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The Band: Live at the Academy of Music 1971

Levon Helm: Ramble at the Ryman

The Band: Three of a Kind

Robbie Robertson: How to Become Clairvoyant

Garth Hudson Presents a Canadian Celebration of The Band

Levon Helm: Electric Dirt

Garth and Maud Hudson: Live at the Wolf

Pulse

Dirt Farmer

Elliot Landy's Woodstock Vision

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Festival Express

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[Song list] [Film poster] [Toronto Film Festival program leaflet] [Screen shots] [DVD] [Official web site] [Bob Wigo's review] [Peter Viney's review]
Never had such a good time in my life before,
I'd like to have it one time more.
One good ride from start to end,
I'd like to take that ride again.

-- from "Might as Well" by the Grateful Dead (1976), about their journey on the Festival Express

Finally released at the Toronto Film Fest in 2003, this 90-minute film by Canadian director Bob Smeaton documents the legendary 1970 tour with The Band, The Grateful Dead, Delaney and Bonnie and Friends, Ian and Sylvia, New Riders of the Purple Sage, Tom Rush, Buddy Guy, Eric Andersen, Mountain, Ten Years After, Traffic, Seatrain, Charlebois, James and the Good Brothers, Cat Mashmakan and The Modern Rock Quartet.

The Band perform "Slippin' and Slidin'," "The Weight" and "I Shall Be Released." Rick Danko appears in jam sessions with Janis Joplin, Buddy Guy and others.

Bob Smeaton is an established director of musical documentaries featuring such performers as The Beatles, The Band, The Who, Meatloaf and Genesis. He was the series director on ABC's award-winning The Beatles Anthology (95) and directed an episode of the VH1 series Classic Albums (97) that chronicled the making of The Band's self-titled 1969 album.

Cast and credits details for Festival Express are available from the Internet Movie Database. A Festival Express 2-DVD set with bonus material was released in November 2004.

Festival Express

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The Grateful Dead, Festival Express, 1970
From the Toronto International Film Festival, September 2003

In the summer of 1970, a series of music festivals were held across Canada. After the first concert in Toronto, the musicians, roadies and a film crew boarded a private train to travel to the remaining events in Winnipeg and Calgary.

The Festival Express was the brainchild of two brash, young promoters named Ken Walker and Thor Eaton. Not satisfied with assembling one of the most incredible travelling concert bills in history (performers included Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead, The Band, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Eric Andersen, Buddy Guy, Great Speckled Bird, and many more) Walker and Eaton decided that "packaging" the tour in the form of a CN railcar moving across the vast landscape would make for good times and good music.

How right they were. At the crest of the musical and social explosion that was the sixties, this contrast between the greatest musicians of their day (and, arguably, any day) and a leisurely mode of travel made for a combustible bell jar that vibrated with artistic camaraderie. They rocked, they rolled, they jammed -- all part of a bacchanal that chugged its way across the Canadian Shield and all documented on film.

The performers were confronted at every concert stop by protesters angry about the $14 ticket price ("Free the music -- the music should be free!") but this did not prevent them giving their all for the thousands who flocked to see them. This never-before-seen footage (in which Willem Poolman, father of producer Gavin Poolman, captured performances both on stage and onboard the train) reminds us of the sheer electricity performers like Joplin were capable of creating.

The footage was lost in legal proceedings for years, but ninety hours of raw negative and forty hours of uncut sound recording fortuitously found their way to the Budge Crawley vault in the National Archives of Canada. With music mixed by Eddie Kramer (producer of Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and Santana), Bob Smeaton.s documentary immortalizes performances that -- in comparison to those found in the controlled set-ups of most concert films -- are unmistakably raw and immediate. Festival Express is more than the sum of its extraordinary parts; it captures a uniquely Canadian experience and the spirit of an age.

--Jane Schoettle

Film Songs

1.Grateful Dead Casey Jones
2.Grateful Dead Don't Ease Me In
3.Grateful Dead Friend of the Devil
4.The Band Slippin' and Slidin'
5.Delaney & Bonnie etc Goin' Down the Road
6.Buddy Cage/ Various Artists Traditional Country Song
7.Buddy Guy & Rick Danko Baby Here I Come
8.Jerry Garcia & Sylvia Tyson Better Take Jesus' Hand (1st version)
9.Mashmakan Comin' Home Baby
10.Buddy Guy Money
11.Flying Burrito Bros Lazy Day
12.The Band The Weight
13.Janis Joplin Cry Baby
14.Buddy Guy & Jerry Garcia I Can't Do It Baby
15.Rick Danko & Janis etc Ain't No More Cane
16.Buddy Guy & Rick Danko Soul Jam
17.Various Artists Sunshine of Your Love
18.Sha Na Na Rock & Roll is Here to Stay
19.Ian & Sylvia & The Great
Speckled Bird
CC Rider
20.Grateful Dead New Speedway Boogie
21.The Band I Shall Be Released
22.Janis Joplin Tell Mama
23.Janis Joplin Me & Bobby McGee
24.New Riders of the Purple
Sage
Better Take Jesus' Hand (1st version)


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