Stop making senseless concert films

“Just hold me, babe. I’m having <i>Phish 3D </i>nightmares.”

“Just hold me, babe. I’m having Phish 3D nightmares.”

While I stand by my opinion that the band Phish plays vanilla music lacking even the exotic quality of the vanilla bean (Ben and Jerry’s, you’re serving pints of creamy and delicious lies), I commend the listeners of Phish and their blind (and deaf) devotion to the band’s unwatchable concert film Phish 3D. Your delusional faith in a cause so unworthy of your passions would humble the teabaggers.

But the failure of Phish 3D underlines the fact that there hasn’t been a seminal rock-concert film in decades—I’ll leave it to my readers to construct their own plays on the words “seminal,” “semen” and “Phish 3D”; have fun with it!—arguably not since Jonathan Demme’s 1984 Stop Making Sense.

Dave Chappelle’s Block Party was entertaining, but it didn’t capture a cultural “moment” so much as a moment when Chappelle had shit else to do. Likewise, Festival Express was a solid concert film featuring the Band and Janis Joplin, but it was really a 1970s film released in 2003.

The obvious reason for this drought is that rock ’n’ roll music is complete garbage right now (less obvious: Hollywood is overstocked with Tolkien nerds and MBA types, not counterculture rockers); it’s no coincidence that the heyday of rock-concert films trailed the heyday of rock ’n’ roll. Between 1968 and 1978, concert films as diverse as Monterey Pop, Gimme Shelter, Woodstock, The Last Waltz, The Song Remains the Same, Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, and Wattstax were released.

In contrast, recent concert films have been a boon only for fans of kiddie-pop tripe (the Jonas Brothers’ 3-D movie), over-the-hill nostalgia acts (the Rolling Stones’ Shine a Light) and watery hippie jam music perfect for anyone who ever wished James Taylor started a “party band” (Phish 3D—I’m sorry, but it was torture).