I have only seen one film at SXSW, but that particular film-Big Easy Express-was an emotional whopper. With that being said, it was only because of the two performances that followed that made it all hit home. Big Easy Express is a documentary that chronicles three bands: Old Crow Medicine Show, Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeros, and Mumford and Sons as they take a train from Oakland to New Orleans. On the six city mini tour, the film shows the three bands that in the start don’t know each other but all have an appreciation of each other’s work. That much is clear from the beginning and for me that was the best part aside from the music itself.
All three bands (and maybe it’s just the genre of folk in general that puts out heartfelt humble artists) come off like very sincere people. When you would hear them talk about what the trip meant to them or how they would interact with each other and how they would interact with the crowd, it was all done in a very bright-eyed spirit. There is no Hollywood in their world; there is no larger than life rock star attitude of trying to control the crowd. There are only banjos, love, and fun. Every show is played like it was their first, and not only that but it does not feel like you’re watching some famous band in either the film or the two live performances I saw. It feels like you’re watching some local band that you know personally and everyone around you does too; it’s all very personal and affectionate.
The documentary is all about simplicity to perfection; besides the live performances, the best parts in the film are watching everyone join in on random jam sessions on the train. There is not much more to the film than that, besides the very unique way it was shot. For me I think that was enough: seeing how much they all enjoy playing is amazing and how they are all fan of each other’s work-it’s all very genuine. If you’re a fan of folk, emotional, and uplifting music, then you’re going to love the film. If synthesizers are more your thing with extreme up and down beats and wub wub music this film might not be for you. If you have the tendency to hate everyone and everything, then this film may not be for you. There is just too much love, togetherness, and banjos in this film for people like that. However, for everyone else Big Easy Express is a full package and a great documentary that shows a great side of all the bands. I must say, the live performance after movie and the performance at the MySpace party really did drive together. Without the performance you’re only getting a great film and I was lucky enough to get a music experience that I will never forget, and one of the most pleasurable performances I’ve had the pleasure of jumping into.
by Josh Davis