Festival Express
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Product Description

Festival Express is a rousing record of a little-known but monumental moment in rock n' roll history starring such music legends as Janis Joplin The Band and the Grateful Dead. Set in 1970 Festival Express was a multi-band multi-day extravaganza that captured the spirit and imagination of a generation and a nation. What made it unique was that it was portable; for five days the bands and performers lived slept rehearsed and did countless unmentionable things aboard a customized train that traveled from Toronto to Calgary to Winnipeg with each stop culminating in a mega-concert. The entire experience both off-stage and on was filmed but the extensive footage remained locked away -- until now.A momentous achievement in rock film archeology Festival Express combines this long-lost material with contemporary interviews nearly 35 years after it was first filmed.Running Time: 89 min. Genre: MUSIC DVD/CONCERTS UPC: 794043757327 Manufacturer No: N7573

The vintage concert footage alone makes Festival Express a memorable and worthwhile endeavor, offering scintillating performances by Janis Joplin, the Band (their rollicking version of "Slippin' and Slidin'" is particularly mind-blowing), the Grateful Dead, Buddy Guy, and others (remember Mashmakhan?). In 1970, during the heyday of the rock festival, promoter Ken Walker decided to organize a traveling musical revue, bringing the mountain to Mohammed, as it were. In five days' time, the festival played in three Canadian cities with the entire conglomeration traveling, playing, and getting smashed together the whole way. Nearly as rewarding as the live performances are the candid scenes of the train ride itself, an endless jam session and party during which musicians of all shapes and sizes let their hair down--musically and otherwise. The contemporary interviews with Walker and some of the surviving musicians aren't particularly noteworthy, except as a way to prove that it all actually happened. Walker comes off as a hero in the film: he treated the musicians like royalty and insisted that the train roll on even though he was losing his shirt. (His financial failure is a large reason why this material stayed in the vaults for so long.) Perhaps the most remarkable scene is an off-the-cuff, LSD-fueled train jam featuring Joplin, the Band's Rick Danko, and the Dead's Jerry Garcia playing the old chestnut "Ain't No More Cane." Danko is so obliterated that even Janis has to ask him if he's OK--when Janis is worried about your state of mind, you must be pretty messed up. --Marc Greilsamer

Customer Reviews:

  • Fun Flashback
    A nice window into the early festival era rock shows. The train looked like more fun then the shows. Great to see diverse acts like The Grateful Dead and Buddy Guy, and it's always great to see Janis. A great snapshot from a wilder,more freewheelin' time....more info
  • A must for Dead, Band, Janis freaks
    I watch the extra footage sometimes just for Hard to Handle and Easy Wind, both excellent performances featuring Pigpen. Deadheads, think of those as a "dicks picks" with video. In the movie portion, Janis has a couple of fine performances and The Band more than holds its own in the regular part of the movie.

    I bought this the day the "extended two disc set" came out and should have written a review long ago. If you ever traveled long miles to see The Band, or The Grateful Dead then buy this dvd. Festival Express brings these bands right to you, young and vital and having fun.

    It's funny, or fun to watch some of the other bands, and to see a glimpse of ourselves "as others see us" as concert goers.

    This is a lot more natural and less showbiz than "The Last Waltz", more homey but not as epic as "Woodstock". It belongs in that tier of rock movies, though because how well it captures and presents performances of these bands, and because of the "backstage pass" onto the train.

    The young and drunk Janis, Jerry and Rick on the train singing "No More Cane" is as bittersweet as several reviewers have mentioned. Jerry Garcia stepping forward to face the rioting freeloaders shows the real and wry and confident Jerry Garcia.

    If you've got a spouse or friend who still buys "Dicks Picks" or "Road Trips" of the Dead or who still talks about how perfect "The Band" concerts were, they will love this. If you're the one who fits that description, either you have Festival Express, or you need it now.

