Folk legend Arlo Guthrie returns to Vancouver Island MusicFest

Folk legend Arlo Guthrie returns to Vancouver Island MusicFest

Island MusicFest executive producer Doug Cox went to the well one more time for the final headlining act of the 2018 event, as Arlo Guthrie will return to the scene of his 62nd birthday party.

Guthrie played at the 2009 festival, and is looking forward to spending time with friends when he returns to the Comox Valley in July.

“This year there’s some old friends I’m looking to catching up with – Ry Cooder, David Amram, Josh White Jr., are just a few that come to mind,” he said in an interview with The Record. “I’ve known and loved these guys for most of my life. That’s one great reason for coming this year.”

Much like Arlo, whose father, Woody Guthrie, was one of the founding superstars of contemporary folk music, Josh White Jr. also comes from folk stardom. His father, Josh White, was one of the first African American performers of contemporary folk music.

The ageless Amram was also from that era. The 87-year-old multi-instrumentalist has played with everyone from Pete Seeger to Dizzy Gillespie, and will share the stage with Arlo and White, Jr. for a special collaboration at MusicFest.

“The three of them, along with Eliza Gilkyson, are going to do a tribute to Woody Guthrie at our festival, which will be pretty amazing,” said Cox. “Arlo often gets asked to do tributes to his father, but probably not often with people who knew his father.”

Guthrie said the festival ambience is always appealing to him, and gives him a chance to spend time with other musicians he might not otherwise get a chance to socialize with.

“Usually festival performances are somewhat shorter, as there are many other performances within the same time frame… So [I have] the ability to hang out with performers I don’t usually get to be with. I love being backstage meeting younger people, and sharing some time with old friends.”

The family-oriented atmosphere of Vancouver Island MusicFest is a perfect fit for Arlo Guthrie’s philosophy of his music.

“Folk music has always been family-oriented,” he said. “From learning to play it, to appreciating it later in life, there is a thread that connects generations of people. For me, that’s one of the unique joys of doing what we do.”

His current touring band is very much a family affair, with his son, Abe, his daughter, Sarah Lee, “and our buddy Terry Ala Berry.”

He said he will have some spare time this year, to catch not only some of the other acts, but some of the area as well.

“I always try to catch other performers when we’re doing the same gig – It’s really the only time I get to do so,” he said, adding that he will be arriving in the Comox Valley the day before the festival begins, and staying until the day after his performance.

It’s been 51 years since the release of Guthrie’s iconic album, Alice’s Restaurant. When asked about the lasting ability of the title song, Alice’s Restaurant Massacree, he was ever-philosophical.

“I’ve been thankful for the enthusiasm with regard to Alice’s Restaurant but there’s always a difference between what’s popular, what’s important, and what’s now. Sometimes they’re all the same, but not often.”

At 70 years old, Arlo Guthrie continues to tour and fans are still discovering his music. While his career is closer to its end than its beginning, Guthrie said he has no concerns of the folk music genre lasting; it’s a style that carries on in perpetuity.

“I stand on the shoulders of giants of the generation that came before me, Lead Belly, Pete Seeger, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, Mississippi John Hurt, Doc Watson – the list is fairly long. Those are some that I actually knew. There are many others I admired and learned from, like Lord Buckley. However, I never associate folk music as being a genre. For me it was always the way someone learned to feel about music in general – any kind of music, from symphonic to some kid humming a tune. That kind of feeling you discover becomes part of your life, and as long as there’s people, there will be some who discover the treasure and language of music.”

Arlo Guthrie’s main stage performance will be Sunday, July 15.

Weekend passes are available at islandmusicfest.com/

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A report by investigator Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond found “widespread systemic racism against Indigenous people” in a report released Monday.
Investigation finds ‘widespread systemic racism against Indigenous people’ in provincial health care

The report could not confirm allegations of coordinated alcohol-blood level guessing game

Classes are cancelled at Royal Bay Secondary School and other schools Nov. 30 due to power outages. (Black Press Media file photo)
Classes cancelled across the West Shore, Sooke due to power outages

Students can be picked up but facilities remain open

Victoria police issued tickets to two Victoria party hosts Saturday night, according to VicPD Chief Del Manak. (Unsplash)
Victoria partiers hid in closets, bedrooms in an attempt to avoid fines

Police gave out COVID-19 tickets to two separate parties

Parking fees at Thetis Lake Park will be going up at some point, but not without further discussion. Capital Regional District directors asked CRD staff to come back with alternatives, after hearing a proposal that would increase the $2.25 per day rate to $7 for 2021. (Google Maps)
Greater Victoria politicians ditch plan for $7 daily parking at Thetis Lake

Capital Regional District directors fear backlash from parks users

The Fraser Institute’s annual report card on B.C. elementary schools ranks schools across the province based on standardized tests. (Black Press Media file photo)
Fraser Institute delivers Greater Victoria elementary schools a mixed report card

The annual report card compares test scores of schools across the province

A bus shelter in White Rock is emblazoned with an ad from B.C.’s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. (Black Press Media files)
VIDEO: ‘Am I racist?’ campaign asks British Columbians to confront their unconscious biases

Signs asking British Columbians to think about racial injustice have been put up across the province

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Jim Neufeld, 55, was last seen leaving his home in Penticton Jan. 21, 2009. (RCMP photo)
Human remains found off U.S. coast in 2009 identified as Penticton man

Jim Neufeld, 55, was last seen leaving his home in Penticton Jan. 21, 2009

Remains of the scene off Melrose Road in Whiskey Creek where three bodies were found on Nov. 1, 2020. (Mandy Moraes photo)
Probe continues into grisly mid-Island discovery of 3 human bodies, 4 dead dogs

Police still want to speak with motorist who picked up hitchhikers near scene on Nov. 1

An man from Errington died when his ATV went over an embankment on Northwest Bay Logging Road on the weekend. (File photo)
ATV rider goes over embankment and dies on back road near Nanaimo

45-year-old man from Errington died in incident Saturday afternoon

The Nov. 20 WestJet flight 3171 has been identified by the BC Centre for Disease Control with a COVID case aboard. (Black Press file photo)
Fifth COVID-19 exposure reported on flight at Comox airport

Another exposure risk from flight originating in Calgary

(Dave Landine/Facebook)
VIDEO: Dashcam captures head-on crash between snowplow and truck on northern B.C. highway

Driver posted to social media that he walked away largely unscathed

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
B.C. care home looks to hire residents’ family members amid COVID-19-related staff shortage

Family would get paid as temporary workers, while having chance to see loved ones while wearing PPE

B.C. Finance Minister Carole James and Premier John Horgan announce $5 billion emergency fund for COVID-19 unemployment and other relief, B.C. legislature, March 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
Carole James stays on to advise B.C. Premier John Horgan

Retired finance minister to earn a dollar a year

Most Read