The Hendrix Project at Under the Radar: Watching Jimi Hendrix

It’s New Year’s Eve 1969, and a dozen fans are in the balcony of the Fillmore East watching a concert by Jimi Hendrix and his electronic blues trio, Band of Gypsys, nine months before Hendrix dies. That is a summary of “The Hendrix Project,” running at BRIC through January 14, as part of the Under the Radar Festival. That is also more or less all there is to say about it. We in the audience spend an hour watching the fans in the balcony as they watch the concert.

For the first 15 minutes or so, they hardly move, as if transfixed by a masterpiece, or zombified, or just strung out. Then they move in slow motion. Eventually they loosen up — some take off their shirts, take drugs, go to the backroom behind the balcony to have what looks like sex, embrace in ecstasy. But none of them ever say a word. In retrospect, that shouldn’t have surprised us:  Why would they say a word — and how could they? It’s a really loud Jimi Hendrix concert.
On the wall at the back of the balcony,  we see videos of Hendrix performing on the stage, as if a real time projection of what the fans are watching. These are mixed in, music video style, with a few videos of events from the 1960s, such as the infamous police-student confrontation at Kent State. But mostly, “The Hendrix Project” borrows a page from Andy Warhol’s early films, like “Sleep.” We simply watch the watchers. I’ll admit fleeting appeal in this art student approach, forcing one to contemplate deeper significance in  the characters’ movements — e.g. ah, two shirtless men are hugging, presaging the burgeoning of the gay rights movement. Or: sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, the Sixties, coming to an end. But then one realizes that all these thoughts are cliches about the Sixties. No, what “The Hendrix Project” offers is one hour of the music of Jimi Hendrix, Rolling Stone Magazine’s pick as the greatest guitarist of all time, loudly amplified as if we’re at a live concert. For Hendrix fans, this might be enough.

Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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