Festival Express

Festival Express

DVD - 2014
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In 1970, such names as Janis Joplin, The Band, and The Grateful Dead traveled by a customized train for five days to Toronto, Calgary, and Winnipeg for a mega-concert at each stop. This experience was filmed and some footage was locked away, until now.

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mr_chocolate
Jun 28, 2017

The 90 minute Festival Express 1970 DVD, released in 2004, is a worthy music documentary and I would recommend watching the Special Features, which add another 90 minutes of concert footage and interviews from key organizers and some musicians. Interviews by Sylvia Tyson, Buddy Guy, Bob Wier from the Grateful Dead, along with band members from Janis Joplin's newly formed band, Full Tilt Boogie.

It took over 30 years to get the film made due to lawsuits and loss of money during the three city tour on the CN "private" train, that the promoter made sure had a "bar car", proper food with servers, a medical doctor and a space to jam in. Someone said that the Woodstock festival, was a treat for the people, but the Festival Express Train was a treat for the musicians. Tickets were $14 and an estimated loss of a half a million dollars for the promoters.

Woodstock was in August of 1969 and Jimi Hendrix died the following year. This music documentary does not rate as a great film, like The Last Waltz, but does capture a unique time of music history with musicians that were happy to just hang out with each other. Although it has some grainy film and some irritating split screen performance sequences, (nothing as bad as the longer Woodstock film), it is full of interesting banter and retrospective interviews from key organizers and performers.

It captures the Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin, at a high in popularity, The Band was on an upswing. After being on a world tour with Bob Dylan and then recording sessions in 1966/67, performing at Woodstock and the UK Isle of Wight festivals in 1969, they released their third album, just before that Festival Express tour. Their first album, Music from Big Pink, had been released in 1968, with their follow-up album, The Band in 1969, and then, Stage Fright early 1970.

The Band was also featured on the cover of Time magazine (January 12, 1970), Festival Express was late June and ended in Calgary on July 1st. Janis Joplin was dead by October 1970.

FESTIVAL EXPRESS is a documentary about the train trip across Canada in 1970 with Janis Joplin, The Band, Grateful Dead, Buddy Guy, and others. Concert stops were in Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary in early summer. The promoters lost money; they were dogged by protests intended to make the shows free to the public. This is an oft elided aspect of mega-festivals from of the Age of Aquarius -- hostility between scurrilous concert promoters and the idealistic audiences that they supposedly catered to. The resulting clashes between youth and security forces often masked the root causes of the violence -- ticket gouging and misrepresentation. Big-name bands like Led Zeppelin and the Jimi Hendrix Experience were often advertised but never actually booked. Janis Joplin, backed by the Full Tilt Boogie Band, is easily the best act featured in FESTIVAL EXPRESS. Her performances are on a whole different level. The Dead and The Band really don't even come close. After seeing her do "Tell Mama," I thought, "Jesus! She must have terrified white people." Janis has a rap about what a woman needs, and what the teenage boy wants, etc. J. Edgar Hoover probably had Special Agents thinking of ways to take her down. Too radical.

j
janechese
Dec 31, 2016

Historical look at the bands that travelled on the Festival Express train across Canada in 1970, fun to watch and personally interesting because I attended one of the concerts and saw Janis Joplin who died months later. It was a look at the music and partying, amazing that anyone survived that generation.

m
MeReneG
Sep 03, 2016

An interesting look at a train trip unlike any other -- before or since -- involving musicians (e.g., Buddy Guy, Janis Joplin) and groups (e.g., Ian & Sylvia, The Band, The Greatful Dead) who later helped define their generation's music.

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