Celebration at Big Sur (also known simply as Celebration) is a film of the 1969 Big Sur Folk Festival in Big Sur, California, featuring Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young (CSNY), Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell and others.
The festival, one in an annual series of concerts held on the grounds of the Esalen Institute in Big Sur from 1964 to 1971, was held on the weekend of September 13–14, 1969, only one month after the famous and considerably larger Woodstock Music & Art Fair, which is referred to repeatedly. Celebration at Big Sur did not receive the same critical acclaim as the 1970 Woodstock film.
The concert occurs on a low stage by the Pacific Ocean, which the audience faces. Musical performances dominate the film, with footage of surrounding occurrences interspersed and montaged into the music sequences.
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
The film includes early footage of Neil Young,who had recently appeared at Woodstock with Crosby, Stills & Nash, but refused to be filmed. Here, fortified by session drummer Dallas Taylor and Motown bassist Greg Reeves, CSNY perform Young's "Sea of Madness" and "Down by the River". Perhaps the film's most famous scene is an altercation between Stephen Stills and a heckler.
Mitchell, who did not appear at the Woodstock Festival, performs the song "Woodstock" prior to any album release, first attempting to teach the audience to sing the melodically complicated refrain. Ironically, Mitchell would later develop a well-known distaste for festival gigs, but in this performance her enthusiasm is evident.
Baez was a Big Sur-festival regular whose folk-music workshop at Esalen in 1965 helped attract pop/rock acts later to the festival.[clarification needed] She is featured prominently throughout the film. Celebration begins with Baez opening the festival with Bob Dylan's "I Shall Be Released" and closes with her leading a large crowd in singing "Oh Happy Day" in the event's finale
In addition to CSNY, Baez and Mitchell, other performers featured in Celebration included John Sebastian, Dorothy Combs Morrison and The Combs Sisters, Mimi Fariña, Carol Ann Cisneros, Julie Payne, Chris Ethridge and The Struggle Mountain Resistance Band.
While Ruthann Friedman, The Flying Burrito Brothers and The Incredible String Band performed at this event, they do not appear in the film.
In the opening scene the filmmakers attempt to interview local patrol police, but fail to get permission.