Long Live Rock | Chicago Reader
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Long Live Rock

“Is rock awesome? Yeah, it’s awesome.” That’s essentially the message of Long Live Rock: Celebrating the Chaos, directed by Jonathan McHugh, a shallow dive into the world of hard rock. From the first voiceover, which sets up the false, and somewhat racist, rivalry between hard rock and rap, the film checks several obvious boxes: rock concerts as community, crowd surfing, mosh pits, drugs, and depression. The film projects a very dated sentiment that people view rockers as scary, angry rebels, when rocking has been mainstream for nearly 60 years. Heck, Neil Young is 75! Inch-deep insights include such “empowering” messages as “girls can rock too” and “Black people can rock too, including Ice-T!” In this one-note love letter to rock, McHugh offers no nuance as to why women or people of color would feel disenfranchised in a nearly homogenous crowd. There are far better stories here that deserve a deeper dive, like what differentiates the various genres of rock, class and rural America, or the tensions between rock (the devil’s music) and religion. Many subjects expose real vulnerability, sharing stories of overcoming tragedy and addiction, and would benefit from a more savvy documentary. Instead Long Live Rock provides a one-sided soft look that could be defined as “life is hard, but rock saved my life . . . except for those it killed.” But if you stay until the end, and don’t turn it off, there are boobs within seconds of a John Katich cameo. So I guess rock is dead.

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