Coachella, Lollapalooza, Warped Tour — none of the big music festivals today quite live up to the glory that was this four-day event in August 1969. Simply, Woodstock represented an entire generation’s discontent with the status quo, and Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Joe Cocker, the Who, and others provided the musical accompaniment. Attendees might have a hard time recalling the event in exact detail — thankfully, there’s the DVD.
THE LAST WALTZ (1978)
The year is 1976, and the Band is set to perform their last concert at San Francisco’s Wonderland…ever. Martin Scorsese helmed this documentary that tracks the Band’s final performance, interspersing it with in-studio interviews and cameos with Neil Young, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, and Joni Mitchell. And 30 years later, Scorsese is back at it again with his Rolling Stones concert film Shine a Light.
MONTEREY POP (1968)
We all know what came after Woodstock, but what was there before? Apparently, a lot. In June 1967, the Monterey International Pop Music Festival in California played host to a number of burgeoning acts who would go on to headline at the legendary upstate New York festival, and it’s documented here. Oh, and this was where the world really got a taste of what Jimi Hendrix could do with a guitar.
GIMME SHELTER (1970)
If you’ve ever wondered how the Hells Angels earned such a bad rap, you could start right here. At a Rolling Stones/Jefferson Airplane concert at the Altamont Speedway in December 1969, someone thought it’d be a good idea if the Hells Angels served as security guards for the acts on stage. As the crowd got wild, the Angels got wilder, and it culminated in the violent death of a fan, while the Stones were on stage. A scary counterpiece to Woodstock.
DAVE CHAPPELLE'S BLOCK PARTY (2005)
This jubilant Michel Gondry film traces a free concert conceived and organized by comedian Dave Chappelle, for which he brought hip-hop luminaries like Kanye West, Mos Def, The Roots, Jill Scott, and even the reunited Fugees to a Brooklyn street and turned that mutha out. And when Chappelle visits Ohio State Central University’s marching band and arranges for them to charter a bus to NYC for the show, and then has them lead Kanye to the stage…righteous.
STOP MAKING SENSE (1984)
”And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife…And you may ask yourself: Well…how did I get here?” So sang Talking Heads leader David Byrne in ”Once In a Lifetime.” Director Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs) worked with the band to answer that question in this warped concert documentary that has Byrne rocking out in that unforgettable enormous suit. Both existential and essential.
SIGN O' THE TIMES (1987)
One word: Prince. Even though he’s a masterful studio musician, His Purpleness is built for the stage, and he — along with Sheila E. and the Revolution — tear through the jam-oriented songs from the album that gives the movie its name. We’ll take this over Under the Cherry Moon any day.
BRING ON THE NIGHT (1985)
Sting may seem on top of the world now, but this wasn’t always the case. Director Michael Apted’s follows the young Gordon Sumner as he prepares for his first solo concert since his apocalyptic part with the Police, and tensely prepares for introducing old fans to his new, jazzy sound. If nothing else, it’s worth watching just to hear Sting sing the theme to The Flintstones.
MADONNA: TRUTH OR DARE (1991)
Doesn’t matter how many times the great dame reinvents herself, we’ll always tune in. Madonna famously stirred controversy with her Blonde Ambition tour, and this doc captured the fireworks onstage (masturbatory reveries) and off (hopping into bed with her dancers, messing with Warren Beatty‘s head).
CHUCK BERRY: HAIL! HAIL! ROCK 'N' ROLL (1987)
It’s Chuck Berry’s 60th birthday! He celebrated with this concert documentary that has the rocker jamming alongside Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Julian Lennon, and more onstage at the Fox Theatre in St. Louis.
JAZZ ON A SUMMER'S DAY (1960)
The Newport Jazz Festival is held every year, but not a one was better documented than the one that was held in 1958. Set against the pastoral backdrop of the Newport Harbor, Louis Armstrong (pictured, with Jack Teagarden), Thelonious Monk, Dinah Washington, and others set the water on fire.
FESTIVAL EXPRESS (2003)
Imagine being stuck in a moving train across Canada with some of rock’s greatest stars. If those stars were the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin (pictured), the Band, and Buddy Guy, you’d have this rockumentary, which spends five action-packed days on their 1970 Trans Continental Pop Festival tour.
STOREFRONT HITCHCOCK (1998)
Another music documentary from Jonathan Demme (Stop Making Sense), this time starring singer-writer Robyn Hitchcock as he performs in the storefront of a New York City shop window.
BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB (1999)
The legendary Cuban group collaborated with German director Wim Wenders to create this moving documentary that follows the aging ensemble musicians as they rehearse in Havana, and then perform in Amsterdam and NYC’s Carnegie Hall. The film grossed an astonishing (for a music documentary) $23 million and the soundtrack won a Grammy.
THE T.A.M.I. SHOW (1964)
Current pop culture may not know what T.A.M.I. stands for (sources differ on whether it was Teenage Awards Music International or Teen Age Music International), but there’s no doubt The T.A.M.I. Show drew in formidable acts from the United States and United Kingdom. The Beach Boys, Marvin Gaye, the Supremes, the Rolling Stones, and Chuck Berry all appear, but one sequence towers above them all — you’ll never forget James Brown‘s incendiary performance.