Sunday 6 March 2005

Festival Express (2003) - ickleReview (DVD)

Since seeing this film in the cinema, my opinions of it have only heightened. There are some great features on the DVD that fill in some of the background to the series of three concerts that took place in Toronto, Winnipeg and Calgary in the summer after Woodstock, such as how the main promoter guy, Ken Walker, didn't sleep for four days and was in a right state: his capillaries were so pronounced on his forehead that whenever he wiped it with his hand, blood would come off. Undoubtedly there is some myth-making going on here, but when the quality of the music from The Band, The Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin, amongst others, is so mind-blowing, they're entitled to a little biguppity. The festivals themselves were a financial disaster because the local kids protested against the ticket prices and demanded to get in for free. Now it must seem like it's been worth it for the great film that reflects upon and is energized by the great time the musicians were obviously having back in 1970.

I've watched this film three or four times over in less than a week and I've got a feeling I'll be coming back to some of the tracks again and again. For the documentary buffs there's a great insight into the making of this movie with stories about how the films were almost forgotten in a lawyer's garage for twenty-odd years before they were rediscovered and mixed superbly with the sound. You may have thought the sound engineering on Sony's James Taylor: Live at the Beacon Theatre was good; wait till you hear this stuff. Director Bob Smeaton, who made the superb mid-nineties Beatles Anthology mini-series for TV, weaves together a fascinating narrative about the five-day party train that was the Festival Express.

Nugget: wow! And again: wow!


  1. Watched this again last Thursday. Janis Joplin still gives me chills.

  2. I still love this film. It's the best concert movie ever made. The sound and pictures are so good.