'McCrea 1971:' Louisiana's failed 'Woodstock' subject of film airing on north shore cable

By Kara Martinez Bachman, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune 

In 1971, Louisiana had its own Woodstock ... almost. In the film "McCrea 1971: Louisiana's Forgotten Rock Festival," documentary filmmakers take a look back at the failed Celebration of Life Festival, which took place in the small town of McCrea, in upper Pointe Coupee Parish.

The documentary will air on Saturday (Feb. 22) at 8:30 p.m. on the Southeastern Channel, the educational access channel for Southeastern Louisiana University. It will repeat throughout the next two months.

Although the 1971 festival drew a crowd of 60,000, the lineup of 70-plus national and international acts slated to perform ended up a paltry 10 acts as poor fairground conditions, lack of shelter, sweltering heat, and legal problems for organizers turned what could have been a major "Woodstock" type concert into an event-organizer's calamity.

Acts scheduled to perform included Rolling Stones, Beach Boys, Moody Blues, Pink Floyd, BB King, Ike and Tina Turner, and Sly and the Family Stone. The only well-known musicians who actually performed were Chuck Berry, Stephen Stills, WAR, John Sebastian, and Delaney and Bonnie.

Unlike at the iconic Woodstock concert — which even today is associated with peaceful grooves and 'good vibes' — at McCrea, according to a Southeastern press release, the bands played at night but "festival goers spent their days in misery seeking food, drugs, and shelter on the treeless, mosquito-infested grounds." 

The release also stated, "Rumors of police brutality along with a number of accidents, including the drowning deaths of at least four people in the swift-moving Atchafalaya River, contributed to the disaster. The festival shut down after its third day."

In 2002, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune music reporter Keith Spera wrote aboutNew Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival concert promoter Quint Davis' observations of the McCrea site when he arrived with a group of performers, including the Zion Harmonizers. Read Spera's story here.

Southeastern students Nick Brilleaux and Scott Caro co-produced and directed, and Brilleaux shot and edited the 33-minute film, "McCrea 1971." The documentary includes old film footage and interviews with musicians, festival attendees, festival production manager Vaughn Mordenti of New Orleans, and recently deceased Stephen Stills Band guitarist Stephen Fromholz.

"McCrea 1971: Louisiana's Forgotten Rock Festival" was selected for screenings at the New Orleans Film Festival, the Southern Screen Festival in Lafayette, and Fanfare at the Columbia Theatre in Hammond.

The film can be viewed on the Southeastern Channel, located on Charter Cable Channel 18 in Tangipahoa, St. Tammany and Livingston parishes and on Channel 17 in Washington Parish. The live 24/7 webcast and archived video on demand can be seenhere.