Written by: Adam Vaughn | March 11th, 2021
Long Live Rock: Celebrate the Chaos (Jonathan McHugh, 2019) 2½ out of 4 stars.
Director Jonathan McHugh directs his first documentary with Long Live Rock: Celebrate the Chaos, the story of hard rock in today’s society, the stereotypes and cultural norms behind the music and its fans, and some of the major struggles and societal barriers that come with being a hard-rock musician. The film covers various rock bands from the 21st century (Avenged Sevenfold, Rob Zombie, Slipknot, etc.) and interviews a vast number of both key members of the industry and diehard rock fans. The result is an in depth look at today’s rock from the inside out, and that’s about all we get.
While Long Live Rock doesn’t necessarily have a tremendous amount of flaws as a documentary, the film has no specific artistic ambition from start to finish. For most of its duration, the film gives off the sense of glorifying rock as a music genre that “is not dead.” While this concept is interesting and impactful at first – the concept that rock has stood the ultimate test of time as other genres of music start to take over the music industry – the film harps on this concept multiple times, until it loses its savor. By the end, not much is truly said on a grander scale, and the viewer is left with the same ideas as when s/he first began the film.
All the same, Long Live Rock offers a tremendous amount of insight into the rock genre, and its strongest suit is the various interviews, ranging from borderline-nostalgic ones from key members of famous rock bands to others with unique members of the rock-fan culture (the woman in the wheelchair being one of the most memorable moments). Briefly, and somewhat abruptly, Long Live Rock delves into commenting on the effect that drug abuse has played in the industry, and I very much appreciated the emotional depth that this plot point added to the story.
While there are several reasons to admire Long Live Rock, the overall experience feels more like it’s meant to be a promotional video for rock-music lovers. By the end, while the viewer certainly has a better understanding of the modern rock industry, they aren’t left with much of a connection to the film’s story, with just small splashes of implicit moral meaning. I won’t discredit the documentary’s ability to bring us into the world of 21st-century rock lovers, but by the end it feels as if you’ve come full circle without any new thoughts or ideas. Possibly broken down into an episodic format, this concept could become something remarkable, but not at an hour-and-a-half.