Rock ‘n’ roll legends

The event that introduced much of America to Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and The Who gets a nice three-disc DVD treatment from The Criterion Collection. Monterey Pop encapsulates the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, the precursor to Woodstock.

The concert film itself is an amazing musical time capsule, remarkable in that those who went to see the performances had no idea of the history they were about to witness. Hendrix and The Who had not yet taken the country by storm, and Janis Joplin was a virtual stranger to those in attendance. The likes of Simon and Garfunkel, while on the rise, would represent the waning folk music movement, while other acts would come on and literally destroy the stage.

A little band called The Grateful Dead would deliver a mesmerizing set, although we don’t get to see it because the filmmakers screwed up and decided to stop documenting the band when their songs went on too long. A major regret.

Monterey Pop features mainly one-song performances from the festival’s roster, one of the highlights being The Who’s My Generation, culminating with Pete Townshend famously destroying his guitar. Jimi Hendrix would follow the band, and top The Who’s destruction by humping his guitar, setting it on fire, and then smashing it Townshend style.

It’s fun to watch audience reaction to The Who and Hendrix. Keith Moon, late drummer of The Who, is a mad frenzy on his kit, and the noise he makes creates more than a few frowns. As Hendrix pours lighter fluid on his guitar, the film cuts to concertgoers wearing pained facial expressions, as if they are unimpressed.

SPECIAL FEATURES: On Jimi Plays Monterey, an included short film capturing the majority of Hendrix’s set, music critic Charles Shaar Murray provides a commentary, describing the backstage arguments between Hendrix and The Who concerning who would take the stage first (The Who won). The disc also contains Shake! Otis at Monterey, a short film capturing Otis Redding’s set.

It’s fun to see musical styles and technique crashing into one another in Monterey Pop. A disc entitled The Outtake Performances provides the chance to see more Who, including “Substitute” and “A Quick One While He’s Away.” There’s also Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth,” introduced by The Monkees’ Peter Tork.

Monterey Pop is a great concert film, but it’s the addition of the outtakes and the Hendrix film that makes the package worth owning.

Movie: B+
Special Features: A