8/8/2013 - Only a handful of fans stayed to witness the most heralded performance of history’s biggest rock festival in its entirety. Over four decades later, that’s finally changing. When Jimi Hendrix walked onstage at the Woodstock Music and Arts Fair in August 1969, it was past sunrise on Monday morning and most had left. But the 30,000 or so remaining experienced a landmark musical moment.
“You can leave if you want to — we’re just jamming,” said Hendrix at one point; the hardcore stayed and marveled as the legendary guitarist led off with “Message to Love” and tore through 14 songs, including perhaps the most famous, his improvised version of “The Star Spangled Banner.”
Hendrix left the stage urging the audience to “leave this area somewhat the way we found it — I don’t think it will ever be quite the same. … Good wishes, good day and a good life.”
Barely a year later, he would be dead, the victim of a drug overdose.
The theatrical release of Woodstock included only a portion of his 90-minute set. Extra material surfaced in commemorative releases, including an audio CD of the entire performance on the festival’s 25th anniversary. Finally, in November 2012 — the anniversary of Hendrix’s 70th birthday — completists were rewarded with a full-length theatrical release
On Monday, Aug. 12, the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord will present Hendrix 70: Live At Woodstock, in 5.1 Dolby digital surround sound. It plays close to the festival’s anniversary, and the evening includes a screening of the documentary short The Road To Woodstock. Directed by Grammy winner Bob Smeaton (Beatles Anthology, Festival Express), it includes promoter Michael Lang’s recollections about the challenges of staging the festival and booking Hendrix as its headliner, and interviews with Jimi Hendrix Experience members Billy Cox and Mitch Mitchell.
“Really it’s a great chance to celebrate Hendrix’s 70th and it is really a unique presentation,” said Capitol Center Marketing Director Owen DeFrancesco. “We’re looking at the original footage restored and an audio mix by Eddie Kramer, who recorded the entire festival from beneath the stage. He was also Hendrix’s engineer, so you’re looking at a guy who’s intimately familiar with exactly what he does and how to make him sound his best.”
The Hendrix film is the fourth rock concert movie to screen at the Concord venue over the summer. The series began with a concert film from Paul McCartney and Wings, followed by a late 1970s Rolling Stones show and Led Zeppelin’s reunion film, Celebration Day. Texas-based Specticast presents the films, an uncommon occurrence at the Capitol Center, an effort to avoid overlap with the cinema down the street.
“We do captured live events and rebroadcasts, things that Red River isn’t doing,” DeFrancesco said, noting that that includes The Met: HD opera simulcasts.
But the venue is well suited for rock films.
“The sound test for Wings Across America was an immersive experience. It’s loud enough to feel like you’re at a rock show,” DeFrancesco said. “With a 14- by 26-foot screen, it’s big. It’s larger than life. When you see those strobe lights going off it’s like they’re going off in the theater.”
The next rock film, Morrissey Live 45, will screen on Friday, Sept. 6.
“It’s from the tour they had to cancel, a live show filmed at Hollywood High School in front of 1,800 fans — not much bigger than our theater,” said DeFrancesco. “As Specticast keeps pulling down these great shows, we hope to keep them going.”