IN 1970, ROCK LEGENDS like Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead, and The Band took part in a cross-Canada train ride to play concerts in Toronto, Winnipeg, and Calgary (Montreal and Vancouver — originally part of the tour — were dropped for various reasons). In 2003, the documentary Festival Express was released; in it is footage from the concerts as well as impromptu jam sessions and partying on the train.
Tracks on Tracks is sort of the modern day Festival Express. Green Couch Productions — the outfit behind Green Couch Sessions which films one-take music videos on, you guessed it, a green couch (see above) — have put together a tour of 10 Canadian bands, sending them from Vancouver to Toronto by VIA Rail.
During the train ride the bands will perform for passengers and also at secret railway stations on the way. They will end up in Toronto in time for the North By Northeast (NxNE) festival. These performances will be recorded and broadcast on the Tracks on Tracks website as well as CBC Radio 3.
One of the bands who were selected to take part is Vancouver’s The Belle Game. It’s an exciting piece of news for us. Their drummer, Rob Chursinoff, has authored a handful of pieces for Matador; we met in Nelson last year and I got to see his band perform live. Rob has also been a touring drummer for the Canadian band Tegan and Sara and for Australian pop-rocker Ben Lee.
Rob is keeping a blog on the 4-day trip on his Community profile and has posted his first one here. In it he talks about the differences traveling in this manner compared to their usual way:
…touring across our barren land usually consists of long drives in a cramped van playing to (hopefully) respectable-sized crowds in medium-sized towns. Meals are taken at Tim Hortons, Subway or Chevron. Sleeping is done upright.
But on a train tour we were assured three cooked meals a day, a bed per band member, glorious views from the “bubble car”, uninterrupted WIFI (not true) and someone other than us taking their 4-8 hour driving shift.
Along with his blog, you can follow them on Twitter.