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Festival Express – Achievement in Rock Film Archaeology

“Festival Express” is a documentary of a large Canadian rock festival train tour. It boasts major acts like Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead, The Band and many more. “Festival Express” happened in the summer of 1970. It included some of the eras biggest rock stars that took to the rails to bring their music to the fans.   

For five days, the bands and performers lived, slept, rehearsed and let loose aboard a customized train.  If you are a fan of the 70’s style of music, you will love this documentary.

It’s Destination…

The Festival Express traveled from Toronto, to Winnipeg, to Calgary, with each stop culminating in a mega-concert. The entire experience shows film footage both on-stage and behind the scenes. The extensive footage and sound tapes of this iconic event remained locked away for decades. 

The Restoration…

The producers made the footage into a documentary in 2003. While restoring the film, filmmakers reached out to the artists years later for commentary about their experience with this festival. It’s now readily available to be rediscovered by a new generation of music fans. 

Why it’s important? 

The film “Festival Express” is a great achievement in rock film archaeology. Combining the long-lost material with contemporary interviews, it adds important context to the event. Furthermore, the fact that this footage is from the 70’s, it’s still amazing footage.  It’s a terrific insight into an event that was relatively unknown. It’s beautiful to see the behind the scenes collaborations and the camaraderie these artists had for each other.  

The Highlights:

One highlight of the documentary is the after hours jam sessions featuring The Band’s Rick Danko, the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir, New Riders of the Purple Sage’s John Dawson, as well as Janis Joplin.  It was amazing to see these artists collaborating on music and having deep conversations while just being themselves.

Buddy Guy jokes, “I couldn’t go to sleep cuz I thought I’d miss something!” The concert footage is pretty awesome and is the reason to see the film.   Below is a performance from Buddy Guy that is actually from Winnipeg.  As you can see, there are some hiccups, but his performance is still worth checking out. 

It’s right up there with the Woodstock documentaries!  Be sure to Check it out!

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Credits: IMDB