    ...more info
  • One of a kind Live footage!
    Quite an amazing show, the quality of the video is great- it looks like it was shot last month. Live footage of Janis, Seatrain, The Band, Ian & Sylvia - Plus a band called "The Grateful Dead"! A real piece of history, and a lot of fun to watch....more info
  • Festival Express
    I haven't played both DVD's. I thought I was ordering a CD of the music only. It wasn't what I wanted....more info
  • Oldie but Goodie
    This is a remarkable look at life on the "road" (train} with some of the great rockers of the 1960s. We particularly liked some of the extra sceens that highlighted Janis Joplin. ...more info
  • Festival Express
    This DVD was a pleasure to watch. The two songs sung by Janis Joplin alone, was worth buying this DVD. She was amazing. It's just a fun movie to watch, and brings me back to a different time in my life. I highly recommend it....more info
  • time capsule for rock lovers

    In the summer of 1970, some of the world's premier rock musicians - prime among them The Grateful Dead, The Band and Janis Joplin - got together to perform a series of concerts across southern Canada. Rather than just flying to the various venues then afterwards going their separate ways, the performers boarded a train in Toronto and headed west to Calgary, stopping off at various places to "do their thing" for appreciative audiences. That train ride, which turned into a nonstop jam session among some of the top rock `n roll talents of the time, became known as the Festival Express and this film is the chronicle of that experience.

    "Festival Express" juxtaposes footage of the event with present-day interviews from some of the people who were on that train. We see the musicians jamming together in the cars then performing their sets in open-air stadiums. What the film doesn't show us is any real interpersonal connection or interaction beyond the music. Perhaps the cameras were turned off whenever the performers were talking to one another, or, perhaps, the performers were just too drunk or stoned to say anything of any real interest to one another on the trip. Either way, the film does not provide us with a very compelling behind-the-scenes glimpse into the lives and personalities of these people. That is the biggest disappointment of the movie.

    Be that as it may, "Festival Express" is still a useful time capsule for reminding us about what the culture was like 35 years ago. The film does an interesting job capturing the strange moral paradox that has been an intricate part of rock `n' roll from its earliest days. For although rock music has always derived its power and strength from its anti-establishment stance and attitude, it is also a highly competitive business built on corporate interests, involving record companies, producers, promoters and millionaire performers. So how does one reconcile these two seemingly antithetical positions? How justify high ticket prices or millionaire salaries in an art form that claims as its foundational principle that the corporate establishment is the source of all the evil in the world and the very thing that the music itself is dedicated to stamping out? And how genuine can this anti-establishment attitude really be when what looks on the surface to be spontaneous rebellion is actually the result of shrewdly calculated Madison Avenue exploitation? This conundrum comes to a head in the Toronto stopover where a group of protestors outside the concert are threatening to turn violent if they aren't provided free entrance into the arena (the tickets cost a whopping $14!). These youngsters feel that, because rock claims to be a statement against everything related to money and profits, the purveyors of the message - i.e, the concert promoters and the rock stars themselves - should be willing to forego being paid for their efforts. There's humorous irony in the fact that we see these "radical" anti-establishment musicians ultimately siding with the cops on the issue and against their youthful fans on the outside!

    The people who were on the train keep telling us what a life-changing and euphoric experience that trip turned out to be. That may well be the case, but due to the lack of intimacy we feel with the performers, that sense doesn`t really come across very effectively in the film. What the film does provide is a rare opportunity to watch a collection of iconic rock legends performing at the peak of their youth and powers. That alone is what makes "Festival Express" a must-see for aficionados. ...more info
  • Cry, cry baby
    A must see of music history. The opening bars of Janice singing Cry Baby is worth the price alone.
    ...more info
  • welcome to the show
    I don't know about you, but to me, that just made it to my 50th birthday, watching this movie was like my second chance of being there (I lost the first one because I was under age and lived on the other side of the world). If you like rock and want to know or remember the scene of the late sixties and the early seventies, well, you can't miss this train ...more info
  • Blast from the past
    This movie is a must-see for Joplin, the Band, the Dead, etc fans. How did I miss this rail trek concert extravaganza? Glad it was captured....more info
  • Long ago, and far away! 3 1/2 stars!!
    I bought this as a "set" with the Tom Dowd DVD. I wanted it because, I love the era (60's), I love the music (rock), and most of all I miss the artists, and I am sad that very few "carried the torch" and kept rock alive.
    I personally liked the train scenes the best, the parties, the jams, the artists off the stage. Its far from perfect (from my understanding, this was shelfed for years), but it does give a glimpse, a time capsule, see Jerry Garcia, Pig Pen, Janis, Richard Manuel, Rick Danko, and others who are are long gone, just like the wonderful music they played ...more info
    This dvd is incredible. Any fan of psychedelic/classic rock owes it to themselves to watch this over and over again. Janis Joplin performs the greatest rendition of "Cry Baby" EVER and it was filmed only 3 short months before her untimely and tragic death. There is a great sampling of music represented here, amazing footage of jam sessions (drunk ones!) and amazing crowd shots showing fabulous 70s fashion. I want to live in this freaking movie. Get stoned and watch it. xoxo. ...more info
  • Wish I could go back in time...
    Janis steals the show! Great never before seen footage of all the favs (The Dead, The Band and many more). You gotta love that train!...more info
  • I've loved you ever since the day I saw you
    I can't say I enjoyed every performance shown, but it's a treasure in its entirety. The film captures the moment between the 60s and 70s and reflects the awkwardness, innocence, brutality, and insecurity of the time. Showing people in such a raw state is always tricky and the film could be taken apart and criticized in various ways, but I think that would be missing the point.

