Long Live Rock: Celebrate the Chaos is a headbanging, crowdsurfing, air guitar playing tribute to the die-hard fans, musicians and lifestyle of the hard rock music genre. Filmed before the pandemic, the documentary is primarily aimed at fans of hard rock festival concerts. Then switches from perspective to the point of view of the artists and promoters. Long Live Rock is full of interviews from members of supergroups such as Metallica, Rage Against the Machine, Alice in Chains and Guns N ‘Roses. Their insights are interesting, especially with regard to addiction and mental health. But the film’s loose story and lack of structure degrades the approach as superficial.
Long live rock opens with a montage of headlines and articles on the demise of rock. R&B, rap and hip-hop have replaced rock and roll in popular culture. Director Jonathan McHugh disagrees. He introduces several Midwesterners who started the Rock on the Range fan festival in Columbus, Ohio. They are nurses, doctors, prison guards, middle-class ordinary Americans who throw their chains off in the suburbs to surf en masse and get dirty in the mosh pit. Hard rock and heavy metal is more than just music. It is a way of life that gave them purpose, companionship, and an outlet for release.
The top musicians enjoy the insane energy of performances for thousands of raw festival fans. Rob Zombie, my favorite interview, laughs at the hustle and bustle of various comedic cons and other similar activities. Rock superstars see that number of people on tour every day. There is a related relationship that feeds everyone from the stage to the crowd. These are the outcasts who have found a special place together. Every show is different, but the admiration and intensity never diminish.
Long live rock explores the darkness of hard rock culture. Drug addiction, alcoholism and depression are widespread and almost a right of way. Jonathan McHugh receives raw confessions from fans and rockers about their destructive behavior. Guns N ‘Roses bassist, Duff McKagan, says frankly that he nearly died after his “pancreas exploded” from drugs and alcohol. A recent parole was stabbed in the chest over a botched heroin deal. From the streets to the spotlight, rock and roll sensations are fleeting. The desire to maintain that level of adrenaline leads to tragic demise. The suicides of Chris Cornell (Soundgarden), Chester Bennington (Linkin Park) and Scott Weiland’s fatal overdose (Stone Temple Pilots) are discussed by their friends and band members.
Long live rock goes south by biting off more than he can chew. The film has multiple tangents that are scattered. There are segments about women in rock. Families who lead rock-centered lives, including a woman who surfs en masse in her wheelchair. Ice-T, Tom Morello and other black hard rockers are interviewed extensively about racing in the industry. Then you have additional feedback from psychologists and therapists who treat people with rock-inspired conditions. Too much happens in the short eighty-minute runtime. Jonathan McHugh had to stick to the festivals as his main theme. The bond between the performers and fans is fascinating, but gets lost as the movie bounces around.
Long live rock pumped me up for concerts again. I’ve been going to hard rock shows since high school. The last year under lockdown was a total bummer. The film rekindles the fires of fandom and reminds us of what was missing. I’m sure everyone is chewing the picture to rock again. Long Live Rock: Celebrate the Chaos is produced by Abramorama and Crowd Surf Films. It will have a limited theatrical release on March 12 and be streamed via premium video on demand.
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