The Boston Tea Party VU 1967

ANDY WARHOL SHOOTS THE VELVET UNDERGROUND LIVE IN COLOR, BOSTON, 1967

UNITED STATES - CIRCA 1966: Andy Warhol in New York, United States in 1966 - Andy Warhol with the Velvet Underground, from left to right: John Cale, Andy Warhol, Nico, Gerard Malanga. (Photo by Herve GLOAGUEN/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES – CIRCA 1966: Andy Warhol in New York, United States in 1966 – Andy Warhol with the Velvet Underground, from left to right: John Cale, Andy Warhol, Nico, Gerard Malanga. (Photo by Herve GLOAGUEN/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

Last week I recovered video of the Velvet Underground performing live in Boston in 1967. This would be notable on its own, being one of only two known films with synchronous sound of the band performing live also happens to be the only one that was shot in color, but what makes it really significant is that this  was filmed by Andy Warhol himself.

Early promo posters referred to the show as the “Erupting Plastic Inevitable”. This soon changed to “The Exploding Plastic Inevitable”. This clip Warhol shot features a variety of filmmaking techniques. Sudden in-and-out zooms, sweeping panning shots, in-camera edits that create single frame images and bursts of light like paparazzi flash bulbs going off mirror the kinesthetic experience of the Exploding Plastic Inevitable, with its colorful slide shows, multi-screen projections of 16 mm film projections, combined with a stroboscopic-light show designed by Danny Williams (because of the punishing lights, the band took to wearing sunglasses onstage), whip dancers, liberal use of amphetamines, and overpowering sound.

The Boston Tea Party venue with its distinctive arched inscription reading
The Boston venue with its distinctive arched inscription reading “PRAISE YE THE LORD”, remaining from the hall’s original use.

The Boston Tea Party was a concert venue located at 53 Berkeley Street (later relocated to 15 Lansdowne Street in the former site of competitor, the Ark) in the South End neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts. It operated from 1967 to early 1971. Its closing was due in part to the increasing cost of hiring bands who were playing more and more at large outdoor festivals and arena rock concerts. The venue became associated with the psychedelic movement, being similar in this way to other contemporary rock halls such as New York‘sFillmore East and Electric Circus, San Francisco‘s Fillmore West, and Philadelphia‘s Electric Factory.

The Velvet Underground, not widely known or appreciated in their own time, played regularly to a packed house at the Boston Tea Party. According to the club’s former manager, Steve Nelson, “People in Boston just adopted them, and that ranges from Harvard graduate students to tough kids from the neighborhood…and that really was the start of their, I guess we could call it a residency.”

 “This is our favorite place to play in the whole country.”—Lou Reed, December 12, 1968

The quality is poor, but snatches of classics like “Run Run Run” and “Guess I’m Falling In Love” can be made out in the first half of the video. The second half of the half-hour clip is filled by a complete performance of the immortal “Sister Ray.” This is an amazing historical and artistic document from the year the The Velvet Underground & Nico came out. Watch the extremely rare moment in musical history below.

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