FESTIVAL! FILMED AT THE NEWPORT FOLK FESTIVAL ( DVD: 95min, Eagle Rock Entertainment)
Festival is a documentary of the Newport Folk Festivals from 1963 to 1966. In 97 black and white minutes we are given clips of nearly 50 performers, not a single number is presented from start to uninterrupted finish. There is a magnificent interview with Mike Bloomfield, a stunning close-up monologue in which the gifted Son House explains the BLUES – a few minutes worth the price the admission – the always mind-blowing Howlin’ Wolf, and, lastly, the holy grail of film footage, the first available film of Dylan’s first electric set.
“Festival” is a cinematic synthesis of four Newport Folk Festivals in which the art of folk music is pictured in transition during its most crucial years. The range is also from the high-priced professionals like Peter, Paul, and Mary to the authentic folk dignity of living legends such as Son House, Mississippi John Hurt, Eck Robertson, Clayton McMichen, Texas Gladden, and the Ed Young Fife and Drum Corps, and numerous others that give a feeling of community with the whole American present, and continuity with the American past.
Indeed, the long-haired Newport audiences pictured sleeping on beaches and on the grounds, in sports cars and battered station wagons, plunking banjoes and guitars, swapping tunes between formal concerts, and talking about folk music, seem not a rupture with the American past, but an expression of carrying forward an American idealism and social concern.
Clayton McMichen at Newport: