"It was incredible," says Lerner, who'll be on hand when the movie screens at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 16, at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. "I've never experienced anything like it, because of the huge crowd and the intensity of the performers. It was overwhelming, actually."
Lerner says he was trying to do "a much broader film, combining the background and business aspect with the music and the feelings of the crowd." He captures some great footage of guitarist Rory Gallagher's trio Taste, a blues rock group that released two terrific studio albums before disbanding in 1970. The core of What's Going On features the band's performance at the festival, but the film, which came out on DVD last year and has been making the rounds at film festivals, also functions as a documentary about the band and includes interviews with Gallagher's brother and Taste road manager Donal Gallagher, along with Queen's Brian May, U2's the Edge, Bob Geldof and jazz guitarist Larry Coryell.
Lerner says he wanted to release the Taste footage for years but couldn't get the rights until recently.
"The Gallagher family came to me and wanted to do it," he says. "[Rory's] brother and his nephew were supportive. The nephew became the co-producer. His brother was his manager. That's in the film. I've been trying to do it for a long time but could never come to an agreement about the rights with them. All of a sudden, they wanted to do it. That's how those things happen. It takes years sometime for the rights and money to come together. They got me the money to do it."
The reception has been terrific, and Lerner says seeing it with an audience has been a treat.
"The whole thing has gotten fantastic reviews," he says. "I think it's one of the best films I've ever made. I wasn't planning to have it that way. We have had several showings with crowds and the reaction is unbelievable. They're applauding throughout. It's rare that there would be so much applause for music during a music film."