Thursday, June 3, 2010

All aboard the Festival Express

Forty summers ago some of our favorite musicians boarded a Canadian National Railways train for a five-day trip to oblivion.  Janis Joplin, the Band, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Buddy Guy, the Grateful Dead, and Delaney & Bonnie. It was the year after Woodstock, and the bright idea was to provide a moveable music feast for rock 'n' roll fans across Canada, a "Woodstock on wheels."  And here is the important part: document the trip.

The resulting documentary, Festival Express, was released in 2003 to positive, often glowing reviews, but somehow we missed it.  Which is OK, because we have the DVD right here in our hands. We're just waiting for the right moment to put it in the player.

The concerts bombed -- the final scheduled event in Vancouver never even happened -- because some uppity hippies decided the music should be free.  (Imagine testing that concept on today's promoters and musicians.)  But more important than concert footage from the stops in Toronto, Winnipeg, Manitoba and Calgary are the intimate glimpses -- drug and alcohol-fueled glances, really  -- we get of these musicians as they ride the rails between shows. As the DVD jacket proclaims: "A backstage pass to the wildest and wooliest ride in the history of music."

We have to take this ride just to see Joplin, who would be dead in three months of a heroin overdose.  Have you seen it yet? Bring over a bottle of Jack Daniel, we'll pop some corn and fire this puppy up.


  1. Riding the train, high on cocaine ...
    Except for Janis, booze was a new drug for most of these potheads and they didn't handle it too well. It was the sad end to a great era.

  2. You will enjoy the film,. especially
    some of the latter-day (2003ish)
    memories of some who were there. Pete
    Biziou, who shot some-a Pink Floyd's
    "The Wall," shot some-a this. You will
    dig it (surprised you haven't before).