Sunday, April 16, 2017
"FESTIVAL" EXPRESSES HIPPY SPIRIT
Starring Janis Joplin,
Directed by Bob Smeaton
You'll want Festival Express to go on.
Music lovers--especially fans of '60s rock, folk, and blues--will find much to hold interest in this excellent 2003 documentary of the 5-day trans-Canadian train trip in the summer of 1970 featuring performances by the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Buddy Guy, the Band, the Flying Burrito Brothers, and more.
More concert than commentary, participants from the private train running east to west giving concerts on the way reflect on the "traveling circus" sometimes met by near-riot crowds angry at concerts requiring a nominal fee. As Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead notes, "These people were looking for trouble."
In spite of facing a financial loss, the producers never held back on anything for the artists.
What often looks like home movie footage proves a time capsule reflecting innumerable details of the age. Yet ultimately what we get are great concert performances. Highlights include renditions of "Cry Baby", "Lazy Day", and "The Weight" from Joplin, the Burrito Brothers, and the Band, respectively.
"It was a train full of insane people," says the Dead's Phil Lesh. Drummer Mickey Hart adds, "This train was not for sleeping."
"For any musician on this train," one band member recalls, "it was like heaven."
Passing places such as Moose Jaw and Medicine Hat, the "La Bohemian society" of big music acts partied across Canada and gave shows arguably better than Woodstock.
Though marred by the entitled stance taken by some audiences, the show rolls on never missing a beat, celebrating the '60s and kicking off the '70s just for the fun of it.
Freely available on YouTube.
Stewart Kirby writes for