Catch ‘Festival Express’ before it rolls out of town
If you like classic rock or came of age in the late 1960s and early 1970s, catch “Festival Express” at the Speakeasy Movie Theatre before it rolls out of town.The feel-good movie documents a five-day trip from Toronto to Calgary, Canada, in 1970 on a train carrying Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead, Delaney and Bonnie, Buddy Guy and The Band, among others.The musicians stopped at large cities along the way, sometimes playing free concerts to calm protesters who demanded the music should be free.The documentary doesn’t delve deeply into the interpersonal relationships developed on the train or the financial catastrophe the promoter faced, but it doesn’t matter. Watching the concert footage and train ride is enough for the audience to take a little trip of its own. It’s worth the price of admission alone to see a young Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir and Joplin giving it their all at the festivals (though the cameramen may have been on some substances of their own, because they seemed to cut off a lot of heads – or half heads – throughout the film).While Woodstock was a festival for the fans, the train called Festival Express was one nonstop party for the musicians. Many of the greatest acts at the time agreed to perform for fees substantially lower than their going rate to join “the party to end all parties.” “Most people were new to drinking,” Bob Weir said during the documentary. “We were used to taking LSD or smoking pot, but it worked out OK.”When the musicians ran out of alcohol, they made an “emergency stop.” Luckily, there was a liquor store right in front of the train tracks. The group bought the enormous display bottle of Canadian Club, then laced it with psychedelics and rolled on.The documentary alternates between intimate parties and jam sessions on the train and enormous concerts – all the while revisiting the magical mystery ride music became in the late 1960s and early ’70s.Kimberly Nicoletti can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 245, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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