Film Review: Hotlanta, The Great Lost Rock Festival, Screening @ The Plaza Theatre, September 17th

By Gini Strobel

The Second Atlanta International Pop Festival, Byron, GA 1970

A couple of weeks ago I posted an article about the 1970 Georgia Rock Festival Commemoration & the long-awaited preview of the feature-length documentary film by Director Steve Rash and produced by Atlanta’s own Alex Cooley. Well, last night I received the opportunity to see a rough cut of the film with a working title of Hotlanta, The Great Lost Rock Festival. Since there was not much background on the film or the 1970 festival, I went into the screening open-minded and without expectations, but I did have questions.

As a product of the 80’s, I wanted to know more about this great 1970 Atlanta rock festival that happened in Byron, GA July 3rd- July 5th. I had a small inkling that my dad likely attended this festival, so of course I asked him, and sure enough he was there! He immediately recalled seeing and hearing Jimi Hendrix play The Star Spangled Banner and seeing the Allman Brothers before anyone really knew who they were. He also mentioned other festival details like sleeping under a car while it poured rain, the hours of traffic that they sat in, and how they didn’t pay a cent to get into this rock-packed festival lineup.

Director Steve Rash (known for The Buddy Holly Story, Can’t Buy Me Love) introduced the film and noted all of the challenges that he and his team have experienced while trying to deliver this footage to the public. From stolen ideas, to miniscule budgets, to expired and damaged film, this project was and is a labor of love for the team driving the efforts to make this film available to viewers around the world. Rash also reminded us that Alex Cooley was the Festival Promoter and that really none of this would have happened without him.

The Documentary included live musical clips from bands like, Grand Railroad Funk, Spirit, Jimi Hendrix, The Allman Brothers, B.B .King, Rare Earth, Chambers Brothers, Poco, Procol Harum, Mountain, Johnny Winter, It’s a Beautiful Day, Ten Years After, Mott the Hopple, John Sebastian and more. All of the performances were mesmerizing and the audience clapped for each individual band. Naturally, the crowd wanted more of the Allman Brothers, B.B. King, and Hendrix. B.B. King had everyone laughing, while Hendrix’s ‘Purple Haze” was not nearly long enough to satisfy the appetite. Come to find out, the Hendrix family was very protective of the Jimi Hendrix image and reputation.

What really makes this film special is the time that Rash spends on the festival patrons. With hundreds of thousands of people in an open field with copious amounts of booze and drugs, Rash was wise to capture these moments. You get shots of people skinny dipping, bathing, drinking PBR and Budweiser, seeking shelter from the rain, getting high, participating in impromptu jam sessions, and just really embracing some amazing music. Even the cops seemed more laid back. When the film came to an end, it was kind of sad to see the closing text state that this was the last major rock festival.

In the discussion portion, Director Steve Rash asked the audience how many people attended the festival and more than half raised their hands! I think these folks enjoyed it the most, but music fans across the world would appreciate the raw authenticity of Hotlanta, The Great Lost Rock Festival. While some performances could be shorter, the original music and the historical imagery created a fascinating journey back to 1970 Atlanta. I hope the film and the supporters find a way to make this available to the public. There is definitely an audience that would love to experience Hotlanta, The Great Lost Rock Festival.


  1. The Poco footage stole the show!

  2. I saw it Saturday night in macon. My husband grew up near Byron but was only 8 at the time. He knew his dad had been involved somehow with the festival and he remembered driving by to see the hippies. As we watched, in the first few minutes of the film, there was his dad driving a tractor and cutting the soybean field! We learned later that night that his dad spent the rest of the festival on that tractor with a big camera mounted to it, driving a cameraman around. I guess that makes him part of the film crew!

  3. That’s awesome!!!

  4. I want to see I wanna see Grand Funk Hendrix my faves please as soon as it comes out some one let me know !!

  5. Is there a DVD for sale or plans to air on TV. Want to see this film.

  6. @Phil – Unfortunately the Director has decided not release it on DVD at this time… It’s a shame because I think many would appreciate it. We’ll keep ya posted!

  7. WTF…I was there, I was 19, I can recall very little…I would love to see the film. It might break loose some memories. Like many others my most indelible recollection was Hendrix on the Fourth late at night or was it early in the morning?

  8. I would love love love to see this film. It’s really a shame not to share it with the public.

  9. Any updates? As someone who was there and spent 3 days sitting under the light fixture you se in the picture, I really want to see this film.

