At The Cinema: Festival Express

"I wanted it to be a party," says festival organizer Ken Walker. And oh, what a party it must have been. It's an event that really could only have happened when it did. Try to throw a bunch of incredible musicians together on a train these days? Not so likely. But in Canada, circa 1970, that's exactly what happened. And luckily, it was filmed. Friends, witness Festival Express.

The premise of the whole operation was simple, yet pretty ballsy: Invite heaps of the most important music makers of the time, put them all on a train, and embark upon a week of unfathomable partying and creativity from the East of Canada to the West of Canada. The week unfolds through well-chosen concert footage, vignettes from the train voyage including jam sessions and views of the Canadian countryside, and interviews with some of the band members and other involved parties. By all accounts, it was a good golly daggum good time.

Mind you, it wasn't all fun and games. Some of the Canadian concert-going masses took umbrage at having to pay for the pleasure of attending these festivals, and felt compelled to protest, in some cases leading to violent episodes. It was a feeling that began in Toronto and plagued the entire week. But it was a pockmark at best, and the resounding sentiment seems to be that the Festival Express was one hell of a party. Even despite the promoter's loss of revenue, Walker's attitude of "Let's carry on and party" was the spirit of the traingoing revelers. "Everytime I went to bed I thought I was gonna miss something," proclaims Buddy Guy with a grin. And The Dead's Mickey Hart gleefully states that, "This train was not for sleeping."

Highlights of the film include blistering stage and train performances by Buddy Guy, a couple night time ones by The Band (including a jaunty rendition of "The Weight"), and more shirtless Canadian gents than you can shake a stick at. Extra features include plenty of live performances, a photo gallery, and the making of Festival Express. It's a really enjoyable look into a week-long party, and I would just like to say that if anyone out there has more money than they know what to do with and wants to get one of these going, just make sure to give me a shout. That would be a train, much like the Festival Express of 1970, that I'd hate to miss.


Popular Posts