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Before seeing this film, I was a completely novice to The Band,
Grateful Dead, Janis. I'm 22, I didn't grow up with this stuff, my only
knowledge of The Band is that Scorcese directed a film on their last
concert. I have a few hippie friends that endless blathered about the
brilliance of Janis, which fell upon my deaf ears. I was expecting
Festival Express to be this dull, venture into 70's nostalgia crap and
tedious jam band boredom.
Oh...how my opinion has changed. I mean, its nothing like the music I
love (90's alternative stuff and electronic stuff) but the performances
are so absolutely incredible and passionate. In reality, its a film for
musicians more than fans, people that who have, even for a moment, felt
the sheer exhilaration of collaborating musically with people and it
being perfect! Festival Express feels exactly like that. You see it in
their eyes in these performances. Janis may have been.....kind of
crazy, but in the track in the film ("cry baby"?) I can completely see
her absolute passion for music and her amazing showmanship (or
show-womanship). Festival Express is the best example of a completely
non-contrived and purely candid look into these bands. Even if they are
brief glimmers of their natural selves.
I think the die-hard fans who are criticizing the film are asking too
much. If I can wait 30 years after the demise of my favorite bands
(Radiohead, Tool, Nine Inch Nails)...to see an amazingly honest and
brilliantly shot look into their touring lives, I would be very very
grateful, not critical because the damned filmmakers didn't get
everything I wanted. The interviews with the performers and
particularly the promoter, are fantastic. Not only are they a good dose
of humour, but...its so easy to see WHY they are saying this tour was
absolutely special and unique and memorable. It's right there on film,
this was the pinnacle of that era and that place and that mentality and
musicianship that was going on. You have to appreciate what Festival
Express showcases. You might not like every bit of music (I didn't) but
I can appreciate the total intensity and passion of the performances.
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