Black History Month: Experience Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Church

Jimi Hendrix performs on the Jimi Hendrix Electric Church film screening Monday, Feb. 24 at the Belcourt Theatre.

Jimi Hendrix’s last major concert appearance in America is the centerpiece of a documentary featuring footage that went undeveloped for decades. Jimi Hendrix: Electric Church, the concert film documenting his performance at 1970’s Atlanta Pop Festival in July was shot only two months before his untimely death that September. Now in limited theatrical release, see it on Monday, February 25, with a discussion with Jimi’s bandmate bassist Billy Cox and music critic Ron Wynn, following the 7:30 pm screening at the Belcourt Theater in Nashville.

Jimi Hendrix was unquestionably one of the most exciting rock musicians of his generation, having captivated the world with his highly stylized approach to blues guitar. Hendrix put the rock festival concept on the map with his blistering performance at California’s Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, headlining 1968’s inaugural Miami Pop Festival, and providing the soundtrack for the counterculture with a dazzling set at Woodstock in 1969.

The footage sat undeveloped in cameraman Steve Rash’s barn for thirty years. Captured on 16mm color film, Hendrix’s set comprises more than half the 89 minute running time, which also provides contextual info about the festival via archival footage and contemporary interviews. The event, known as “the last great U.S. pop festival,” took place over the July Fourth weekend in Byron, Georgia, a small town 100 miles south of Atlanta, woefully ill-equipped for the sudden influx of young people, whose ranks swelled to 500,000 for Hendrix’s set, his largest-ever U.S. audience, even larger than Woodstock.

The film includes comments by musicians who, not surprisingly, attest to Hendrix’s brilliance. Paul McCartney recalls, “We all played guitar, we all knew a bit. But he seemed to know more than us.” We also hear from Hendrix’s bandmates Billy Cox and the late Mitch Mitchell, who offer more personal, but not necessarily more scintillating, observations. “He had the whole ball of wax,” Cox says admirably.

The film contains breathtaking, color 16mm footage including such Hendrix classics as “Hey Joe,” “Voodoo Child (Slight Return),” “Purple Haze,” as well as confident, compelling versions of songs such as “Room Full Of Mirrors,” “Freedom,” and “Straight Ahead” and “Star Spangled Banner,” played against a backdrop of exploding fireworks.

Experience Hendrix at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center
See Billy Cox play bass live with the touring Experience Hendrix at Schermerhorn Symphony Center on Sunday, March 10 at 7:30. Celebrate the legacy and the music of Jimi Hendrix played live with an all-star lineup, as artists touring in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of Electric Ladyland include Billy Cox of Band of Gypsys and Jimi Hendrix Experience, Ernie Isley, Joe Satriani, Dave Mustaine of Megadeth, Jonny Lang, Dweezil Zappa, Eric Johnson, Doug Pinnick of King’s X, Chris Layton of Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble, Mato Nanji of Indigenous, Kenny Aronoff, Slide Brothers, Henri Brown, Kevin McCormick, Ana Popović & more. Every pair of tickets for this show includes a CD copy of Jimi Hendrix’s Both Sides of the Sky, the third volume in a trilogy intended to present the best and most significant unissued studio recordings remaining in Jimi Hendrix’s archive.