What is it about vintage live-music clips that’s so irresistible? Nostalgia for our well-spent youth, no doubt. Or, if you weren’t there, longing for a scene that no longer exists. Either way, as the beat accelerates and the images zip past, it’s hard not to be overcome by the melancholy pleasure of reconciling the spontaneity of the moment (the performance itself) with the historical dimension the footage has acquired with the passage of time. Those clothes! Those moves! How much of ’60s music — and fashion — was transitory pop culture, and how much is immortal art?

Album cover from the Sex Pistols' Winterland Ballroom concert, 1978.
Album cover from the Sex Pistols’ Winterland Ballroom concert, 1978. (Courtesy of Oddball Films)

That question may not vex Stephen Parr and his confederates at the venerable Mission district stock-footage company Oddball Films. Every frame counts, as far as they’re concerned. So we’ll pose the question instead to music critic and historian Richie Unterberger, who makes one of his periodic visits to the Bay Area this Thursday, March 16 for the Oddball show Pop Music Explosion: Film Footage Fantasia. A rock geek of the first magnitude — I bet he could tell you what label the Lemon Pipers (“Green Tambourine”) were on — Unterberger has compiled an astonishing array of treasures from the Jefferson Airplane and the Doors on Mt. Tam to the Sex Pistols at Winterland, from amateur films to mainstream TV shows.

Half a century removed from the Summer of Love, Oddball Films invites you to have another hit.

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Pop Music Explosion: Film Footage Fantasia takes place March 16, 8-10pm at Oddball Films (275 Capp Street, San Francisco). Admission is $10.00 (cash only). To RSVP, email programming@oddballfilms.com or call 415-558-8117.

Author

Michael Fox

Michael Fox has written about film for a variety of publications since 1987. He is the curator and host of the long-running Friday night CinemaLit film series at the Mechanics' Institute,  an instructor in the OLLI programs at U.C. Berkeley and S.F. State, and a member of the San Francisco Film Critics Circle.

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