a lot about Woody.

So the show opened with “Way Down Yonder in the Indian Nation”— which I had never realized was a Woody Guthrie song— and ended with “This Land is Your Land,” by way of “The Union Maid” and assorted songs in which goons and ginks and company finks feature strongly. There was also an old wire recording of Woody in the 1940s— recovered just last year— in which he is doing a lengthy, rambling comic introduction to one of his songs. (“I thought I invented that!” Arlo said.)

Son-in-law Johnny Irion sang some songs with Arlo’s daughter Sarah Lee Guthrie— which begs the question, Why did you name your kid after a frozen cake, even if you are a stoner with the munchies? It’s just weird.

And Arlo himself was just fine. His long comic introductions are honed to perfection by now, and they put the audience in the palm of his hand, even the ones who had heard it all before. He did “The Motorcycle Song,” which I always thought was dumb even though the introduction is hilarious, and “The City of New Orleans,” and “The Alice’s Restaurant Massacree,” because, you know, he has to. It’s expected. And even though the song is about the draft, it’s not exactly irrelevant. “You think the draft is just something from a long time ago … but you tell that to the guys from back then that just got called up again.”

He talked about getting searched in airports. (“Most of you think this is a new thing”— his searches started about 1966.) And he said something about the whole peace and love thing that is actually freakin’ profound. Which is this:

If the peace and love people of the Sixties had actually got it right— if the world now was peaceful and everyone had freedom and enough to eat— then it would be really difficult to make a positive contribution. But as that didn’t happen— “since the world sucks”— it’s not hard at all to make a difference.

(So what difference have we-all made? A question for the floor.)

The concert ended with a short but lovely song, “My Peace,” lyrics by Woody, melody by Arlo.

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.

Well shoot, Arlo. Amen.

dubjay May 5, 2007 at 1:51 am

Kathy reminds me that it was “Hippie Happy Hour,” not “Hippy Dippy Hour.”


Please recast the entire post in light of this new information.

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