The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s July 4th, 1970, show at the Atlanta International Pop Festival wasn’t just another gig. Part of the final run of concerts Hendrix would ever perform stateside, it would turn out to be the largest U.S. show of his career, with an estimated attendance of 300,000. (The iconic guitarist would pass away just 10 weeks later.) A new documentary, Jimi Hendrix: Electric Church — premiering September 4th on Showtime — presents a comprehensive account of this landmark festival and the Hendrix set that was its crowning jewel. We’re offering an exclusive first look at the doc: a clip of Hendrix, bassist Billy Cox and drummer Mitch Mitchell playing the immortal “Purple Haze”:
The clip is a concentrated shot of the guitarist’s greatness, a summation of the way he combined blues, psychedelic rock and snarling noise — as well as a striking array of techniques, from daredevil one-handed runs to vocal-like whammy-bar work — into a cauldron of molten sound. “So I heard you use the expression ‘an electric church,'” Dick Cavett says to Hendrix in the trailer for the doc. “We plan for our sound to go inside the soul of the person,” the soft-spoken Hendrix replies, alluding to the almost supernatural power he could wield with his signature upside-down Strat in hand, an effect that’s on glorious display in this version of one of his signature songs.
“Jimi was at the peak of his creative and commercial powers that summer,” says Electric Church director John McDermott of the performance captured in the film, which will also be released on CD and LP as Freedom: Atlanta Pop Festival on August 28th. “He was making progress on his next studio album at his new recording facility, Electric Lady Studios, and confident to perform many of the projected songs live for his fans. The likes of ‘Straight Ahead,’ ‘Freedom’ and ‘Room Full of Mirrors’ fit comfortably among classic songs such as ‘Purple Haze’ at Atlanta.
“There are relatively so few examples of Jimi performing on film that this footage of him performing before the largest U.S. audience of his career is significant. Younger fans should take note that Jimi didn’t need set lists, dance steps, stage backdrops and lighting cues to connect with his audience. He wanted them to be with him in what he would often describe as their own little world together, his ‘electric church,’ as he described it.”