6 Movies That Show the Music Festival Experience
When looking out the window or at the calendar, it might seem like spring has only just gotten underway, but according to the world of music festivals, summer is already in full swing. Austin’s South by Southwest and California’s Coachella are two of the biggest events of festival season, and they’re already done and over with.
If you missed out on those events and don’t have the cash to shell out hundreds of dollars for tickets and lodging at one of the summer’s upcoming festivals like Bonnaroo or Glastonbury, you can witness some of the spectacle from the comfort of your home — minus the sunburns, tent sleeping, and hangovers — with these films that are either about or take place at summer music festivals.
1. Tonight You’re Mine
This cute British romantic comedy is about two feuding rock stars who end up handcuffed together and falling in love at a massive music festival they’re both playing. The film is set at the T in the Park festival in Scotland, and the main characters are Adam, the lead singer of a successful pop band, and Morello, the frontwoman of an all-girl punk band. Of course, their clashing musical ideologies mean they don’t get along from the start, though under the surface they have more in common than they might think.
After a preacher sees them arguing backstage, he handcuffs them together and throws away the key to teach them a lesson about compassion and not being spoiled brats. This means they have to spend the festival getting to know each other and preparing to perform handcuffed together. At first they’re livid over this arrangement, but in true rom-com fashion they end up falling for each other. Shooting at a real music festival, and in just four days, no less, lends much authenticity to the setting that would have been difficult to recreate on a film set.
2. Wayne’s World 2
The 1993 sequel to the first Wayne’s World film, based on the Saturday Night Live sketch from Mike Myers and Dana Carvey, sees Wayne and Garth planning their own music festival called Waynestock. Wayne sees a vision with Jim Morrison and a naked Indian telling him he needs to host his own festival with Aerosmith as the headliner. In-jokes about Woodstock abound, including one in which Garth advises the crowd not to eat the “red rope licorice.” This is in reference to a batch of bad brown acid that was passed around Woodstock, with ‘60s activist Wavy Gravy taking the stage to warn people not to take it. The movie is chock-full of parodies and celebrity cameos, including Aerosmith themselves.
3. Gimme Shelter
Albert and David Maysles’s documentary about the Rolling Stones’ infamous free outdoor concert at Altamont captures a festival gone horribly wrong as well as the end of an era, as some cite the violence at Altamont as one of the moments that ended the idyllic peaceful period of the 1960s.
The Stones wanted to rival Woodstock by putting on a free concert on the West Coast, but despite the amazing music that was lined up, the event was riddled with violence due to the terrible decision to have the motorcycle gang the Hell’s Angels do security. Throughout the day the crowd became increasingly unruly and the Angels became increasingly violent, even attacking band members they were supposed to be protecting to act out their aggression. Four people ended up dying at the festival, with one young fan who attempted to rush the stage being stabbed to death by the Angels during the Stones’ performance.
His death, as well as the rest of the disastrous event, was caught on film by the Maysles brothers, who were among the most influential documentarians of the era with their observational style. Altamont showed just how badly things can go wrong at a music festival and was a smack in the face for those in the counterculture who had hoped we could all get by on peace, love, and understanding.
If you want the happier version of ’60s festival counterculture and to learn about the festival that launched them all, this documentary about Woodstock is a must-see. While at Altamont it seemed like everything went wrong, something magical happened at Woodstock that allowed the event to happen peacefully and perfectly despite the fact that many people crashed the three-day show.
The documentary that captured this cultural watershed moment on film by Michael Wadleigh is considered one of the best documentaries ever made, and it took home the Academy Award for Best Documentary. The theatrical release that came out in 1970 runs 184 minutes, while a director’s cut released in 1994 clocks in at a whopping 225 minutes. The documentary captured legendary musical performances by Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Joan Baez, Janis Joplin, Sly and the Family Stone, and many more.
Wadleigh also interviewed some of the 400,000 people who attended the festival, which is considered one of the most important moments in rock and roll and popular culture history. There would never be another Woodstock, despite many attempts to repeat the festival that continue to this day.
5. No Cameras Allowed
This DIY documentary was made by Marcus Haney, a professional photographer who decided to film himself sneaking into the biggest music festivals in the world, including Bonnaroo, Coachella, Glastonbury, and Austin City Limits. He even conned his way into the Grammys, which isn’t really a music festival but is still a pretty impressive music event to sneak into. Haney filmed his journey getting into the festivals around the world as well as the performances he witnessed.
During the three years he spent documenting his journey, Haney even made friends with some of the bands, including Mumford and Sons and The Naked and Famous. The movie is also a sort of how-to guide on getting into a festival if you’ve got no cash and are brave enough to attempt some of Haney’s techniques.
Haney has attended over 50 festivals around the world and told Noisey that he’s never paid for one. When asked how he sneaks in, Haney said, “Everything from jumping fences to fake wristbands to posing as security to posing as artists to posing as press to running through truck entrances to going underneath fences.” Haney added: “The trailer makes the film out to be about a guy sneaking into festivals but it’s really a coming of age story set in a music world. It’s a love letter written to these festivals, in a way.”
6. All Tomorrow’s Parties
Commonly abbreviated as ATP, the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in Britain is probably one of the closest music festivals to retaining the counterculture ethos of Woodstock in the modern age. Music festivals now are mostly consumerist parodies where spoiled young people spend hundreds of their parents’ dollars to live out a hippie fantasy. ATP tries to be the opposite of that, describing itself as a “post-punk DIY bricolage,” and it got an appropriately anarchic documentary.
Using footage shot by the fans and musicians who attended the festival, filmmaker Jonathan Caouette settles for a co-directing credit along with all the fans, who he credits as “All Tomorrow’s People.” The movie includes performances from Iggy and the Stooges, Grinderman, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Patti Smith, and Sonic Youth. “Part concert film, part rebel manifesto,” said LA Weekly.
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