Tag Archive | the band

How did I miss the Festival Express?

I’m catching up on the enlightening, educational and hilarious Proopcasts by wit and raconteur Mr. Greg Proops – better known to most as a regular on Who’s Line is It Anyway? during the 90s. In one of them he mentions a film (of which he can’t remember the name) featuring Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead and The Band touring across Canada on a train. One Google later and I find out that he’s talking about Festival Express.

From an extremely thorough Wikipedia article (detailing, amongst other things, ticket prices per venue both in advance and POTD), this film was shot on the train that was chartered to ferry the entire touring party from venue to venue over the course of the two weeks. Due to a number of reasons, two cities – Montreal and Vancouver – were dropped leaving just three concerts in Toronto, Winnipeg and Calgary. The tour was a financial flop and the footage, which was intended to be made into a film, was canned.

Fast forward 30 years and the footage is rediscovered after having spent some time in garages and being used as hockey goals. It’s released to a limited run in some cinemas before being bunged out on Region 1 DVD only. It also has what appears to be the worst poster/cover design ever.

“Er, hey, since we’ve really gone to town finding, editing and releasing this incredible footage, shall we put some effort into a poster design that reflects the status of the musicians involved and which gives a flavour of the unique and tumultuous era during which it was shot?”

“No. I’d rather have a model dressed like she’s from 2001, airbrushed to within an inch of her life and slung on a background that looks as if she’s about to be run over by a lorry.”

I’d never heard of this until yesterday, nevermind seen it. Has anyone else?

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Bob Dylan’s funky crackers

On the latest episode of Re: Collections by Mum’s Old Vinyl (featuring Cantebury phsychers Syd Arthur) there is a track chosen which I haven’t heard, despite it being by one of my favourite bands,specifically The Band.

Quick potted history for those who don’t know. The Band were originally Ronnie Hawkins’ backing band, then became Bob Dylan’s backing band before releasing a few *incredible* albums in the 70s and appearing the Scorcese rockumentary The Last Waltz. Their appeal for me lies in the fact that they were all oustandingly capable musicians, having honed their skills on the road for years before finding greater commercial success.

They’re often thought of as a roots or folk band, and a lot of the more recent alt. county stuff takes its cues from them, but to coin a phrase my dear friend Matt Nice would use, a lot of their output is pure “white boy funk”. The above fits into that description nicely, having a bit more kick and bite to the groove than Marvin Gaye’s original. Garth Hudson’s swirling organ (arf!) gives their music that gospel-influenced sound and Levon Helm has the voice of a blues singer rather than a country singer. Check out the tracks Ophelia, Up On Cripple Creek, and Ring Your Bell (all on Spotify) for more in this vein. Not bad for a band who wanted to be called The Crackers!