  10. I wish to see this rock festival

  11. please release to DVD Steve Rash,i would pay any price you name ….

  12. Anxiously awaiting the opportunity to see this one!!

  13. I was there. Had sex with a stranger. Was lonely for God. Then Hendrix played the banner.

  14. I have around 2 minutes worth of Grand Funk Railroad footage from this festival on 16mm film. If anyone can help me get in contact with Steve Rush to ask him if he needs it for his movie, please do so… Would really love to see “The Great(est) Lost Rock Festival” and of course, all 3 GFR songs in it!

  15. Hendrix opened his act at midnight July 3-4, playing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” When he got to the “…. and the rockets’ red glare..” part, he ran up the fretboard and held a note while waiting for the first skyrocket to fire and explode. When it did, he went into the famous Hendrix battle sound effects, all produced by him and his guitar. Accompanying him were Billy Cox and Mitch Mitchell. When he started “All Along the Watchtower” in the wrong key, Mitchell threw a drumstick at him to get his attention and informed him of the mistake. Hendrix moved his hand up the scale by one fret and started over; the band never broke rhythm or tempo. Hendrix stepped to the mike, said, “Uh, like I was sayin’…. There must be some kinda way outa here…..”

  16. I too was there (for both, and others) as a stage hand for Hanley Sound. I used my mom’s 8mm to take some film, unfortunately without sound. Later after touring in the 70s, returned to Ga. to do aound @ Atlanta clubs thru the 80s.
    Great times.
    I also would love to see the movie… my kids what I did as a young hippie.

  17. I was there @ 14 yrs old. Many memories . Need to get a copy of this film. Does any one know if it available yet.

  18. I was 20 years old. Scott Verner explained what Hendrix did! I was 100 yards from the front of the stage. I remember the Sky Rockets exploding above the stage. Awesome, and please, please re;ease copies of the DVD. Thx!

  19. Does anyone have a status update on release of this film, please?

  20. 45 years and waiting – oh well , I’m not going to hold my breath for any hope of a video release.

  21. Is this film going to tour around the country or what is the plan after this screening in Atlanta?

  22. Hi Mitch,

    This screening was in September of 2012. We are unsure of what occurred afterwards with the release of the DVD.

  23. Any footage of Lee Michaels?

  24. I also was at this amazing event, at first there was a free stage then they opened it up to all. A few days after the festival in a park in
    Atlanta there was a free local concert ,donations to get your brothers out of jail. Hendriks showed up unexpectedly and played to about 200 people. I got to meet him and with 15 or so people sat in a circle and smoked a few with him. It showed me the class act he really was!

  25. Sorry guys Atlanta was not the place Hendrix came and played for about 200 people. it was about a week later in Clear water Florida. things are a little blurry as it was so long ago, a friend I was with convinced me of my error of location.Every thing else stays the same.shortly after that we went to Love Valley NC.for a much smaller fest than Byron.

  26. Gini,or anybody, any updates on the film’s distribution, availability now that Alex Cooley has passed?

    We were there as well, and as great as Hendrix was, and as impossible as it might seem to follow him; Lee Michaels absolutely blew the place apart. Loudest, most powerful set of music I have seen to this day. Nobody on earth could have followed Jimi that night, yet a two piece group(organ and drums)that nobody had ever heard of in these parts sealed the deal.

  27. Any updates on the release of this movie ???? Gregg Allman has passed and it’s time to show the folks who attended the Festival . Please let this go public . The Time has Come Today

  28. I was there. I was holding a pole about 9 feet high. People would use me as a marker to find friends and get their bearings in the crowd. People would leave me messages etc. Ah what memories!!! for 5 years I have sought this film. Please release it!

  29. I too was there and would like a copy of the concert. I was 19 at the time
    I am short & couldn’t see very well until a guy next to me said that Jimi was playing with his teeth & put me onto his shoulders. It was free when we got there.

  30. A Classmate drew an AdBoard for the Festival on his new 3 Ring Binder issued by Fulton County Schools. It included a Tent and “Free Camping”. He was a Hendrix Fan and on the Annual Staff; Jimmie Hendrix somehow was included as a member of the 1970 10th Grade Class.

  31. I was working for the General Assembly and went to the festival. They took thousands of photos and also shot 16mm film of the “seediest” happenings as they were busy passing laws so there wouldn’t be another one. That stuff might still be in the capitol basement. Freedom of information act?

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