California’s rock history runs deep in ‘Canyon’ documentary

Brian Wilson, Roger McGuinn, Stephen Stills and others reflect on mid-late 1960s Southern California rock music scene in new film.
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 Jakob Dylan (left) and Tom Petty in a scene from "Echo in the Canyon."

Jakob Dylan (left) and Tom Petty in a scene from "Echo in the Canyon."

By Chris M. Junior

In Laurel Canyon during the mid-late 1960s, there was a sense of keeping up with the Joneses.

Only instead of that surname, you had McGuinn, Stills and other major rock stars living in the Los Angeles-area neighborhood, and a new documentary has many of the principal figures from that time along with others providing context and expressing reverence related to that competitive yet collegial scene.

Directed by Andrew Slater and executive produced by Jakob Dylan, “Echo in the Canyon” made its New Jersey premiere April 25 at the Asbury Park Music + Film Festival. (A wider theater release is scheduled for May 24.)

Dylan also serves as the movie’s onscreen guide. He’s often shown silent and poker-faced alongside Roger McGuinn, Stephen Stills, David Crosby, Lou Adler, Brian Wilson and Michelle Phillips as they talk about living and working in Southern California at that time. Tom Petty, Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Jackson Browne, John Sebastian and Graham Nash also participate in recent clips talking about their personal and musical connections to the 1960s Laurel Canyon artists.

Mixed in with those conversations and archival footage are scenes from an October 2015 concert at the Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles with Dylan, Cat Power, Beck, Regina Spektor and Fiona Apple playing Laurel Canyon-associated songs, along with clips from the studio sessions for the documentary’s soundtrack.

In a brief Q&A after the screening, Dylan offered a “We’ll see” when asked if a tour supporting the soundtrack will happen.

The event concluded with Dylan and many of the musicians who appeared in the 2015 Orpheum concert onstage at Asbury Park’s Paramount Theatre performing tunes made famous by The Mamas and Papas, The Association and others.

The Asbury Park Music + Film Festival continues through April 28 and features screenings of “Clarence Clemons: Who Do I Think I Am?,” “The Bruce Springsteen Archives” and “David Crosby: Remember My Name.”