Jul 11, 2018

June 27-28, 1970: CNE Stadium, Toronto (Festival Express I)


TORONTO (CP) - Coronation Park outside the Canadian National Exhibition grounds was turned into a huge tent city Friday night by an estimated 8,000 waiting for a weekend rock festival to get under way.
Cars, buses, and vans, many overloaded, rolled into the park steadily all night and newcomers hastily set up tents or makeshift tents for shelter from wind and driving rain.
Festival Express 70, billed as the first trans-continental pop festival, starts today and will continue through Sunday. It is expected to draw about 50,000.
Police said they have had no problems keeping the crowds in check.
But promoters expected trouble later today, mainly from the May Fourth Movement, which has vowed to gather between 1,000 to 5,000 people to crash the gates at the CNE grandstand.
Tickets to the festival, which highlights performers such as The Band, The Grateful Dead, Delaney and Bonnie and Friends, and Miles Davis, are $16 for two days and $10 for one day.
Promoted by George and Thor Eaton and Ken Walker, three young Torontonians, the festival is scheduled to be in Winnipeg July 1 and in Calgary July 4-5.



TORONTO (CP) - The May Fourth Movement, a radical group of young people whose stated aim is "power to the people," warned Friday that possibly as many as 5,000 persons may attempt to crash this weekend's rock festival at the Canadian National Exhibition grandstand.
Victor Klassen, a spokesman for the group, told a news conference that "1,200" young people from California and "four busloads" from Montreal had already arrived expecting to attend a free festival.
The festival, consisting of two 12-hour concerts today and Sunday, is sponsored jointly by Eaton-Walker Associates Ltd. of Toronto and Maclean-Hunter Ltd. Tickets for the two days cost $16 at the gate and a single day's admission is $10. Advance tickets sold for $14 and $9.
Police said 200 off-duty policemen hired by the sponsors and 100 on-duty police would be used from 4 p.m. Friday to 8 a.m. Monday.
Police at the festival site said "75 to 100" persons, mostly Americans, had arrived Thursday night and were camped in a park near the CNE grounds.
A police spokesman said that while most didn't have tickets, they seemed to be there intending to buy them when the gates open.
The May Fourth spokesmen said many people coming from the United States believed this was the "peace festival" announced by Beatle John Lennon in Toronto last December.
That festival, which Lennon later backed out of after its promoters announced there would be a $15 admission for three days of concerts, was called off this week after promoters had difficulty obtaining a site in time for the announced August dates.
This weekend's festival, called Festival Express 1970, was to have opened in Montreal Wednesday but was cancelled by civic officials there fearful of St. Jean Baptiste Day disruptions.
By Wednesday night about 50 persons, most of them from Quebec, were camped out in a park behind the Ontario Legislature. They said they were going to see the festival for free. One of the group said he was returning to Montreal and bringing "1,000 guys" back with him.
The May Fourth spokesmen said they "do not advocate violence except in self-defence," but that they were getting through the festival gates "any way we can."
"If we don't get in here, we'll go to Winnipeg and get in there. If we don't get in at Winnipeg, we'll go to Calgary and get in there."
The festival, billed as the first transcontinental pop festival, visits Winnipeg July 1 and Calgary July 4-5.
One May Fourth spokesman said that when "the people with single day tickets" see them get in free today, they will join them Sunday and others will force the festival organizers to refund their money.
A precedent for the refunding of money to ticket holders after gate-crashers got in for free was set at last year's Woodstock, N.Y., rock festival, where concerts were held in a fence-enclosed field. Concerts here are within a 30-foot concrete enclosure.
The Festival Express organizers have refused to disclose the number of advance sales.
The CNE grandstand holds 33,135 persons for football games.

