Wattstax at 39

The Hammer Museum screens the 1973 concert film.

We'd love to call California the home state of the epic concert film. But of course New York might challenge us on that front, seeing as how the village that's most associated with the concert film happens to be within the state. But we can say with certainty that the Golden State has turned out its impressive share of seminal, music-based cinematic works, movies that continue to reverberate decades after the last bit of stage was dismantled.

"Wattstax" is such a major film. The Wattstax Music Festival, which was organized in memory of the Watts riots by Stax Records of Memphis, was billed as "A Soulful Expression of the Black Experience." If you were there -- and "there" was the Los Angeles Coliseum on Aug. 20, 1972 -- you'll remember seven hours of major music. Stars like The Staples Singers (which featured the marvelous Mavis Staples), The Bar-Kays (pictured above), Johnnie Taylor, and Isaac Hayes all played to the Coliseum that day. There are also cameos by Richard Pryor and Jesse Jackson.

The anniversary of the day is almost here, and the Hammer Museum is paying tribute with a free screening of the 1973 film. The date is Saturday, Aug. 20 and the time is 8 p.m. If you're thinking that you saw or might have seen "Wattstax" once again in the limelight a few years back you're right; it played at Sundance in 2004, and had a limited run. The Hammer night is a great chance to see it on the big screen if you missed your chance then.

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