Festival Express

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Movie Review by EDF

Starring: Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin & The Full Tilt Boogie Band, The Band
Director: Bob Smeaton

For years, Woodstock was known as the mother of all festivals. The summer of 1969 brought together the biggest names in music that would participate in what resulted in the biggest music festival ever. Since then other festivals have cropped up all over the place but none have been as unique as those three eventful days. The following year, three promoters came up with a unique idea and that was to get the top artists to travel by train across Canada and perform live at various venues, a kind of the mountain going to Mohammed. So with the likes of The Grateful Dead, The Band, Buddy Guy, Janis Joplin and The Flying Burrito Brothers in tow, it was all aboard for what would be a once in a lifetime experience for all those involved.

As with all best laid plans, not everything went according to plan. From the outset, there was a small group of people who demonstrated that the ticket prices were too high. Then the first date in Toronto nearly turned into a disaster when a mob of fans tried to get into the concert for free. To calm the situation down, The Grateful Dead agreed to perform for free in a nearby park thus drawing the non-ticket holders away from the main concert.

The rest of the trip is a revelation whereby the opportunity to continue making music while on the move with like minded musicians is an event that will never ever be replicated. As they are all sharing this trip together, it is amazing that even those that can be called a genius never try to take over the jam sessions. This has been called the longest Rock N’ Roll party ever and we are not too surprised that most of the musicians hardly got any sleep. Even when the booze ran out, a quick stop at Saskatoon solved that problem, as there just happened to be a liquor store right by the station. Of course they bought everything in the store and continued drunkenly towards Winnipeg.

Of course we must not forget the music on and off the train. The performances are nothing short of outstanding and even some of the drunken sessions are enjoyable to watch. The main highlight is an emotionally charged live performance from Janis Joplin who not gives her soul on stage; she gives her life away with each song. No other female singer has even come close since and it is a shame that she died a couple of months later. The only complaint that I have about this documentary is that it is too short at 90 minutes. Even when the movie finishes, you just don’t want the party to end.

5 out of 6 stars