Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Even with the collapse of Lollapalooza, the tradition of rock-and-roll jubilees thunders on with H.O.R.D.E. Fest, Lilith Fair, Further Fest, The Warped Tour, Ozzfest, and The Monsters of Rock tour. And this summer, organizers are planning Woodstock ’99 to commemorate Woodstock’s thirtieth anniversary. With performances by acts ranging from Fatboy Slim to Willie Nelson to Wyclef Jean and the Refugee AllStars, Woodstock ’99 promises to be 3 Days of Peace and Music and Annoying Coverage from MTV VJ’s.

Unfortunately not everyone will be able to root in the mud with other shirtless college goofs while members of The Offspring throw things at them. With a VCR and a little ingenuity, however, you can host a customized 3 Days of Peace and Music in the comfort of your own home. Invite your friends! Shirts and mud are optional.


D.A. Pennebaker’s seminal Monterey Pop: The Film (1967) captured the spirit and energy of the underground Haight-Ashbury scene of Janis Joplin and Jefferson Airplane, performing alongside British invaders like the Who and The Animals. This epic festival paved the way for Woodstock and introduced the rock world to the amazing guitar theatrics of Hendrix in concert. However, soul man Otis Redding’s riveting set is the most memorable, his anguished ballad “Try A Little Tenderness” dripping with raw emotion and sweat.

The 25th Anniversary Director’s Cut of Michael Wadleigh’s Oscar-winning documentary Woodstock (1995) is 224 minutes of up-close and personal hippie lovefest with hilarious soundbites of horribly misguided youths (who one can only assume are today your financial advisors) running around naked hopped up on psychedelics. The musical performances are among the best ever captured on film, however, Joe Cocker’s autistic “With A Little Help From My Friends” and Country Joe and the Fish’s proto-karaoke “Fixin’ To Die Rag” standing head-and-shoulders above the rest. Hendrix’s “Star Spangled Banner” is legendary -- the 25th Anniversary contains even more inspired footage of Jimi originally cut from the release as well as an incredible previously excised performance by Janis Joplin.

The hippy-drippy aesthetic of the Woodstock Nation was distorted by Altamont and all but extirpated at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970. Captured on film by director Murray Lerner, Message to Love: The Isle of Wight Festival (1997) documents the ugliness of agents, managers, record executives, artists and fans as organizers attempted to capitalize on Woodstock with this crassly prefabricated peace, love, harmony and big money music fest. Fortunately, the musical performances were amazing. In light of the atmosphere surrounding them, many acts put on the shows of their careers. Leonard Cohen’s songs and poems are outstanding, Miles Davis’ fusion set is electric, both literally and figuratively, and Message to Love features the last performances of Hendrix and Jim Morrison before their untimely deaths.

The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus was shot in 1969, but didn’t see the light of day until 1996. The Stones, who apparently orchestrated the circus with the most magnanimous, well-meaning intentions, felt that The Who’s performance outshined their own. Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s performance documentary was subsequently buried for twenty-five years. The Who’s set was, in fact, superior, but the film contains nothing but shining performances from Clapton, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Taj Mahal, and Jethro Tull (with Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi sitting in on guitar). The Rock and Roll Circus featured the one-and-only gig for Dirty Mack, a supergroup featuring Clapton, Lennon, Hendrix, Keith Richards and Yoko Ono.


As the Sixties became the Seventies, the focus shifted from altering consciousness to raising awareness …while altering consciousness. George Harrison organized the Concert for Bangladesh (1971) to raise awareness and monies for the Bangladeshi people who were suffering from a devastating famine. The concert footage features performances by Clapton, Dylan, Leon Russell, Billy Preston, Ravi Shankar George Harrison and Ringo Starr. Badfinger, the most underrated pop band of all time, fired it up, rocking harder live than any of the other old-timers on the bill.

No matter how Fonda Hanoi Jane you may or may not be, there is no denying that she and fellow liberal do-gooders from Musicians United for Safe Energy put together a phenomenal series of concerts at Madison Square Gardens in the late seventies. Released as No Nukes in 1980, directors Daniel Goldberg and Anthony Potenza captured Jackson Brown, Bonnie Raitt, Carly Simon, James Taylor and Crosby, Stills & Nash performing both onstage and on the soapbox. Bruce Springsteen, the de facto headliner, is not to be missed.

Eschewing left-wing politics for southern fried slogans like “The South’s Gonna Do It Again!”, The Allman Brothers, The Marshall Tucker Band and several other good ol’ boys rock dixie-style at Charlie Daniels’ Volunteer Jam (1976), photographed in vivid whiskeyvision by Stanley Dorfman.

Not to be outdone by fellow former-Beatles, Paul McCartney organized the Concert for Kampuchea (1981), bringing together classic rockers like The Who and Robert Plant, New Wavers Elvis Costello, Rockpile, Ian Dury, The Specials, The Pretenders and Scottish stand-up comic Billy Connolly. The Clash delivered a high-octane set that director Keith McMillan conveyed brilliantly in the film, bringing the kenetic energy of the stage to the screen.


In the early Eighties, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak produced two of the most abyssmal commercial failures in rock history: The Us Festivals. Unfortunately, neither of the two festivals, which in spite of the financial loss featured some of the finest performances by then-current rockers like The Police, have been released on tape. Neither has Bob Geldof’s incredible transAtlantic Live Aid festival.

However, Amnesty International drafted directors Roger Graef and Julien Temple to shoot a series of films from one of their many concerts designed to raise awareness and money for global human rights concerns. The result was The Secret Policeman’s Ball (1981), The Secret Policeman’s Other Ball (1981) and The Secret Policeman’s Private Parts (1981). In addition to featuring the British comic stylings of Monty Python, Beyond the Fringe, Rowan Atkinson and Billy Connolly, The Secret Policeman tapes showcase rare, stripped-down acoustic sets by Pete Townsend, Clapton, Jeff Beck, Phil Collins, Bob Geldof, Donovan. Sting sparse rendition of “Message in a Bottle” foreshadows his later jazzy approach.

The Paris Concert for Amnesty International (1997) features old school performances from Bruce Springsteen, Peter Gabriel, Plant & Page, Youssou N’Dour and Tracy Chapman mixed with new school sets by Alanis Morrisette Asian Dub Foundation and Shania Twain. Rare footage of Radiohead performing cuts from OK Computer is, in and of itself, worth a letter-writing campaign and the Dalai Lama rocks the house party at the drop of a hat.

The 25th Anniversary of Woodstock not only garnered a re-released version of the movie, it spawned a re-release of the festival itself. Woodstock ’94, featured over forty bands from Nine Inch Nails to original Woodstocker Joe Cocker and, unlike the first concert, this revolution was televised. Award-winning documentarian Barbara Kopple, director of Harlan County, USA, shot an eye-opening look at the corporate-sponsored carnival/bazaar, Woodstock ’94, 3 More Days of Peace and Music (1994).

Actress Lisa Lake’s freshman effort Glastonbury: The Movie (1995) captured the spirit and energy of the alternative scene at England’s Glastonbury Festival, where indie rockers like The Lemonheads and The Filberts performed alongside neo-art rockers Porno for Pyros and an inspired techno-prog set from Spiritualized. Shown through the eyes of a fan meeting her rock-and-roll idols, Glastonbury: The Movie is a fascinating glimpse at an everchanging music scene.


The final image of Woodstock (1970) is a squad of doleful cops inspecting the filth-littered field of Yasgur’s farm left behind by the Woodstock Nation. Now that your friends have taken their one-hitters home and a few cans of Busch for the road, take a look around your apartment. Enjoy!

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