Sunday 12 December 2004

Festival Express (2003) - ickleReview (cinema)

The boom of brilliant documentaries continues with Bob Smeaton's - and I rarely use this word - awesome festival movie. In 1970, a couple of Canadian festival promotors decided to lay on a private train to carry performers such as The Band, Janice Joplin and The Grateful Dead from a series of summer festivals in Toronto, Winnipeg and Calgary. The train was stacked with booze, no doubt some drugs, man, and some seriously cool rock 'n' roll. The jammin' goes on all night on the tracks between gigs; in fact, the gig never ends until the end of the line.

Not only does this movie look great, filmed in a cinema verite style; but it sounds sweet as, man. The sound engineering is first class all the way, with only a few quibbles to be had in the rough edged transitions between episodes. Every tune is rockin'; and, unlike most music videos, the visuals are encapsulating. In two Janis Joplin numbers, a single, front-on camera stares at her in close up. It is a shimmering performance. You don't have to know much about the musicians or even like their music beforehand: by the end of it, you'll be shouting "encore".

Nugget: you won't believe how rude and badly behaved those Canadian cats were who tried to gatecrash the gigs. If the best things in life are free, this one was worth paying for, man.

Click here for the DVD review.

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