“Rock the Bells” – One of the Best Concert Documentaries of All Time


This is kind of cool… San Francisco’s A+E Interactive names their top ten concert docs of all time. “Rock the Bells”, directed by September Club directors Denis Henry Hennelly and Casey Suchan, makes the list at number 6. Denis and Casey join the likes of Demme, Pennebaker and Scorcese.

Lot’s of us involved with this one: directed and edited by Casey and Denis, with an assist by Barry Poltermann (who did some editing/consulting during a break from editing “The Pool”). Barry also exec-produced, with our own John Murphy).

The story is told from the perspective of the concert promoter, which, we realize, makes it sound about as promising as a new reality show on VH1. It addresses all of the many things that go into mounting a large-scale concert _ and this one, the first annual “Rock the Bells” festival in Southern California, took more than most.

Back in 2004, independent promoter Chang Weisberg is handed an opportunity he simply can’t refuse _ to try and present a full-fledged Wu-Tang Clan reunion show. Booking Wu-Tang, one of the most popular acts in hip-hop history, means huge ticket sales. The downside is that the Clan is infamous for not showing up for gigs. If that happened at this festival, the fans could riot and the promoter _ who mortgaged his house to put on the concert _ would lose everything.

Thus this fascinating musical odyssey begins, as Weisberg and his crew try to coral the Clan to the venue, while dealing with hundreds of other details (like ticketing, promotion, etc.) Directors Denis Henry Hennelly and Casey Suchan do an excellent job spinning the storyline, quickly creating a sense of impending doom that gives each scene a sense of dire urgency.

The Complete List:

  1. “Stop Making Sense” (Jonathan Demme);
  2. “Aweseome, I …. Shot That!” (Nathaniel Hornblower);
  3. “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars: The Motion Picture (D.A. Pennebaker);
  4. “The Last Waltz” (Martin Scorsese);
  5. “The Grateful Dead Movie” (Jerry Garcia);
  6. “Rock the Bells” (Denis Henry Hennelly and Casey Suchan”);
  7. “Monterey Pop” (D.A. Pennebaker);
  8. “Fade to Black” (Patrick Paulson and Michael John Warren);
  9. “The Song Remains the Same” (Peter Clifton and Joe Massot);
  10. “Jimi Plays Berkeley” (Peter Pilafian).