Festival Express

2003 [english]

Documentary / History / Music

Festival Express

2003 [english]

Documentary / History / Music

96%
85%
7.5

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96% - Critics
85% - Audience
7.5

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Synopsis

In the summer of 1970, a chartered train crossed Canada carrying some of the world's greatest rock bands. The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, The Band, Buddy Guy, and others lived (and partied) together for five days, stopping in major cities along the way to play live concerts. Their journey was filmed. —Anonymous.

Uploaded By: FREEMAN

Aug 15, 2021 at 04:13 PM

Director

Cast

grade Movie Reviews

  • Reviewed by karmacoupe grade 10 / 10

    Channeling the Big Guy under Big Sky

    Oh . . . My . . . God!Yer gonna die! 33 years from filming to the screen. But here it is!If you like The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, The Band, and/or that era, A) you're gonna Love this, and B) as a documentary of the time this is rivaled only by Woodstock.In fact, there's a quote by some musician in the film about: "Woodstock was a treat for the audience; the Festival Express was a treat for the performers." Apparently it was a non-stop jam session & party from beginning to end. Buddy Guy jokes, "I couldn't go to sleep cuz I thought I'd miss something!" The Grateful Dead's lyricist Robert Hunter later wrote a song about it -- "Never had such a good time in my life before / I'd like to have it one time more." And Janis says at the last show, "Next time you throw a train, man, call me."This was a rock festival "tour" across Canada in the summer of 1970. The idea was to create Multiple mini-Woodstocks by having a train take all the bands to the next site. They ended up pulling off three of them - in Toronto, Winnipeg, and Calgary. But this being Canada in the last century, there's only like 5 or 10,000 people in the Peg and Cowtown!The guy who was in charge of filming it back then told me they had 5 cameramen and a total crew of about 20. There was apparently a dispute over who owned the film, resulting in all this great footage never being seen, and reminding me of the similar squabbles over that other great cinema verite classic Pull My Daisy by Robert Frank. Both Daisy and this Express really document their respective peaks in creative history vibrantly & honestly, showing both the crazy drunken joyride and the brilliant peaks of pure channeled genius.Other films in this chapter would include Monterey Pop, The Last Days of The Fillmore, Big Sur, then The Last Waltz a few years later. They sometimes use split-screens to show both the audience and the performers, and apparently the director who finally turned the footage into a film also did the Beatles Anthology, so it's kind of like that - all this historic footage interspersed with new interview snippets by the various participants, like Bob Weir remembering, "Most all of us were new to drinking at that point. We'd all been taking LSD or smoking pot or whatever, but this was a whole new experience for us!" Ah, Canada!And talk about Big Railroad Booze -- there's a hilarious part where they run out in Saskatchewan: CN Conductor: They drank us dry! Promoter: When's the next stop? Conductor: We're not scheduled for a stop. Promoter: You are now.Then Eric Andersen looking back, shakin his head, "I dunno, they just stopped in Saskatoon, the whole damn train stopped, like, In Front of a liquor store!"It's one of those movies where you're laughing so hard you miss stuff, or you're so busy watching Rick Danko you forget Janis and Jerry are beside him. It's filled with so many glistening gold treasures you're gonna come away richer just watching it. Masters channeling some force beyond . . . makes me think of people I've met who don't believe there's a God of any kind, no larger spiritual anything. This movie sure reinforced for me that there's Some spirit force out there, and Rick Danko and Janis and Richard Manuel are channeling it right before your eyes!And Deadheads are gonna freak! There are 3 songs by the original 6-member band, but more importantly, Jerry Garcia is really shown in his prime. Not only is he central to seemingly every train-car jam, but when there's trouble with the crowds in Toronto, it's Garcia who comes to the microphone to plead for "coolness". I believe it's the new Dennis McNally book on the Dead that says Garcia learned their eventual staple Goin' Down The Road Feelin' Bad from Delaney & Bonnie on this trip, and you actually see Delaney playing it on the train at one point.Janis is so possessed & clearly channeling The Big Guy to close the final show of the tour and the film, it's so sad this lifeforce died accidentally just 2 months later. People were literally crying in the theater at her performance. I mean, the audience was so captivated, they broke out in applause Mid-song when she came back from her spontaneous stage rap to nail Cry Baby at the Winnipeg show.And this is by far the loosest and rockingest original Band I've ever seen or heard. The Last Waltz is of course white hot, but they're polished to perfection. This is The Band of the Basement Tapes, except playing in their home country and even more electrified - they're hanging with the Dead on the road, not Dylan in a basement :-) It's the kind of stuff you always wished you saw or were there for. Now, Bing!I caught it at the Toronto Film Festival (Sept. '03) and sure hope for everyone's sake this finds wide distribution, then an excellent DVD avec outtakes comes out!


  • Reviewed by jdgratz grade 10 / 10

    People of the world, join the love train!

    What a terrific bit of insight into an event that until recently, was relatively unknown. In the wake of Woodstock, it was time for the players to have their fun. Some of the most tremendous artists of the 60's all join together to have a mobile party that ran across Canada. The movie includes some amazing footage of Janis Joplin, members of The Band, and a lot of Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir. I was curious where the remainder of the Grateful Dead spent much of their train time, but the footage shown was enlightening enough. From a night with LSD laden whiskey where spirits and the music was VERY high, to onstage performances by many of the groups from the actual concerts, and promoters and band members discussing the concerns about unruly fans and city managers. There was at least one huge aspect to note. For those of you who may appreciate Joplin for who she was and the influence she had but, maybe, aren't huge aficionados of her music, you may gain a new respect. Her onstage presence was clearly electrifying. You could tell that whenever she was belting out her bluesy tones, she had every bit of her heart bleeding out of her entire being. It would be a wondrous day to find that this, plus more and more hours of the footage could be released. I would waste away for an entire day watching and enjoying every tidbit of what was collected.


  • Reviewed by radioanagrama grade 9 / 10

    Opinion from a complete non-fan of the music....

    Before seeing this film, I was a completely novice to The Band, Grateful Dead, Janis. I'm 22, I didn't grow up with this stuff, my only knowledge of The Band is that Scorcese directed a film on their last concert. I have a few hippie friends that endless blathered about the brilliance of Janis, which fell upon my deaf ears. I was expecting Festival Express to be this dull, venture into 70's nostalgia crap and tedious jam band boredom.Oh...how my opinion has changed. I mean, its nothing like the music I love (90's alternative stuff and electronic stuff) but the performances are so absolutely incredible and passionate. In reality, its a film for musicians more than fans, people that who have, even for a moment, felt the sheer exhilaration of collaborating musically with people and it being perfect! Festival Express feels exactly like that. You see it in their eyes in these performances. Janis may have been.....kind of crazy, but in the track in the film ("cry baby"?) I can completely see her absolute passion for music and her amazing showmanship (or show-womanship). Festival Express is the best example of a completely non-contrived and purely candid look into these bands. Even if they are brief glimmers of their natural selves.I think the die-hard fans who are criticizing the film are asking too much. If I can wait 30 years after the demise of my favorite bands (Radiohead, Tool, Nine Inch Nails)...to see an amazingly honest and brilliantly shot look into their touring lives, I would be very very grateful, not critical because the damned filmmakers didn't get everything I wanted. The interviews with the performers and particularly the promoter, are fantastic. Not only are they a good dose of humour, but...its so easy to see WHY they are saying this tour was absolutely special and unique and memorable. It's right there on film, this was the pinnacle of that era and that place and that mentality and musicianship that was going on. You have to appreciate what Festival Express showcases. You might not like every bit of music (I didn't) but I can appreciate the total intensity and passion of the performances.


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