Last month, I went to the Jazz Kitchen in Indy to see my professors’ band play jazzier arrangements of Joni Mitchell’s music. It was the first time I had seen live music performed in person — not over a YouTube or Twitch livestream — in over a year. The performance was phenomenal; the musicians were enjoying themselves and putting their heart into the music. Plus, the atmosphere had that empathic quality often felt at jazz shows, wherein you could really read the room around you and feel the impact of the music upon it. I realized afterwards how much I had missed live music, both the humanely-generated sounds themselves and the healing atmosphere congregated listeners create. And although we might not be able to go out as much as we used to, shows are being organized with more and more regularity as our collective social confidence increases. To keep myself satisfied until my next chance to attend a live performance, I have collected a series of DVDs from Media Services’ shelves that either showcase famous performances or create a portrait of the music and the artists behind them. Although this list is just a taste of our entire collection, hopefully you will find some performances that resonate with you, shed new light on an artist’s work, or carry you over until the next concert you are able to attend. Part I is focused on music festivals. Stay tuned for Part II which covers live concerts and documentaries on such artists as Pink Floyd, Sun Ra, Sade, and Fela Kuti!
These historic music festivals spotlight the culminating shows of one of the most exciting eras for music, and they represent a time when people made an effort to come together in the names of “peace and music”. For just a few days, some of the world’s most accomplished musicians and bands would come together in a little village with thousands of fans. Given the chance to reach such a huge and dedicated audience, these artists offered their spectacular performances. A few of my favorite sets from this section are Miles Davis at the Isle of Wight, Otis Redding at Monterey Pop, and Joni Mitchell’s appearance in The Last Waltz.
On a beautiful June weekend in 1967, at the beginning of the Summer of Love, the Monterey International Pop Festival roared forward, capturing a decade’s spirit and ushering in a new era of rock and roll. Monterey featured career-making performances by Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Otis Redding, but they were just a few of the performers in a wildly diverse lineup that also included Simon and Garfunkel, the Mamas and the Papas, the Who, the Byrds, Hugh Masekela, and the extraordinary Ravi Shankar. With his characteristic vérité style—and a camera crew that included the likes of Albert Maysles and Richard Leacock—D. A. Pennebaker captured it all, immortalizing moments that have become legend: Pete Townshend smashing his guitar, Jimi Hendrix burning his, Mama Cass watching Janis Joplin’s performance in awe. The Criterion Collection edition presents the most comprehensive document of the Monterey Pop Festival ever produced, featuring the films Monterey Pop, Jimi Plays Monterey, and Shake! Otis at Monterey, along with every available complete performance filmed by Pennebaker and his crew and additional rare outtakes.
In 1969, 500,000 people descended on a small patch of field in a little-known town in upstate New York called Woodstock. In this documentary, the iconic event is chronicled in unflinching detail, from the event’s inception all the way through to the unexpected air-delivery of food and medical supplies by the National Guard. The film contains performances, interviews with the artists and candid footage of the fans in a defining portrait of 1960s America.
In 1970, 600,000 people descended on the Isle of Wight in England to watch a three-day music festival headlined by the Who, the Doors and Jimi Hendrix. Shot during the festival but only completed 25 years later, Murray Lerner’s documentary is equal parts nostalgia and critique, contrasting the festival’s classic-rock performances with its chaotic planning and financial failure. This film shows this collision between ideals and commerce at the end of an era of change.
Seventeen years after joining forces as the backing band for rockabilly cult hero Ronnie Hawkins, roots rockers The Band call it quits with a lavish farewell show at San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom on Nov. 25, 1976. Filmed by Martin Scorsese, this documentary features standout performances by rock legends such as Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Eric Clapton, Joni Mitchell, and Muddy Waters, as well as interviews tracing the group’s history and discussing road life.
Part II of this blog series will cover great live concerts by soloists and bands along with some of the most compelling documentaries available on influential musicians.
Duncan Hardy is a longtime Media Services student desk staff member. 2021 will be his last summer, and this is his last blog post series for the department. We are so grateful to Duncan for his outstanding contributions to the department blog, his warm collegiality, and his devotion to department patrons. We will miss Duncan’s presence, but we wish him all good things in his future endeavors!