MVFF30 Schedule

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Feature THE MUSIC NEVER STOPPED

Music at the Festival, Then and Now By Joshua Moore

On the eve of the 30th anniversary of the Mill Valley Film Festival, co-founder and executive director Mark Fishkin and cofounder Rita Cahill sat down with longtime Festival collaborators and music producers Clare Wasserman and Stephanie Clarke, to reminisce and discuss the highlights of Festival musical events over the years. “So, a trip down memory lane here,” Rita begins, eliciting gentle laughter as everyone settles in. “Yeah, that’s the problem!” Mark quickly replies, “I can’t remember what the first music show we ever did was.” More laughter, as they put their heads together and agree that that first event featured the great blues guitar legend Mike Bloomfield, best known for his guitar work with Bob Dylan on the classic album Highway 61 Revisited. “Yeah, you know, that was the first event we did together, Rita, the Bloomfield event. Oh, I had forgotten about that!” Clare recalls. Once upon a time, Mark Fishkin ran the Saturday Night Movie, a crowd-pleasing event created to showcase independent and

foreign cinema to audiences in Mill Valley. From this successful venture he went on to launch the Mill Valley Film Festival. Mike Bloomfield used to go to the Saturday Night Movie and perform for everyone, and he and Mark developed a friendship. When, a few years later, there was a film about Bloomfield’s life, it was a natural to have a Bloomfield music event at the Mill Valley Film Festival. “We had a movie that Marty Balin produced about Mike Bloomfield, and we decided to also present live music that would support the essence of the film,” Clare describes. The Bloomfield show started an annual tradition of music at the Festival, with events ranging from the cozy club scene to one of the Festival’s largest, most memorable events, in 1984: a tribute to legendary Bay Area music promoter and Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame member, Bill Graham. Clare recalls pitching the idea to Bill: “We wanted to do something with him, and Bill lived in Mill Valley, so we went in and had a meeting with him, and he basically said, ‘You’re crazy, and no one likes me and why would you want to do a tribute, they’re all going to throw things, and I don’t want to do it’; and we talked him into it basically.”

It was this can-do attitude that Stephanie remembers as the essential element in producing great music events for the Festival. “We started coming up with all these crazy but wonderful ideas for shows that sounded impossible, and I think a lot of what the Festival became known for was achieving the impossible.” The Bill Graham Tribute was held at the Marin Center and emceed by actors Howard Hesseman and Saturday Night Live regular Don Novello (aka Father Guido Sarducci), with support from Robin Williams, and featured live performances by a who’s who of musicians, including Graham’s personal favorites Jerry Garcia, Carlos Santana and Tito Puente. A video made prior to the event included Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, Elton John, Eric Clapton and the Grateful Dead among others, all saluting Graham. In 1986, the Festival presented another monumental event: Music in the Movies, a celebration of music in film, held at the Warfield Theater in San Francisco and produced in partnership with Bill Graham Presents and with support from BMI and ASCAP in Los Angeles. The Tribute honored 17 master film composers in attendance, including Alan and Marilyn Bergman (who

Michelle Shocked, Todd Rundgren, Hal Willner, Marianne Faithfull, Don Novello (as Father Guido Sarducci)

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