(both articles from the Lethbridge Herald, 27 June 1970)

* * *


TORONTO - The expected jam of hundreds of thousands of Festival addicts to Toronto's version (Festival Express) June 27 and 28 didn't come off as planned. A little bit of violence, a little bit of peace, and a lot of empty seats at the Toronto's Grandstand. According to some of the figures thrown around, the promoters Eaton, Eaton and Walker had to draw at least 26,000 for each day to break even. Some figures have 8000 for the first day although CKFH, host radio station, guessed around 15,000, and about 20,000 for the second day. Some of the people who came from many States in the U.S. as well as several Canadian Provinces didn't have a pot to sit on or a blanket to cover themselves during the damp periods.
These were the people talked into a little bit of violence, but the Toronto Police, besides cracking a few heads, came up being tagged "gentle pigs." There was much marijuana in evidence but police only confiscated the joy drug and made no drug arrests. When it looked as if the violence might remain all weekend, Police talked the promoters into letting some of the acts play a free concert in an adjoining park. This put the lid on any further violence.
Polydor Records came up with one of the most unique and compassionate promotions of the weekend. Three catering trucks loaded to capacity with sandwiches and coffee drove into the "free" concert area about 7 A.M. Sunday morning and in the shade of large signs reading "From Polydor With Love," approximately 5000 sandwiches and an equal number of cups of coffee were turned out to a peaceful, grateful and queued crowd. The idea was the brainchild of the label's ad chief, Allan Katz, and executed by their director of artists promotion, Lori Bruner. Things went so well during the giveaway, Katz and Bruner and Dieter Radecki unloaded over 200 albums of their Rock, Soul, Blues Explosion, a free LP featuring cuts by John Mayall, Deep Purple, B.B. King, Amboy Dukes, Ten Wheel Drive, and others. Bruner was amazed at the politeness of the crowd who thanked them for the records and even organized a cleanup crew to look after empty cups, etc.
Meanwhile back inside the grandstand stockade, the many groups were attempting to be heard through an inadequate sound system (Hanley, the same as was used at Woodstock). Some of the belters, like Montreal's Charlebois, could be heard, but Eric Andersen was just lost, which was a shame because of his excellent version of "Let It Be." Janis Joplin was in top form, as were Ian and Sylvia (Great Speckled Bird) and The Grateful Dead. The latter two were among those who performed for the "free bees."

(from Cashbox, 11 July 1970)

* * *


TORONTO (CP) - Protesters against high admission prices to a weekend rock festival were provided with a free festival Saturday after hundreds of them had gatecrashed to the main event at the Canadian National Exhibition grounds.
Eaton Walker Associates Ltd. of Toronto and Maclean Hunter Ltd., the festival organizers, provided another festival near the CNE free of charge after police ran into trouble containing the surging crowd.
But before the free festival was provided, about 20 youths and nine policemen were taken to hospital with various injuries sustained during clashes as groups of persons climbed fences or barged through gates to the main event.
Among the more seriously injured was a policeman who suffered a broken nose when he was struck by a brick and fell off his horse. A youth was taken to hospital with a broken leg after he jumped down a wall to gain admittance to the festival.
At least 21 persons were arrested and of those, seven were charged with assaulting police, four with common assault, one for possession of an offensive weapon, one for mischief, and one for theft.
The free festival was held  at Coronation Park near the CNE and was attended by about 2,000 persons who listened to musical groups who also performed at the main festival, called Festival Express 1970.
Police said if the free festival had not been provided, the confrontation between police and the youths would have been worse.
Organizers of Festival Express charged $14 for advance tickets to the two-day event and $16 Saturday. Admission for one day was $10.
Many of those who gate-crashed the main event, some of them members of the radical May Fourth Movement, accused promoters of being capitalists who wanted to extract the highest possible price.
A crowd varying from 10,000 to 15,000 attended Saturday and Sunday's 12-hour concerts in the CNE Stadium listening to such performers as The Band, The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Delaney, Bonnie and Friends, Traffic, and Ian and Sylvia.
About 1,000 at the stadium concert Saturday were persons who broke through gates and outran police and security personnel to get in free.
Festival organizers would not give out ticket sales figures, but an Eaton Walker spokesman said last week a daily attendance of 25,000 was needed to "even come close to breaking even."
The festival was originally scheduled for Montreal but civic officials there cancelled it.
From Toronto, the festival goes to Winnipeg for a July 1 concert and on to Calgary for concerts July 4 and 5.
Organizers have touted the festival as a $1,000,000 venture, with half of the sum going to performers alone.

