The summer of 1970 saw several bands play three Canadian music festivals under the banner of "Festival Express". Within five days all the bands traveled together across Canada by chartered train, from Toronto to Winnipeg to Calgary. Even though the Trans-Continental Pop Festival is a foggy annotation in rock 'n' roll history I remember a couple of my older friends recalling this monumental train trip. Fortunately, the whole experience was captured by the film crew that traveled with the bands.
The festival was a commercial flop that put the promoters in the red and left several concert goers disenchanted. The pre-concert promos featured 10 Years After, Mountain and Traffic as part of the festival bill; however these three international acts were no-shows. Nevertheless, this DVD is not about disappointments but rather it is about the music and the musicians of the 1970's.
Festival Express is mixture of live concert footage along with impromptu (fly on the wall) train scenes. This two disk DVD also includes several interviews with: journalist David Dalton, Buddy Guy, Sylvia Tyson, Jerry Mercer and several members of the Grateful Dead share their recollections of that sleepless alcohol and drug -fueled trip. Live performances by The Grateful Dead, The Band, Buddy Guy Blues Band, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Janis Joplin, Ian & Sylvia, and Sha Na Na are priceless and should not be missed.
The cinematography is excellent considering this archived footage was shot 35 years ago. The sound is equally crisp and clear. As a viewer you really feel like a fly on the wall at the concerts and on the train. To see some of your favorite musicians in their prime is a rarity nowadays, considering we've probably already been exposed to most if not all the popular footage from that era. Jerry Garcia & Janis Joplin look so young; it's hard to believe that they have both passed away since those innocent days. If you enjoy the music of the featured bands or if you're a fan of 1970's rock 'n' roll then Festival Express will undoubtedly capture your heart.
Special DVD Features
-Over 50 minutes of bonus concert footage not included in the original film. I really enjoyed the extras by Joplin, The Grateful Dead and others.
– Train Hopping uninterrupted music tracks…super re-mastered sound
– Chugging along; extended interviews with Bobby Weir and Phil Lesh of The Grateful Dead, Buddy Guy and the event's promoter Ken Walker…more insight from the people that were there
-Derailed, the making-of the feature film
-Last Stop, the theatrical trailer