miscellaneous commentary

Big Easy Express review

with one comment


Last week I rented Big Easy Express through iTunes. I saw the trailer a few months ago and was intrigued by the premise of three bands traveling on an old-timey train from Oakland to New Orleans, stopping to play shows along the way. Sort of a modern-day Festival Express. I was sold on the train travel alone, but I recognized a few of the songs being played, so I figured I’ve give it a chance.

As expected, the local Family Video (the only remaining brick & mortar rental store in Cedar Falls) didn’t have it on DVD. No surprise there. They have fifty copies of that big-budget fluff piece called “The Hunger Games” and only one copy of “A Separation”, this year’s Oscar winner for best foreign language film and in my opinion one of the best films of 2011. I’ve come to expect this type of discrepancy, and I’m not sure who it reflects more poorly upon, the store or the customers. But I digress.

The movie turned out to be only an hour long. That’s fine, I suppose. But couldn’t I have gotten a discount on the rental, which was $3.99? If I’m only getting half a movie, with no bonus features, I shouldn’t have to pay full price for it. Oh well.

The movie was okay. It was clearly intended for those already familiar with the three bands on tour — Mumford & Sons, Old Crow Medicine Show and Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros — because very scant time is spent introducing the bands or their members to the viewer. I think I could assign each frontman to their corresponding band, except for Old Crow, because they spent the least amount of time on them. But any other band member, I’d be at a lost to tell you which band they belong to.

I’d also be at a loss to explain how any of them got into music, or folk music specifically, or how the bands formed, or how they ended up on the train. Frankly, the filmmaker didn’t do much besides follow them along the tour, serving as a fly on the wall and nothing else. If you’re like me and you don’t know who these bands are before seeing this movie, you won’t know much about them afterwards.

One thing that has stuck with me was a brief interview with someone (can’t remember who or what band he was with) who said he could relate to the members of the other bands because they share the same mustard stains on their pants (???) and, like him, haven’t showered in days. Maybe I don’t get it because I’m not in a band, but I don’t think wallowing in your own filth makes you a better musician or even an interesting fellow. I think it only makes you filthy. Please, bathe once in a while. Your fans will thank you for it.

This folk-revival style of music can wear a little thin with me sometimes but I liked a few of their songs. I definitely fell in love with the train they were traveling on. I would love to travel the country in one of those old-fashioned Pullman-style cars, which sadly aren’t in regular service anymore.

So I would say I enjoyed the road trip aspect of the film but felt the musical aspect was lacking in what I perceive to be helpful information on each band. If you’re already familiar with each band and/or like their music (or folk music in general), you’ll probably get a kick out of this film.


One Response

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  1. Thanks for this! That quote about the mustard stains was a bit weird! I also wondered why they didn’t put in more interviews – at least if you love the music you have no interruptions of the songs… I only knew two of the three bands so more info on the Old Crow would have been good. I wrote more on this here:


    September 1, 2012 at 3:27 PM

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