This documentary about the culture and camaraderie of the rock and metal scene will make you miss concerts more than ever
The fact that music brings people from all different backgrounds and walks of life together isn’t exactly a revelatory observation, but for anyone who’s ever experienced a real rock show or been a part of a rock fanbase, there’s just something different about it. Rock in any form – be it classic rock n roll or metal or punk or hardcore or the countless others mixes of genres – has always felt like a bit of an outsider type of music. It’s a bit odd how, at this point, after decades of different types of rock music have sold millions upon millions of records and continue to sell out arenas every year, it can still feel like its on the fringes of society and still has all sort of stigmas attached to it.
Since the rise of rap and hip-hop at the turn of the 21st century, rock seems to have fallen to the wayside as far as popular culture goes. Rappers became the new rock stars, dominating media coverage and living the kind of lavish, attention-getting lifestyles that used to be associated with rockers of years past. It feels like the genre lost its teeth, and popular rock acts of today fall more in line with pop than any kind aggressive, head-banging jams. Time and time again, the same question arises: Is rock dead?
Long Live Rock: Celebrate the Chaos is a documentary from music supervisor, producer, and documentarian Jonathan McHugh, who previously delved into Comic-Con and cosplay culture with his 2018 film Cosplay Universe. McHugh is interested in highlighting the close camaraderie that rock creates, how much the music means to its wide variety of fans, and where the genre currently sits in the zeitgeist. Of course, fans already know the answer to the big question. No, rock certainly is not dead, and it’s not going away anytime soon either.
Through interviews and various footage of concerts from artists like Slipknot, Halestorm, Papa Roach, Korn, Myles Kennedy, Duff McKagan, Avenged Sevenfold, Rob Zombie, Metallica, Ice-T, In This Moment, Skillet, Machine Gun Kelly, and more, the documentary shows how the rock and metal scene consistently sees tens of thousands of fans gathering for festivals all around the world. Psychologists, radio personalities, and high level employees of companies like Spotify are interviewed to talk about the positive effects of the music and its place in culture, but its really the conversations with fans that give us the best look into what its all about.
Fun talks about the controlled chaos of things like mosh pits and walls of death (and why people enjoy the brutality of them in the first place) will certainly make you long for live shows more than ever. A live performance of Metallica’s “For Whom The Bell Tolls” – which, for the record, is their best song – is shown entirely from the perspective of a crowd surfer, and other die-hard concertgoers are shown surfing on each other and going through crowds in human hamster balls. As fun and exciting as it is to watch it all, it also comes with a considerable bit of nostalgic pain now that we’re looking at over a year without big music festivals.
McHugh also doesn’t shy away from the darker sides of the scene, particularly the issues of addiction and depression that many rock artists carry with them and how the pressures of touring can be a powder keg for them. But the film tries to focus on the positives that come out of that darkness – it focuses on the recent tragic deaths of Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington, and how fans quickly united in their grief to lift each other up and show support stronger than ever before. Long Live Rock also spends a bit of time on the Black roots of rock music, and how Black artists have always been a vital part of a scene that’s been widely maligned as dominated by white people. Likewise, by putting a spotlight on acts like Halestorm and In This Moment as well as a number of female fans, it rightfully lends much of the credit to the women who have always led the charge.
The documentary stills feels like it has a bit of a limited scope despite its best gestures. Nearly all of the fans interviewed are white and the only festival is appears to really cover is Rock on the Range, but it does have some great interviews with a lot of prominent and interesting people, and the concert footage really can’t be beat. It’s a worthwhile antidote for our lack of live performances, at least for the time being.
Long Live Rock: Celebrate the Chaos is now available to rent virtually.