Jimi Plays Berkeley (1971)

Jimi Plays Berkeley (1971)

“He can’t say anything to me; I just feel it, you know?”

Jimi Hendrix performs in Berkeley, California while counter-culture protests occur on the streets.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Concert Films

This one-time midnight movie features Jimi Hendrix — the highest paid rock musician in the world in 1969 — performing in Berkeley, California four months before his death by overdose at the age of 27. While many viewers have complained about the cinema verite style of this film, arguing that his songs are too chopped up and edited to appreciate in their entirety, I think that’s exactly the point: Hendrix was a cubist musician, a guitarist who could riff on a theme or chord or musical idea until he’d gone as far as he wanted to, then cleanly return to the melody without error — just as the directors and editors here cut across their footage at will while retaining a cohesive whole of sorts.

The film opens with Jimi riding to his venue while an unseen commentator describes him as someone who lives for his music, and feels his audiences deeply.

“He feels things from audiences. Like, one gig in L.A. he just split in the middle of it because the people weren’t receptive. And then a couple of days later, he came back and he did a free thing — got up and jammed all afternoon; it was beautiful.”

Next we’re shown footage of peaceful protesters in Berkeley refusing to pay $3.50 to see Woodstock (1970) — a film, one argues, that they (the people) made.

But the bulk of the short documentary consists of Jimi playing, once even using his teeth (his virtuosity here must be seen to be believed):

In between, we see footage of increasingly violent protests taking place across the city:

… but we return again and again to Jimi himself on stage:

… cross-cut with audience reactions, including these two impossibly-young-seeming front-row fans:

Film fanatics with a particular interest in Hendrix will surely want to check this concert movie out, though others may be content simply to see his iconic performances in Monterey Pop (1968) or Woodstock (1970).

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Many close-up shots of Jimi’s inimitable performance style

Must See?
No, though it’s certainly worth a look and a listen for its historical relevance. Listed as a Cult Movie in the back of Peary’s book.


One thought on “Jimi Plays Berkeley (1971)

  1. First viewing. For Hendrix fans only.

    At 48 minutes, this ultimately isn’t that much of a concert film – mainly since time doesn’t allow for Hendrix to play all that much; though he does throw himself into what we see with his singular legendary style (the effect of which is a matter of taste).

    Wikipedia lists 10 concert films and 14 documentaries covering Hendrix (oddly, the song lists for them are largely similar) but, yes, for the average film fanatic ‘Monterey Pop’ and ‘Woodstock’ are likely to suffice.

Leave a Reply