How can I describe a 66 minute film called Big Easy Express that captures, with Emmett Molloy's brilliant directing, camera work, and editing, so much vitality, joy, enthusiasm, fun. It fills the screen with great, diverse talents performing folk-rock, blues, bluegrass, followed by late-into-the-night jams and parties.
The movie was filmed on an 18-car quarter-mile long train, rolling along western mountains, vast deserts, Texas ranchland. Molloy's cameras focused on huge crowds of 8,000-10,000 cheering fans, as three very different bands got off the train and played evening concerts at six stops between Oakland, Calif. and New Orleans. Along the way, these dynamic young artists from varying backgrounds became good friends, tears in their eyes when their wild and wooly journey ended in New Orleans.
How could my son Alex Ebert, aka Edward Sharpe, his Magnetic Zeros, Mumford and Sons, Old Crow Medicine Show, and their respective managers dream up such an adventure and actually pull it off?
Find out for yourselves on Wednesday, May 22, when Big Easy will be shown on the big screen in Telluride’s Town Park, Mountainfilm Festival's Base Camp, around the time it gets dark enough to do justice to this great film (approximately 8:45 p.m.). It will be the festival's “soft opening,” as director David Holbrooke calls it. Although Big Easy definitely has its soft moments and songs, its energy and excitement are at the heart of Mountainfilm's central theme: Indomitable Spirit.
Big Easy was deservedly honored by the Grammies: Everyone involved won the Best Long Form Music Video Award.
The Sharpies and Mumfords met when they performed at the 2010 Telluride Bluegrass Festival. They decided a train tour would be the perfect challenge for their unique talents, and they invited the Old Crows to join them.
All three bands are Telluride favorites: The Sharpies preceded Bluegrass with a rousing performance at the Sheridan Opera House six months earlier; Mumford and Sons returned to Bluegrass in 2011, and they will be here again, not only on the festival stage, but also at the Sheridan Opera House for a late evening "Night Grass" show; the Old Crows were featured during Bluegrass 2011.
On April 21, 2011, in Oakland, Calif., after performances by the three bands, twenty plus musicians, managers, roadies, filmmaker Emmett Molloy and his crew, family members and friends, instruments, piano, cameras, lenses, lighting and recording equipment got on the 18-car vintage train. It started rolling along the tracks next to the Pacific Ocean to its second stop at San Pedro Harbor, South of Los Angeles.
I was there, along with 8,000 much younger, very excited fans. I looked at those nearby as I said "excuse me," trying to squeeze past them, toward the middle and closer to the stage. They stared back, suspicious.
I explained: "I'm Alex Ebert/Edward Sharpe's Dad.”
They weren't convinced: "You are?"
"Yes, I swear, I'm his Dad.”
They started helping the old man along: "Hey guys, it's The Dad, let him pass!"
Once up front and center, I was squeezed like a sardine between a sea of young super-friendly people who seemed to get a big kick out of The Dad being in their midst. One dude kept high-fiving me, asking if I was getting on the train.
I said, "naahh, I'm not."
He couldn't believe it: "You're not? Ye gotta do that, man! Ye gotta ye gotta!"
I should have, I could have, I thought about it, but I was too chicken, thinking I wouldn't get any sleep on such a wild romp. How dumb of me. Next time!
The five hour song marathon was a thrill, especially its climax, when the Sharpies, Mumfords, Old Crows packed the stage and for eight minutes danced, clapped, and sang Woody Guthrie's "This Train Is Bound for Glory," over and over, like kids possessed with joy and togetherness. The full New Orleans version is in the film, along with so many other magic moments.
This Train was definitely Bound for Glory. I can't wait to see it on the big screen.
Dress warm, join Barbara and me in Town Park Base Camp, Wednesday, May 22.