    I've long had a soft spot for Janis Joplin and to see her in absolute top form only a few months before her death was especially moving. I also gained new respect for Jerry Garcia; what a mensch! In Toronto, still young and beard jet black, taking charge during a riot and defusing the situation was impressive.

    The film's saturated, grainy 16mm look is gorgeous and the sound is reasonably good given the vagaries of the production. The extra interview footage of the concert promoter on the second disc had me literally in tears laughing with disbelief at some of the more extreme aspects of what went on....more info
  • Flash From The Past
    I absolutely loved the Festival Express, having seen Janis Joplin and Big Brother & the Holding Company at a free (yes, FREE) concert in San Francisco at Fisherman's Wharf in the mid 60's. I was a teenager at the time, we heard the band play a song (not knowing who they were) until they started playing DOWN ON ME! Talk about a flash from the past! The DVD gives you a great sense of the era! That was one of the most memorable moments in my life along with experiencing Haight-Ashbury. I'm sure my kids are sick of hearing this story, but not one that many can say they experienced! I'm thrilled Festival Express is available on DVD, even my daughter is a Janis and Grateful Dead fan, et al. She grew up listening to the 60's-70's music and informed me when she saw the DVD while shopping!...more info
  • Expressive
    I'd been looking forward to this for a long time, having savoured the films of Woodstock, Monterey and the Isle of Wight for their evocation of a time which could just conceivably turn out to represent the greatest degree of mass enlightenment ever achieved by the human race. Why do I say this about a bunch of stoned hippies listening to music? Well, mainly because of the music. The best of Hendrix, the Doors, Janis and many others is positively otherworldly, and if anyone's made music like that since about 1973, I for one haven't heard it yet. Anyway,this time it is Janis's turn, and while she's not quite at her very best, she's still a mile more intense, interesting and, for want of a better word, devoted, than any other female rock vocalist of the last 50 years. Even putting Janis aside, this is a fine and rare piece of music-history film, and as with the best of this type of thing (viz Rock'n'Roll Circus) to watch is to feel like you're entering something like Pharoah's tomb: a different, wonderful, weird world. And although it's only 40 years ago, it feels as far away as ancient Egypt in many ways. Another interesting act is Buddy Guy. Eric Clapton called him without a doubt, and by far, the best rock guitarist ever. You get a rare taste of him here, and for that alone it's a disc well worth buying....more info
  • Janis Joplin ¨¤ son meilleur !
    Vous avez ...trippez dans les ann¨¦es 60....vous aimez Janis Joplin....alors....courrez acheter ce dvd.....performances in¨¦dites de Janis qu'on ne retrouve pas ailleurs.Absolument indispensable !...more info
  • Wish I had a ticket for that ride...
    This is a great film that has found life after 30 or so years. I really enjoyed this DVD a lot. This had to be a great time, rolling along Canada with the Grateful Dead, The Band, Buddy Guy, Janis Joplin, booze, pot, LSD etc... what a dream ride. The music is really great and the footage is classic. The whole thing is well done and flows well. This thing never made any money and was turned into a rolling party never to be repeated.
    Old fans will dig this a lot...
    Phil on the East Coast....more info
  • Cool documentary!
    This was a really fun ride and brought back a lot of nostalgia! Think of it as a booze-fueled Woodstock on a train!...more info
  • Pure magic
    Having been at the Calgary concert I often wondered why there had been no footage of this special concert. When I heard it was finally out after 34 years I went and saw it on the big screen. Brought tears to my eyes to see Janis sing and you will never see her better than on this DVD.The early 70's were a special time we shall never see the likes of again and if you were a person in your late teens early 20's this DVD will take you back to the days of the Furry Freak Brothers and Fillmore and The Merry Pranksters. Highly recommended. ...more info
  • Worth the price of the video are...
    ...the moments provided by the Band, especially seeing the shy Richard Manuel sing, in that otherworldly, last-one-to-be-picked-for-the-team voice, "I Shall Be Released," a sublime treat for one who had previously only been transported by simply audio Manuel-Band moments. Also giving me shivers is the Band's performance of "The Weight." As mentioned by several others, the drunken/sleep-deprived Rick Danko/Joplin/Garcia jam "There ain't no Cain (cane?)" is compelling. The Dead generally bores me but there are other worthy showings, particularly by also-rans Sea Train and the Flying Burritos. Unfortunately, the Joplin segments are among the worst I've seen, and horribly prophetic (instead try Monterey Pop). And while Ian and Sylvia made pristine folk when they stayed in that box, the fusion about which Sylvia exalts now seems dated. Finally, all the business about fans wanting free admission is tedious if, as I have, you've seen the Isle of Wight concert film, which documented a similarly troubling conflict....more info
  • Disc 1 Rocks, Disc 2 is a Frisbee
    From beginning to end this movie is captivating and engaging. The performances are astounding and the quality is unsurpassed. I had never heard of Mashmakhan before but loved their performance as well as Janis, the Dead, the Band, and on and on. If you don't get excited seeing Janis sing this version of Tell Mama, you would probably would never really love Janis anyway.

