‘Long Live Rock…Celebrate the Chaos’ is a Love Letter to Hard Rock Culture and Community

A still from documentary 'Long Live Rock'. A girl is shown corwd surfing on her back through a mosh pit. Everyone's arms are outstretched, she is in a state of euphoria.
Jordan Wrennert

Long Live Rock… Celebrate the Chaos highlights the often-misunderstood fandom and how their lives have been forever changed by their passion for rock music. Fans and artists share why they’ve dedicated their lives to rock and roll and discuss the unique relationship they have with their fans.

Filmed at various rock festivals throughout the UK, the documentary mixes interviews with famous rock musicians with talking heads from some of America’s most dedicated fans. Long Live Rock…Celebrate the Chaos features interviews with members of Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, Slipknot and Halestorm, amongst others. Even former Ohio governor John Kasich gets involved, talking about his passion for the genre.

Director and producer Jonathan McHugh grew up going to hard rock shows, and this is clear in his eagerness to shine a light on his community. He manages to capture the community of the bands and highlight the fans who live to mosh and crowd surf. They are never treated like a circus sideshow, instead, with a fondness.

Unlike many in the rock doc genre, this film doesn’t centre around the band but instead the fans. United by music, these Americans come from various backgrounds with different struggles, but all come together for various hard rock festivals every year. The extensive footage of festival shenanigans, mosh pits and live music will touch anyone who has missed the live music scene in the last year.

A still from documentary 'Long Live Rock'. a young girl in a wheelchair is shwon from the back being lifted above a crowd in a mosh-pit.
Jordan Wrennert

The strange angle of this documentary is that heavy rock fans can be hiding anywhere, some are dentists, some work in prisons and some are just your standard housewives. Trauma nurses are using the scene to relieve stress, and a correctional officer is bonding with former inmates through festivals.

The standout star of this documentary is the tenacious purple haired Abby McCormack. After a motorcycle accident led to her being confined to a wheelchair, she refused to let her disability stop her partying. A regular face at festivals, she famously surfs across a crowd in her wheelchair, a can of beer sometimes left as a present inside her prosthetic leg. As a member of the community beloved by fans and bands alike, her passion and resistance in the face of tragedy are inspiring to matter your music preference.

Other stories are less interesting, the idea that your local dentist or greengrocer could be a tattooed metal head is not as shocking as the film wants you to believe. It also fails to suitability investigate the dark side of the scene.

It tries to jam a lot of content into its 80 minutes runtime. At first, the documentary presents itself as an argument against the concept that rock music is dead and gone. It’s still filling up stadiums, still beloved by many millions and new bands are still forming and succeeding. The film later evolves into covering other areas within the dedicated fanbase and touches on the backstory of popular musicians.

In its diminutive runtime, it covers bands taking their family on tour, the tragedies that send people towards the genre and the nihilistic tendencies that sometimes go hand and hand with the party-heavy culture. Some topics it whizzes through with just a few talking heads, others are covered more extensively. Minimising peoples struggles in one talking head snippet does many of the artists a disservice. There is also a failure to investigate why people with struggles connect to this genre of music so much more than other forms of music.

A still from documentary 'Long Live Rock'.  A passionate fan is shown in a crowd screaming the lyrics back to an on stage performer.
Jordan Wrennert

A longer section of Long Live Rock and Roll… Celebrate the Chaos investigates the drink, drugs and depression often associated with heavy rock music. The tone jumps from being light-hearted and earnest to very sombre and dark. Suddenly famous musicians are in tears talking from their drug addictions, colleagues are lamenting the untimely deaths of Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington and addiction councillors are lending advice. The topic of mental health and addiction is too important and timely, it feels insensitive to treat it as a passing conversation point.

The mix of fan interviews and famous musicians is a refreshing take on the rock doc. The mix of stars old and new will ensure this film appeals to generations old and new. The female representation with extensive interviews with Lzzy Hale and In This Moment’s Maria Brink is especially refreshing. With so many female rock fans and notable female musicians, they could have explored the sexism of the industry and genre even further.

You will likely be attracted to this documentary to watch interviews from the likes of Tom Morello, Corey Taylor and Duff McKagan but it’s the fans that will stick in your mind once the credits roll. Rock will never die because it’s more than just chords, it’s about community.

With most of us having not been to a live show in over a year, Long Live Rock and Roll… Celebrate the Chaos will help fill the hole left by the cancellation of concert and festivals. If you’re looking to learn more about what makes these people tick, this documentary won’t enlighten you any further, if you’re missing the chaos of a massive rock show this may put a smile on your face.

Long Live Rock… Celebrate the Chaos is available on VOD now

by Amelia Harvey

Amelia is a freelance writer, frustrated novelist and occasional wrangling of international students. She is especially interested in LBGTQ culture and 1960s and 70s music. She also writes for Frame Rated, The People’s Movies and Unkempt Magazine, amongst others. Her favourite films include Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, Moulin Rouge and Closer. You can find her on Twitter @MissAmeliaNancy and letterboxd @amelianancy

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