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Festival Express (2003)

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The filmed account of a large Canadian rock festival train tour boasting major acts like Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead and The Band.
1 win & 2 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Rick Danko Rick Danko ... Self - The Band
Levon Helm ... Self - The Band
Garth Hudson ... Self - The Band
Richard Manuel ... Self - The Band
Robbie Robertson ... Self - The Band
Bonnie Bramlett ... Self - Delaney & Bonnie & Friends
Delaney Bramlett Delaney Bramlett ... Self - Delaney & Bonnie & Friends
Ben Benay Ben Benay ... Self - Delaney & Bonnie & Friends
Sam Clayton Sam Clayton ... Self - Delaney & Bonnie & Friends
Jim Gordon ... Self - Delaney & Bonnie & Friends
Kenny Gradney Kenny Gradney ... Self - Delaney & Bonnie & Friends / Interviewee
Jerry Jumonville Jerry Jumonville ... Self - Delaney & Bonnie & Friends
Darrell Leonard Darrell Leonard ... Self - Delaney & Bonnie & Friends
Frank Maize Frank Maize ... Self - Delaney & Bonnie & Friends
Chuck Morgan Chuck Morgan ... Self - Delaney & Bonnie & Friends


In the summer of 1970, a chartered train crossed Canada carrying some of the world's greatest rock bands. The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, The Band, Buddy Guy, and others lived (and partied) together for five days, stopping in major cities along the way to play live concerts. Their journey was filmed. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Festival Express... The longest party in rock-n-roll history.

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for some language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »


Official Sites:

Official site


UK | Netherlands



Release Date:

29 April 2004 (Netherlands) See more »

Also Known As:

Fesztiv√°l Expressz See more »

Filming Locations:

Canada See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$12,074, 25 July 2004

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


There were two bands, Traffic and Ten Years After, that were on the Festival Express tour but are not seen in the movie. The producers of the film could not get the musical rights. See more »


The Weight
Performed by The Band
Written by Robbie Robertson (as J.R. Robertson)
Published by Dwarf Music
The Band appears courtesy of Capitol Records, Inc.
See more »

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User Reviews

Channeling the Big Guy under Big Sky
16 September 2003 | by karmacoupeSee all my reviews

Oh . . . My . . . God!

Yer gonna die! 33 years from filming to the screen. But here it is!

If you like The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, The Band, and/or that era, A) you're gonna Love this, and B) as a documentary of the time this is rivaled only by Woodstock.

In fact, there's a quote by some musician in the film about: "Woodstock was a treat for the audience; the Festival Express was a treat for the performers." Apparently it was a non-stop jam session & party from beginning to end. Buddy Guy jokes, "I couldn't go to sleep cuz I thought I'd miss something!" The Grateful Dead's lyricist Robert Hunter later wrote a song about it -- "Never had such a good time in my life before / I'd like to have it one time more." And Janis says at the last show, "Next time you throw a train, man, call me."

This was a rock festival "tour" across Canada in the summer of 1970. The idea was to create Multiple mini-Woodstocks by having a train take all the bands to the next site. They ended up pulling off three of them - in Toronto, Winnipeg, and Calgary. But this being Canada in the last century, there's only like 5 or 10,000 people in the Peg and Cowtown!

The guy who was in charge of filming it back then told me they had 5 cameramen and a total crew of about 20. There was apparently a dispute over who owned the film, resulting in all this great footage never being seen, and reminding me of the similar squabbles over that other great cinema verite classic Pull My Daisy by Robert Frank. Both Daisy and this Express really document their respective peaks in creative history vibrantly & honestly, showing both the crazy drunken joyride and the brilliant peaks of pure channeled genius.

Other films in this chapter would include Monterey Pop, The Last Days of The Fillmore, Big Sur, then The Last Waltz a few years later. They sometimes use split-screens to show both the audience and the performers, and apparently the director who finally turned the footage into a film also did the Beatles Anthology, so it's kind of like that - all this historic footage interspersed with new interview snippets by the various participants, like Bob Weir remembering, "Most all of us were new to drinking at that point. We'd all been taking LSD or smoking pot or whatever, but this was a whole new experience for us!" Ah, Canada!

And talk about Big Railroad Booze -- there's a hilarious part where they run out in Saskatchewan: CN Conductor: They drank us dry! Promoter: When's the next stop? Conductor: We're not scheduled for a stop. Promoter: You are now.

Then Eric Andersen looking back, shakin his head, "I dunno, they just stopped in Saskatoon, the whole damn train stopped, like, In Front of a liquor store!"

It's one of those movies where you're laughing so hard you miss stuff, or you're so busy watching Rick Danko you forget Janis and Jerry are beside him. It's filled with so many glistening gold treasures you're gonna come away richer just watching it. Masters channeling some force beyond . . . makes me think of people I've met who don't believe there's a God of any kind, no larger spiritual anything. This movie sure reinforced for me that there's Some spirit force out there, and Rick Danko and Janis and Richard Manuel are channeling it right before your eyes!

And Deadheads are gonna freak! There are 3 songs by the original 6-member band, but more importantly, Jerry Garcia is really shown in his prime. Not only is he central to seemingly every train-car jam, but when there's trouble with the crowds in Toronto, it's Garcia who comes to the microphone to plead for "coolness". I believe it's the new Dennis McNally book on the Dead that says Garcia learned their eventual staple Goin' Down The Road Feelin' Bad from Delaney & Bonnie on this trip, and you actually see Delaney playing it on the train at one point.

Janis is so possessed & clearly channeling The Big Guy to close the final show of the tour and the film, it's so sad this lifeforce died accidentally just 2 months later. People were literally crying in the theater at her performance. I mean, the audience was so captivated, they broke out in applause Mid-song when she came back from her spontaneous stage rap to nail Cry Baby at the Winnipeg show.

And this is by far the loosest and rockingest original Band I've ever seen or heard. The Last Waltz is of course white hot, but they're polished to perfection. This is The Band of the Basement Tapes, except playing in their home country and even more electrified - they're hanging with the Dead on the road, not Dylan in a basement :-) It's the kind of stuff you always wished you saw or were there for. Now, Bing!

I caught it at the Toronto Film Festival (Sept. '03) and sure hope for everyone's sake this finds wide distribution, then an excellent DVD avec outtakes comes out!

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