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Florida Film Festival: Led Zeppelin Played Here

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Led Zeppelin Played Here

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According to legend, on the night of January 20, 1969, the night that Richard Nixon was inaugurated as President, Led Zeppelin performed a concert in community center in suburban Maryland for a crowd of around 50 people. Zeppelin had not blown up in the U.S. yet but a number of people swear they heard the now legendary band perform in the gymnasium of the Wheaton Youth Center, despite the fact that there is no physical evidence that the gig even happened. Led Zeppelin Played Here investigates the rumors and hearsay surrounding the legend, and also examines a seminal time in the development of rock music.

Filmmaker Jeff Krulik starts with the supposition that the concert did in fact happen, which isn't out of the realm of possibility. It was common practice in those days for fairly successful groups to play smaller, local venues like high schools and youth centers (one concert promoter tells a funny story of an Iggy Pop concert in which the Stooges' front man's trademark overtly sexual style nearly caused a riot.) Krulik's investigation is quite thorough as he tracks down managers, promoters, even the manager of the youth center at the time in attempt to find definitive proof that the concert happened.

The film is not particularly polished or flashy, and the production value is next to nonexistent, but there's an earnestness and energy that Krulik brings that's infectious, and there are moments that are quite entertaining as people who lived through the time try to remember details that they experienced through a haze of drugs and alcohol. The guerrilla style of filmmaking is evident when Krulik uses a freelance gig covering the Kennedy Center Honors to grill members of Led Zeppelin on whether they remembered the gig. The central question is never resolved in a satisfactory way; ending the film with its title, followed by a question mark is a bit of a cop out, but the movie is certainly worth a look, especially for those Zeppelin fans out there.

The Florida Film Festival ends tomorrow, but there's still time to make a few screenings. Visit the official website for info, and be sure to check out my reviews from the fest here.

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