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Scott McLennan
Music: Green River Festival Hosts Woody Guthrie Centennial
By Scott McLennan

July 12, 2012

Arlo Guthrie and Family. (Photo courtesy of The Green River Festival.)

The centennial of Woody Guthrie’s birth is being celebrated around the county this year in various concerts and programs. But the biggest bash stands to happen on Guthrie’s actual birthday, July 14, when his descendants gather for a performance at the Green River Festival in Greenfield.

Arlo Guthrie and the Guthrie Family Reunion headline the Green River festival on Saturday. The event runs Saturday and Sunday at Greenfield Community College, and presents luminaries such as Los Lobos, Richard Thompson, Ozomatli, and C.J. Chenier.

“We just assumed it wouldn’t happen,” Green River organizer Jim Olsen says of his interest in having Woody’s son Arlo Guthrie and crew perform at the 26th edition of this Franklin County summer showpiece. “We were told the family wanted to take the actual birthday off and be together at their place in the Berkshires. Then late in the game, Arlo decided he wanted to play a gig on the birthday, but be close to home. We were the natural choice.”

Olsen says there will be three generations of Guthries performing on Saturday, and in all likelihood other artists there that day will be joining in the celebration of America’s folk legend.

“Woody is really the father of the singer-songwriter movement. He was our first great political and protest singer. He had all those great story songs, too. He’s a spiritual father to everything we’ll have at the festival,” Olsen says.

NPR’s “Folk Alley” will be streaming the Guthrie Centennial.

This will also be the first time that Arlo Guthrie performs at Green River. Olsen’s other coup was landing British folk-rock legend Richard Thompson, whom he had been trying to get for years; Thompson is playing on Sunday.

“There’s a Fairport Convention reunion in England every year that seems to conflict with our dates” says Olsen. “This year, there was time, and Richard’s manager actually called me to say he really wanted to be here,” Olsen says.

The offerings are broad all around. The festival digs into soul music with Charles Bradley on Saturday and Lee Fields on Sunday. Experimental roots rock airs with Chuck Prophet and David Wax Museum on Saturday, and Rubblebucket and Winterpills on Sunday. About 30 different acts are scheduled across both days.

Three stages will be running all weekend starting at 12:30 p.m. And as is custom, hot-air balloons will be decorating the skies and selling rides. You have until 4 p.m. Friday to get two-day tickets for $75 or single-day tickets for $55. Tickets are then $75 per day. Kids under 12 get in for free.

Green River Festival
Greenfield, MA 01302


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