Movie night

We’re taking a little vacation later this week, just me and my 14-year-old son. We’ve rented a small cabin on the Mississippi River, way on the other side of Wisconsin, for a couple of days.

Evan’s idea of getting away is a little different than mine.

“I want to bring the laptop so I can watch movies,” he said.

My first instinct is to say no. But then I think back to when I was 14. Had that technology existed in the summer of 1971, I would have wanted to do exactly the same thing.


The other night, I sat down to watch — on my Mac — “Fillmore: The Last Days.” Here’s the trailer, which has resisted my efforts to embed it.

It’s the long-out-of-print 1972 documentary about the final shows at the Fillmore West in San Francisco from June 30 to July 4, 1971. Even though I was just 14 that summer, I knew about that scene from reading the occasional Rolling Stone. But between being 14 and living in Wisconsin, I was about as far removed from that scene as you could get.

Seeing it now, I’m struck by how gentle it all seems. The music — much of it steeped in traditional blues and country — was anything but a freaked-out rave-up.

Some random observations: Janis Joplin’s influence is evident in tunes done by Lydia Pense and Cold Blood and by Barbara Mauritz and Lamb. … I don’t believe I’d ever heard Cold Blood, and I liked their guitars-and-horns sound. I’ll be exploring it further. … Interesting to see live performances of a couple of familiar FM radio tunes — “Fresh Air” by Quicksilver Messenger Service and “White Bird” by It’s a Beautiful Day. … I was reminded that Elvin Bishop, whom I’ve seen live, can really play the blues. … Santana’s Latin jams seem far out next to the organic sounds of almost every other group. … I’ve had my legal limit of “Casey Jones” by the Grateful Dead.

That said, seemingly no tune energized the Fillmore crowd more than the Dead’s cover of Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode,” led by Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir on guitars.


“Johnny B. Goode,” the Grateful Dead, from “Grateful Dead,” 1971. This cut was recorded live on March 24, 1971, at the Winterland in San Francisco. Their performance on “Fillmore: The Last Days” came on July 2, 1971.


“Fillmore: The Last Days” — The movie, just out on DVD. Also available is the music, a 2-CD box set with more performances than in the film.

Photo: Santana performs at the Fillmore West in San Francisco on July 4, 1971. Copyrighted photo by Jim Marshall, courtesy of Rhino Records.

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Filed under June 2009, Sounds

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