(from the Montreal Gazette, 29 June 1970)

(The Winnipeg Free Press added that the festival "also was marred by bad drug trips, with about 400 persons being treated for adverse reactions to narcotics. It began almost as a game Saturday as police tried to thwart individual gatecrashers. But it ended with police calling reinforcements in with horses and motorcycles to disperse the crowd of about 2,500 young people outside the stadium...
Nine arrests were made Sunday, most of them on charges of causing a disturbance, but the concert's second day remained virtually free of incidents due to the combination of increased police security and a free show in a park near the festival grounds."
It estimated that 37,000 attended the CNE concerts. -- "Gatecrashing at Festival Leads to Injuries," 6/29/70 Winnipeg Free Press) 

* * *


TORONTO (CP) - Undeterred by drug-taking, arrests and injuries that came with the weekend Festival Express concert, two managers of the Canadian National Exhibition say they could see no reason why another rock festival should not be held at the site.
Howard Tate and David Garrick said the majority of young people who attended were "real nice" and blamed problems on a small group of troublemakers.
"The small amount of troublemakers were kept under control by the police," said Mr. Tate. "The CNE is an ideal place to hold such a festival and I can't see why there should not be another one."
But Toronto Mayor William Dennison said he was disgusted by violence at the concert, which led to 30 persons, including nine policemen, being treated in hospital after they clashed with youths trying to gate crash.
The mayor said he would not recommend an outright ban on future rock concerts, but he said they should not be held in the city proper.
"The CNE was the best type of place for it."
Police Chief Harold Adamson said he feels certain violence will again mar similar festivals.
"This is only the beginning. It's an indication of the growing militancy of youth... They don't want to go along with anything that smacks of establishment and they take out their vengeance on the police."
The event brought to the city young people from virtually every state in the United States and every province in Canada. Hundreds camped out in Coronation Park, site of the free festival.
Police ignored the obvious drug scene, in which about 50 of the estimated 400 persons who suffered bad trips were taken to hospital.

(from the Montreal Gazette, 30 June 1970)

* * *


On the 27th and 28th of June, a rock festival - the Festival Express - was held in Toronto, Canada, which included Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead, Sea Train, and a great variety of others. Sounded good, so I tripped up to Toronto a week early to go and see it. At the time it was supposedly John & Yoko's Peace Festival - or at least that's how it was widely advertised around New York. When I got into Toronto I picked up a leaflet about how this Festival Express was ripping us off for our culture, and how the backers were Eaton and Walker, owners of a large department store chain.
YIPPIE! This was all I needed, so I spent the day finding the group who was putting out the leaflet to see if I could help. The group was called M4M, May 4th Movement, and was basically a Yippie bunch. They invited me to jump in. So we leafletted and told people what was going on and to crash the gate. A lot of kids showed up with no place to stay in town and there was this huge park next to Parliament. So we got all the kids to go and crash there and proclaim the park people's turf. The pigs didn't know how to handle a few hundred yippies in a park! When they chased us we would dive into the fountain and they wouldn't follow because they would get their uniforms wet. And it rained the night before and there was a lot of mud around. So while the pigs were pussyfooting through the mud, we were throwing mudballs at them.
The day of the rockfest about 10,000 people were inside and about 15,000 outside and Eaton and Walker needed 20,000 to break even. It was beautiful...we were screwing THEM! About 2/3 of those outside were Peace & Love freeks who dug what we said and wanted to crash, but wouldn't fight the pigs. The rest were screaming yippies who were out for a fight. We crashed any way we could and that experience radicalized lots of Peace & Love freeks who had never been exposed to pigs before as pigs. We crashed thru the sewers, over the fence, ripped off a rubber stamp and got in and then fought the pigs to let in more sisters and brothers. When we got in, it was bad. The amps kept breaking down, the bands were late, etc. So we said this was bullshit and set up an alternative festival for the next day and got everyone to play at a park near there and it was a lot more free. Woodstock Nation is alive in the hearts of Yippies! 

(by Curt the Wanderer, from the Madison Kaleidoscope, 15 July 1970)

Thanks to Dave Davis.

