A monthly series showcasing film favorites chosen by our amazing Loft Cinema staff! This month’s Loft Staff Selects film was chosen by Development Associate Erin Henderson!
“Festival Express should rightfully take its place in rock history as one of the great performance films of all time.” – Richard James Havis, Hollywood Reporter
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. In 1970, a train journeyed across Canada, carrying some of the greatest rock acts of all time. In addition to the major acts, the passenger list also included Ian & Sylvia, Buddy Guy, Delaney & Bonnie, Eric Anderson and more. The train was called The Festival Express. Nicknamed “The Million Dollar Bash” by Rolling Stone, Festival Express was a multi-band, multi-day extravaganza intended to capitalize on the then-burgeoning craze for giant rock festivals – a monstrous rock n’ roll blowout that would capture the spirit and imagination of a generation. But Festival Express was planned as a festival with a difference – it would be portable; for five days, the bands and performers lived, slept, rehearsed and did countless unmentionable things aboard this customized train as it traveled from Toronto, to Calgary, to Winnipeg, with each stop culminating in a mega-concert. This idea proved to be a pure genius, indelibly stamping the event with an aura of magic, and a large number of the performers signed on despite being offered fees substantially below their going rate. The musicians thought the train ride sounded like the party to end all parties … and as it turned out, they were right. The entire experience, both off-stage and on, was captured on film, and Festival Express combines this legendary, lost-for-years material (which includes scorching, previously unseen performance footage of Joplin tearing through “Cry Baby,” among many other highlights) with contemporary interviews nearly 35 years after it was first filmed. A momentous achievement in rock film archeology, Festival Express offers an unforgettable look at the longest party in rock n’ roll history! (Dir. by Bob Smeaton & Frank Cvitanovich, 2003, UK & Netherlands, 85 mins., Rated R) Digital