Mods And Rockers Film Festival: Monterey Pop Goes Pow!


Thursday night saw one of the grand set-pieces of this year's Mods & Rockers Film Festival - a 40th anniversary reunion celebration of the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival. Brad Schreiber reports on the event.

Meeting the challenge of the highly-publicized 40th anniversary of the Monterey International Pop Festival, Mods and Rockers Film Fest grand poobah Martin Lewis must have some serious rock music mojo in his kit bag. For he brought in not only Monterey Pop film director D.A. Pennebaker but a cavalcade of rock glitterati and cognoscenti for a celebration that shall be long remembered.

Prior to the screening, there was an art exhibit of the work of Jefferson Airplane's Grace Slick, in the courtyard of the Egyptian Theatre. And the expectant, packed crowd inside roared its approval at, of all things, a promotional tape of Festival sponsor Virgin-America, which named its first airliner "Jefferson Airplane." On tape, there was Ms. Slick, expressing admiration for the plane being named after her band and relief that it was not called "Grateful Dead."

The Animals' Eric Burdon had been lured to the Egyptian under the pretense of attending the 40th anni screening. But Lewis surprised Burdon by also presenting him with a lifetime achievement award and screened for the assembled audience a film clip of Burdon with his Animals ('when they were young') in the 1965 film Go-Go Mania, singing "House of the Rising Sun."

"That was nine o'clock in the morning in Soho with a hell of a hangover," Burdon explained, proving that those who did experience the 60s really can remember it.

Lewis acknowledged many Monterey Festivall participants in the crowd, including The Association's guitarist and vocalist Russ Giguere, Buffalo Springfield drummer Dewey Martin, Canned Heat bassist Larry Taylor and lead guitarist of the Moby Grape Jerry Miller. They would all later appear on an eight-minute outtake reel Lewis had produced (with Pennabaker's sanction) honoring those artists whose terrific performances -- among 30 hours of footage -- could not fit into the original 78-minute film.

Lewis then brought up, for a pre-screening chat, Burdon, Slick, Michelle Phillips of the Mamas and Papas and Monterey Festival co-organizer Lou Adler. Commenting on the remarkable diversity of music in the film, from Jimi Hendrix to Ravi Shankar, Otis Redding to The Who, Adler summed it up: "We set out to represent every genre that was playing on the radio at that time."

Lewis read messages from those who could not be present, including The Who's Pete Townshend, who touchingly recalled departed rock heroes: "Mama Cass, Jimi Hendrix, Brian Jones, Derek Taylor, John Phillips - all gone now. All such lovely people. We were all shiny, happy, easy people."

Rolling Stones manager-producer Andrew Loog Oldham (who had suggested that the festival present The Who) sent a missive from Bogota, Columbia, where one wonders if he is producing a benefit concert for the Medellin cartel or what. He wrote, encouragingly, "You were part of the original motor, the dream machine that keeps running."

And the third message came from Beatle Paul McCartney, who fondly recalled being asked for recommendations for acts to perform at Monterey and mentioning a lad who had wowed him in London -- by the name of Jimi Hendrix...

The anticipation of seeing the film veritably seethed inside the Egyptian, but Lewis had one more act of rocker prestidigitation to perform. One artist who had been schedule to perform at Monterey in 1967 but was forced to miss it due to a drug-related hassle with the British police, would finally have his moment. Donovan walked out from the shadows of the stage right exit door, green acoustic guitar at the ready and performed "Sunshine Superman" to a standing O.

The digitally-restored film unspooled and the crowd broke into cheers numerous times. The man sitting directly to my right sounding like a whooping crane on serious psychedelics, particularly during the performances of Redding -- (whose entire Monterey performance will be featured Saturday at Mods and Rockers in a more extended film) -- and gusty, soulful, lovely Janis Joplin

The giddy crowd was treated to in-house introductions to Owen Elliott-Kugel, daughter of Cass Elliott, and Janie Hendrix, sister of Jimi.

And then, finally, D.A. Pennebaker, looking very spry for his 82 years, concluded the night, telling Lewis and the crowd how the first theatrical presentation of Monterey Pop was at a porno theatre in San Francisco. The owner had seen Pennebaker's film and with penetrating insight worthy of Cahiers du Cinema, announced, "It looks like a porno film...but it's not."

No, what it is - is musical lightning captured in a bottle with five handmade cameras and a director who knew how to let his crew do their thing, and had the impeccable taste to create a bold doc that cures the psychic ills of our time. There can be no better diagnosis of the music captured on celluloid at Monterey, forty years ago, than Pennebaker's own reaction when he saw those groups -- many of whom he did not know -- perform. "This isn't entertainment," he said. "This can save your life...