Johnny Depp and I have quite a bit in common. Besides an abiding love for Winona Ryder, we both are fans of the procreant 20th century folk musician Woody Guthrie, a man who purportedly wrote over 1,000 songs.
Unfortunately, Mr. Depp, the actor, not me, the writer, has begun the task of editing Guthrie’s unpublished Dustbowl-era novel written nigh on 60 years ago. Why this sudden interest in Guthrie, a man known as much for agitation as he is for his socialist leanings and predilection for sexual adventure? July 14 would have been his 100th birthday.
So it would seem a celebration is in order and that’s what musician Chris Sand has in mind for the Woody Guthrie 100th Birthday Bash at the Union Hall. Sand supposes that “Guthrie is America: Whitman, Twain and all that encapsulates what is good and artistic and makes [America] colorful.”
The bash celebrates all things Guthrie, including his second wife’s vocation as a dancer (she and Guthrie met while she was choreographing dances to some of his tunes). The Bare Bait Dance Co. performs pieces inspired by rural life during the Depression era, while actor Jeff Medley explores the poetry of Guthrie’s writing with a recitation of some of the populist musician’s work. Portland, Ore.’s Fast Rattler provides an authentic taste of down home protest music. Their style swings from rough and rowdy bootstompers to glum tales about the folly of man. Brendan Phillips, the son of the late musician and union organizer Utah Phillips, performs in the group and shares a similar storytelling bent.
Chris Sands & the Big MT perform country-folk. Some may know Sand as the “Rappin’ Cowboy,” a moniker that is self-explanatory. A documentary about Sand, Roll Out, Cowboy, which was shown at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, has its official DVD release at the bash as well.
If Guthrie were alive today, what would he think of our country? Obviously, he would be unimpressed with our international war-mongering and the greedy ways of the Wall Street financial system and, musically, he might be moved to gripe about the Top-40 tunes that suggest money is the root of all happiness. Yet there is an air of protest in this country, both in the Occupy movement and in the Tea Party movement as well. The average person doesn’t know what exactly is wrong, but wants something done about it. Sand would say our collective malaise and the desire for artists and others to take it to the streets and speak collectively of the country’s ills is proof that “the essence of Woody is more alive than ever.”
WHAT: Woody Guthrie 100th Birthday Bash
WHO: Fast Rattler, Dear Sister Killdeer, Chris Sand & the Big MT, Bare Bait Dance Co., Jeff Medly and Jennifer Combe
WHEN: Fri., July 13, at 8 PM
WHERE: Union Hall, 208 E. Main St. (above the Union Club)
HOW MUCH: $5-$15 sliding scale