Legendary California music festival (pre-Woodstock) that launched the state-side careers of several performers, most notably Jimi Hendrix. Check out Mama Cass being absolutely blown away while watching Joplin sing. Here there be REAL acid rock.Written by
Raymond Clay <email@example.com>
I've heard it commented that Monterey Pop is less of a `movie' than Woodstock because it doesn't really get to know the Audience as a character (through interviews, pointed observation, thru-stories, etc.). This is nothing more than old-fashioned critic snobbery. The distance is precisely the mystique of the film. Do we need to talk to the audience or to Janis Joplin, for example, after her performance? As an impressed Cass Elliot looks on, we see Joplin playfully skitter off the stage like a schoolgirl to embrace a friend after her victorious `Ball & Chain,' and we totally feel her sense of accomplishment and state of exhaustion after delivering such a powerhouse. Sometimes a picture speaks a thousand words.
Monterey Pop, in comparison to Woodstock, does indeed have a distant feel and, overall, lacks that film's spit & polish. But this is like comparing two different directing styles say Kubrick vs. Ford. Based on its own merits, this film is a fantastic, bare-bones look back at the state of (what was then!) underground music before drugs & death took their massive toll, before it all became `classic rock' commercialism, and before everyone (including myself) had a chance to pontificate on its merits ad nauseum. The distance afforded their subjects by the filmmakers adds to this experimental `street' allure and is actually very appropriate. Have you ever felt cheated by a band simply because they went commercial? How it just doesn't feel the same because what once seemed like a hip secret kept by a choice few had now gained Mass Audience Appeal? The jig was up. Alas, for those old days Monterey captures that spirit of an unbridled, non-compromised and spontaneous movement that has just the right touch of danger attached.
Even though Monterey Pop has a garage rock feel, it's not really about `garage rock' per se, which has its roots back to 50s. It's more about a time when rock really went through a kind of psychedelic overhaul that continues to influence today. Besides the psychedelia, however, rock went through a diverse artistic transition that begun to incorporate music from other countries, styles and mediums (You want diversity? Try Otis Redding and Ravi Shankar on the same bill!). Although the Beatles had already begun to incorporate this stuff, most had not by '67 and were just perfecting their own innovative sounds (Janis Joplin, for instance, did not bring in a full horn section until a couple of years later, and Big Brother remained very guitar-driven). The jazz of Hugh Mesekela, for instance, is a standout here. I don't see Woodstock as having such a wide scope.
On the other hand, comparisons made to Woodstock are valuable enhancements to this film's enjoyment, not necessarily the base of negative critique. One reviewer, for instance, pointed out the medium hairstyle length of most of the men here (most were so new to The Scene that they hadn't had enough time to grow it out yet. Crew cuts and horn-rimmed glasses also abound). Many of the bands also look surprisingly young & innocent when compared with their Woodstock performances only 2 years later (the results of hard living?). Hendrix at Woodstock, in particular, comes off as nearly sedate when compared to his historic appearance here. Such details are what make Monterey Pop a gorgeous document of this period.
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