Synopsis by Mark Deming
In 1970, with seemingly every North American city of any size holding a rock festival after the success of Woodstock, Ken Walker and Thor Eaton, a pair of Canadian entrepreneurs and music buffs, had an idea: instead of setting up one massive show with a bunch of top-name acts, why not stage a series of them across the country? With this in mind, Walker (then only 22 years old) and Eaton (whose family owned one of Canada's most successful department store chains) signed up Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead, the Band, Buddy Guy, the Flying Burrito Brothers, and several others and hired out a private train that would carry the musicians in high style for a string of five shows from Toronto to Calgary. The jaunt was called "The Festival Express," and a camera crew tagged along to capture the shows on film, as well as the constant party that took place en route. The tour proved to be a financial bust and, as a result, the footage sat on the shelf for over thirty years until director Bob Smeaton recut the material into Festival Express, which not only documents the glorious folly of the tour, but offers a hindsight look at the events from some of the surviving participants.
festival, rock, rock-band, rock-music, stadium, tourist, train [locomotive]