See also:
http://deadsources.blogspot.com/2013/07/june-27-28-1970-festival-express-toronto.html (Toronto articles)
http://deadsources.blogspot.com/2018/03/june-27-1970-cne-grandstand-toronto.html (show review)
http://deadsources.blogspot.com/2013/07/junejuly-1970-festival-express.html (Rolling Stone overview)


  1. The 6/10/70 Montreal Gazette reported the cancellation in Montreal:
    "The Festival Express has been derailed on its way to Montreal...
    The city asked the CMHC to cancel the festival because of a 'concern for public safety,' the city having had a report from the city police department.
    Major reason for the Festival Express cancellation seems to be the fear by city and provincial authorities that a pop festival held on the same day at the St. Jean-Baptiste parade would be an open invitation to violence.
    A letter from the Central Mortgage and Housing Corp. [which owned the Autostade] informed the Festival Express that the City of Montreal could not provide the protection necessary for a projected attendance of 30,000 at the Autostade and suggested that the show not go on... [The police department would not issue permits for additional police protection at the Autostade.]
    Kenneth Walker of Eaton-Walker Associates...said yesterday that tickets could be refunded or used at the two-day Toronto show. As well, he said all performers would be paid for the cancelled show.
    This was to have been the second pop show booked into the Autostade. The first, a day-long affair last month, ran at a loss and was marred by some vandalism and a brief appearance by the Montreal Police Riot Squad."

    From the Montreal Gazette, June 12, 1970:
    "The train-bound Festival Express show was cancelled out of Montreal last week because of what the organizers called 'civic intervention.' City officials said they had been disturbed by reports of sex and drug use at a previous show, and the date coincided with St. Jean Baptiste Day, which in the past has been marked by violence."

    A comment on the 6/12/70 Gazette editorial page:
    "The forced cancellation of the Pop Festival Express, which was to have been held at the Autostade on June 24, is a deplorable occurrence. The decision to order the cancellation was made...for what appear to be entirely unsatisfactory reasons.
    It is an over-reaction to the threat, or the alleged threat, of violence. Out of fear of a few trouble-makers, a popular public entertainment has been cancelled.
    A pop festival is indiscriminately ranked with street demonstrations and unilingualism rallies as a threat to public order. But a pop festival is not even a confrontation, much less an incitement to violence. The audience and the performers do not represent separate factions, spoiling to get at each other.
    No reason exists to believe that the Pop Festival Express would have attracted a crowd so large and volatile that the police could not control it. The Autostade is an urban stadium with only 35,000 seats and controlled access, not a rural Woodstock-type farmland with room for 400,000 people to roam.
    It may be that in the view of the civic administration, the June 24 holiday, St. Jean-Baptiste Day, is not the day to allow a large crowd of high-spirited young people to congregate. Because of the emotions the day can arouse, the risk of trouble may be higher.
    If such was, in fact, the administration's attitude, this should have been made clear in plenty of time to allow the festival organizers to select another date at the Autostade."

    1. A note in the 7/2/70 Montreal Gazette:
      "Outstanding accounts to the tune of close to $150,000 incurred for the Festival Express performance which was cancelled out of the Autostade on June 24, have been paid [by the Eaton-Walker group], including artists who received fees even though they did not perform."

      There were also meetings held in Calgary that June by community associations trying to stop the festival from coming to Calgary. "Many people in this area are really opposed to the festival, some of them quite violently... Some of them have been in the United States and seen rock festivals there... They would rather have the Calgary festival moved elsewhere." They cited concerns about huge numbers of rowdy kids descending on Calgary, and the possibility of violence and property damage.

      But their efforts failed - Calgary mayor Rod Sykes supported the festival, blaming "a tiny little group of adult fanatics" for any problems that might occur:
      "They are trying to whip up fear and antagonism ahead of time. This is just the kind of thing that does cause trouble. If there is any trouble, it will not be the kids who are causing it, but the adults who are trying to cause it now, trying to set the stage for trouble."

  2. I added an illuminating piece from a Madison, WI underground paper, from the point of view of a gate-crasher. He decides to break in after seeing a leaflet about how the festival is a rip-off (I'm not sure he needed extra encouragement!), and in turn tells everyone he can to crash the gate. It's ironic - Joplin, the Dead & co. have come to Toronto, and now the event's a disaster: "It was beautiful...we were screwing THEM!" He revels in fighting the pigs, condemns people who don't want to fight as "Peace & Love freeks," and considers them "radicalized" when he can get them involved in the struggle and chased by the cops.
    The ironies continue once they're in the stadium: "It was bad. The amps kept breaking down, the bands were late, etc." Not even worth a free break-in! So, somehow, the gate-crashers "set up an alternative festival...and got everyone to play at a park." No hint at the authorities' involvement in this, and of course the bands themselves have no say. But it's free, so it's good.