Big Easy Express isn't so much a concert film. It isn't so much a road movie. It isn't so much a rock bio. It's both none and all of the above. I think the best way to desribe it is as a musical odyssey. Big Easy Express beautifully captures the "Railroad Revival Tour", a 7 day musical journey when 3 bands board a train bound for 6 concerts in 6 cities, from Oakland, California, all the way to New Orleans.
Directed by Emmett Malloy, who brought us The White Stripes' Under Great White Northern Lights, the film is, more than anything, a brief look at what would be a fantasy for most musicians - getting to play music 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, accompanied by some of your favourite fellow musicians... not to mention getting to play to thousands of people along the way. The bands in question are Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, Tennessee's Old Crow Medicine Show and Britain's Mumford & Sons, with Marcus Mumford going so far as to say that "Old Crow were the band that made me fall in love with Country music".
This love of music, and each other, gave them the feeling of being "kindred spirits" through their journey, the idea of which came about when the Old Crows met the Zeroes right here in Australia. For music fans like myself, it's truly joyous to see musicians getting so much love and satisfaction out of what they do. It helped too that their music, collectively, is often one of celebration and joy. You couldn't help but have a smile on your face from start to finish.
Though Emmett struggles at times with the balance - trying to show enough live music without making it a concert film; trying to show enough of the rest to make it more - Emmett succeeds in showing us what it might have been like being a fly on the wall on that train. Clearly not much sleep, lots of drinking, lots of jamming and plenty of beautiful views. Emmett captures this balance well, giving you an apt taste of the South Western American countryside while giving us a taste of the music of the three bands in question.
The highlight of the film comes towards the end, when Mumford and Sons shares their love music with a group of school kids in New Orleans, who later join them on stage in front of thousands of people. I won't spoil it beyond this point, but it solidifies something we already knew about the band - they want to share their love of music with just about everyone they meet.
It's of my belief that documentation should always be made of rare musical adventures such as these. Whether through a Rolling Stone article, a series of blog posts or indeed a documentary, moments like the one captured in Big Easy Express are important, joyous, and once-in-a-lifetime. They are difficult to organise and even harder to pull off successfully, and to see something like this happen in today's day and age, is a joy unto itself.
For any fan of music, this is a must see film - though you will be definitely left wanting to experience more. Here's hoping this wasn't just a once-in-a-lifetime event...
Review Score: 8.1 out of 10.
Big Easy Express is in stores now in a combo Blu-Ray/DVD pack. Both Mumford and Sons and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes are touring Australia together later this year. Tickets are on sale now, where not already sold out.
Duration: 67 Minutes
This Film is Not Rated / Exempt from Classification.