    As for the "Bonus" disc, I liken it to a "Bone-Us" disc with absolutely no added value whatsoever. I could throw it out without blinking an eye....more info
  • Priceless moments captured on film
    This was a great film. I'm a younger dude, born in the eighties but I've known the songs and all the people before having the pleasure to see this movie. I liked the performances on stage particularily the last concert with most everyone on stage at once. The jamming scenes on the train when everyone is zonked on psychedelics were very cool and interesting to see candidly up close. My absolute favorite part of the movie was without a doubt Buddy Guy and his band on stage. Wow! Awesome! I loved all the music on this film but that funky, bluesy soul just has a tendency to hit me in my soul. He is the man of the film from that one performance!...more info
  • Just amazing...
    I was born in '73, didn't even exist when this was shot, but caught it on cable and was just blown away. As a fan of Janis, the Dead, Buddy Guy (he's still doing his thing here in Chicago), and most of all The Band, it is simply amazing to see these folks in their prime. Best part, hands down is to see these amazingly talented musicians all jamming together between shows on the train, wasted out of their minds. Truly enjoyable!...more info
  • Those who refused to go in must be feeling pretty silly
    My only complaint with this DVD is that it is not long enough.

    This film captured so much of the catalytic days of the late 60s and early 70s, including a youth movement that imploded on its own sense of unrealistic idealism.

    The promoter seems a little embittered, rightly so, that these shows were protested and boycotted because they were not free like Woodstock. Despite losing his shirt on this event, he pulled out all of the stops for the acts that had signed on and as the result, his concert promotion has taken its place in history as a moment that transformed most of those on board the train.

    The music of the 60s in its purest form was an experiment in free living, free thinking, and improvisation. These elements are present abundantly on this video. Heck, the footage of Janis alone is worth the price, but there are many more jewels in this disc, too many to mention. Suffice it to say that by the end of the train ride many of the traditional barriers had broken away, including who belonged to what band. The resulting free form explorations are an absolute joy to behold.

    This may be one of the last vestiges of the "utopian experiement" that was the 60s. For what it is worth, it lives on in the hearts and minds of many of us who were involved.

    This is a must have in any collection of music from this era.

    ...more info