HOT DOCS 2012 (Toronto) – Big Easy Express Review (Kirk Haviland)


Big Easy Express

Starring Mumford and Sons, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, and Old Crow Medicine Show.

Directed by Emmett Malloy

Big Easy Express is the story of the country/folk music tour by London’s Mumford and Sons with LA band Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and Nashville’s Old Crow Medicine Show in 2011. The bands and entourages climb aboard a train in Oakland and ride the rails to New Orleans, stopping to perform along the way.

Big Easy express opens with a credit sequence that is a very cool long shot following Edward Sharpe member Jade. She takes us through the length of the train and walks into ongoing performances by each of the three bands along the way. We are given the setup of the tour through band interviews and find out that the real story happens on board the train. The bands’ booze filled nights go well past sunrise as they jam into the night, any excuse to play is followed. Occasionally playing for random people as they roll along the track as well. This tour is a throwback to the style and sensibilities of the old folk get together like Woodstock and the performances caught on tape are enveloping. One of the bright spots is a visit to a local school band practice by the Mumfords where they perform for the students and invite them out to perform with them late that night. The Mumfords also go on record here stating Edward Share and the Magnetic Zeros may be their new favorite live act to watch perform and based on what we see in the film this is quite understandable.

A interesting document of the tour, Big Easy’s performance footage is great. Most of the interview aspect is dropped in favor of a “fly on the wall” approach during the constant jams and wild nights aboard the train. Mumford and Sons are of course huge stars, but the other two bands are given equal if not more coverage and emerge as talented, hard working individuals with lots of talent. As someone who knows very little about these bands, the one aspect I found lacking in this film was the lack of onscreen titles announcing who was who and which band they were from. This may turn off some people who know nothing of these bands entirely, though I’m sure the people who follow these bands religiously barely noticed. I found the music carried me through to the point where it no longer mattered who said what or even what they said.

In my schedule, Big Easy was a last minute replacement for another film and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Certainly not groundbreaking, but a fun film with great music aplenty, Big Easy Express works best in those intimate nooks of the train where music exudes at a boozy 4 am.

Til Next Time

Movie Junkie TO

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