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Big Easy Express review

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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.


Rain songs

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Throughout the day I heard “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” by CCR, “Set Fire to the Rain”* by Adele and “Who’ll Stop the Rain”, also by CCR. I felt it was fitting to open iTunes and listen to “The Rain Song” by Led Zeppelin, from Houses of the Holy (tied with Led Zeppelin III as my favorite LZ album).

*What the hell does that even mean, ‘set fire to the rain’? Or what about ‘rolling in the deep’? What was that woman smoking when she came up with these song titles?

Don’t leave me now, you might love me back

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Back when I sat and wrote emails all day long on the MCU side of the building I used to stream The Current out of the Twin Cities. That was years ago. Our department moved to the east side of the building and I don’t think I’ve turned on internet radio more than a handful of times since then. I know I haven’t listened to anything within the past year, if not longer. But I should have. Monotonous office work is far more tolerable when you have a melody to set it to.

So today, with a couple hour’s worth of authorization forms to process, I put in the earbuds and turned on MPR right at the beginning of “One Day” by Sharon Van Etten. I let her words drown out the chatter around me. A combination of my too-long absence from workplace music and a lack of the usual stress that has ended most of my workdays in recent weeks allowed the song to swoop up out of nowhere and leave me feeling elated as I left the building into the 101ºF heat.

Written by camcarlson

July 19, 2011 at 11:11 PM

Posted in Music, video

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