Festival Express

Bob links to this article about the recent completion of a film chronicling the Festival Express tour of 1970.

The event was a rolling train tour of rock’s greatest musicians of that era: The Band (of whom I’m a huge fan), The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, and Buddy Guy, among others. The train went across Canada, stopping along the way to play whatever town they landed in. It’s odd that more wasn’t made of this, given the popularity of rock concert films from those years: Woodstock, Gimme Shelter, The Last Waltz, etc. – that an event like this would have attracted more attention.

The first I had heard of it was only a few years ago when I was sent to interview The Good Brothers, a country/rock/bluegrass outfit from the 1960’s and 1970’s. They had a minor hit with their version of “Fox on the Run” and much of their strength as musicians lay in their interpretations of other people’s songs. They seem like nice enough guys and the campus radio station got them to do an impromtu unplugged set on a Sunday morning.

When reading their biographical material, I discovered they had played with something called Festival Express. I asked them about it and of course they had fond memories (of what they could remember, I’m sure) but it always seemed like this secret thing that happened and everyone forgot about.

And like Bob, I, too, wonder just what the hell Sha Na Na were doing there.


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