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Arlo Guthrie headlines Caffe Lena concert at Skidmore

May 6, 2010

Arlo Guthrie headlines Caffe Lena concert at Skidmore

Arlo Guthrie
Arlo Guthrie
Caffe Lena, the legendary coffeehouse and music venue in Saratoga Springs, is about to celebrate its 50th anniversary, and to top off the festivities the Caffe and Skidmore College are joining forces to present singer-songwriter Arlo Guthrie in concert on Saturday, May 22.

The event, also featuring Caffe Lena veterans Robin and Linda Williams and Their Fine Group, will take place in Skidmore's Arthur Zankel Music Center, beginning at 7 p.m.

Guthrie, a longtime Caffe performer who received support and encouragement from the venue's founder, Lena Spencer, early in his career, has called the coffeehouse "a national treasure," noting that "it is not only a part of the lifeblood of the music industry, but also serves as a bridge between the generations."

Said Sarah Craig, director of Caffe Lena, "Guthrie and the Williamses were chosen for their remarkable commitment to keeping the roots of American music alive while pushing forward with their own artistic endeavors ?efforts that are in keeping with the spirit of Caffe Lena."

The anniversary celebration will also include a concert-fundraiser at the Caffe on Friday evening, May 21, and a downtown festival with music and family activities on Saturday, which has been declared "Caffe Lena Day" by the city of Saratoga Springs.

It was in May of 1960 that Lena Spencer opened the doors to her new coffeehouse at 47 Phila Street. Her goal was to give young artists a place to work and the community a place to gather. She served up coffee as well as folk music, theater, and poetry, viewing the audience as visitors, not merely customers.

Caffe Lena quickly became a mainstay of the same folk scene that was burgeoning in New York and Boston. Traveling performers such as Bob Dylan, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Dave Van Ronk, and Don McLean soon considered it a home away from home, drawn as much by Lena's eccentric charm, the warm atmosphere, and the welcoming crowd as by thoughts of a hot meal and a quick paycheck.

Robin and Linda Williams and 
Their Fine Group

Spencer passed away in 1989, but not before making her Caffe a landmark and becoming a legend in her own right. Pete Seeger, an early performer at the Caffe, recently said, "Lena was a very creative person who stuck with it. She persevered."

In her absence the Caffe has continued as a not-for-profit organization devoted to carrying on her ideals of "telling stories through music, theater and the spoken word."

Said Craig,"The Caffe is very excited about partnering with Skidmore College, and pleased that this event will also shine a spotlight on the Arthur Zankel Music Center, the newest jewel in Saratoga Springs' impressive crown of performance venues."

At the Saturday evening concert, a slide show of images from across the Caffe's history will be juxtaposed with the music.

To honor Spencer for her contributions to music and culture, Skidmore awarded her with an honorary doctorate of humane letters in 1987.

For more information on Caffe Lena and to purchase tickets for the May 22 concert, visit


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