The Velvet Underground Played At My High School
An animated short about the Velvet Underground's first gig in 1965 in front of a crowd of shocked kids at a suburban New Jersey High School.
On December 11, 1965, The Velvet Underground played their first concert (and their first paid gig) at the most unlikeliest of places: a high school auditorium in Summit, New Jersey. They opened for a popular local band called The Myddle Class, who had a top 40 hit on the AM radio. The audience was packed with Myddle Class fans, who were mostly sheltered kids from this picture-perfect town some 25 miles west of New York City -- kids who were just discovering the Beatles but who were still dancing the Lindy, the Waltz, and the Cha Cha at school dances.
It was in this atmosphere that the black-leather-clad Velvets hit the stage blasting loud, droning, screeching music laced with drug-and sex-infused lyrics. On the stage for merely 20 minutes, they performed three songs, ending with “Heroin,” and the audience responded with, as one of the band recalled in 1983, a “murmur of surprise that greeted our appearance” that “increased to a roar of disbelief as we started to play” and “swelled to a mighty howl of outrage and bewilderment…” Half the audience walked out.
Among those who remained to witness the extraordinary concert was 10th grader Tony Jannelli, who sat riveted to his seat, wide-eyed and mind blown. A music lover who had his own band, he eagerly devoured this avant-garde, startling new sound. His fascinating recounting of that surreal evening provides the narration for this whimsical and comical animate documentary short film, or, as we like to call it, "documentation."
THe film originally hit the festival circuit in fall of 2017. A first cut of the film was a huge hit at the Cité de la Musique-Philharmonie de Paris, and ran as part of their exhibition on the Velvet Underground from March - August of 2016.
To watch the completed film online on PBS, click here: POV | The Velvet Underground Played At My High School | PBS
Directed By: Anthony Jannelli and Robert Pietri
Written By: Marina Donahue
Produced By: Anthony Jannelli, Robert Pietri, Tara Pietri, and Marina Donahue