Jimi Plays Monterey

Synopsis:  Few people in the United States had any idea who Jimi Hendrix was when he and his band, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, came on-stage at the {~1967 Monterey Pop Festival}. By the time his relatively short set had been played, everyone present knew they had heard a guitar genius — the performance was history-making.

Jimi Plays Monterey 8.5

This is a really short film and, thus, I normally wouldn’t mention it – except that it features an iconic performance by Jimi Hendrix, and it is a complete revelation for anyone who has yet to see this important slice of pop culture. Hendrix’ show at Monterey made his name in the U.S. The show’s climax has been referred to in various formats, has been emulated and has even been parodied countless times; it’s not only a classic, but it’s been immortalized.

Since it’s mostly concert footage (aside from a few brief interview snippets with celebrities and a remarkable opening intro featuring artist Denny Dent throwing paint on a wall until it becomes a beautiful portrait of Hendrix), though, there’s not much to say about the film itself – it’s essentially a visual document of a musician on the edge of super-stardom.

But the performance itself is what makes the whole thing noteworthy – it’s not just about the music, but about the magic that was on stage that night. Watching Jimi grooving effortlessly, using his guitar as though it were but an extension of himself is impressive even today; while many guitarists show off their moves in order to impress their adoring public, Hendrix does these things solely as a form of expression. When he plays behind his head, between his legs, behind his back, with his teeth, …etc., it’s so obvious that he’s not showing off to the crowd, but is actually just playing his instrument in what is the most comfortable form for him at the time – it’s just a natural part of his artistic expression.

Frankly, even though I’m not a big Hendrix fan, I am still in awe of watching him play; there is nothing quite like it (and I’ve seen quite a bit in my days!). Without a doubt, for those of you who are interested in pop culture, this Monterey show is a must-see. Short as it is, it’s wholly worth the time – even for those who don’t like blues-based rock.

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