The Trans-Continental Pop Festival (better known as the Festival Express) set off on this day in 1970. The now legendary tour was unique in that rather than flying to each city, most of the acts traveled on a chartered train. The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin (with her Full-Tilt Boogie Band), The Band, Delaney & Bonnie and Friends, The Flying Burrito Brothers and Buddy Guy Blues Band all jammed, drank, slept and rode the train in between playing shows in Toronto, Winnipeg, Saskatoon and Calgary.
The train journey between cities ultimately became a combination of non-stop jam sessions and partying, fueled by alcohol. One highlight of the documentary is a drunken jam session featuring The Band’s Rick Danko, Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir from the Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin.
Unsurprisingly the passengers drank the bar dry and, as is shown in the film, the musicians passed around a hat and the train made an unscheduled stop to find a liquor store for much needed supplies. I seem to remember that, much to the bemusement of the owner, they bought most of the contents of the store.
The tour featured now-legendary performances by the Grateful Dead, The Band and Janis Joplin. The Dead were in the process of transforming their sound from dense, jammed psychedelia to the country/folk harmonies of Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty, The Band’s performance showed them at the pinnacle of the their powers and for Joplin, it would turn out to be some of her last performances, as she died two months later.
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