Jul 26, 2013

January 30, 1968: EMU Ballroom, University of Oregon, Eugene


The Erb Memorial Union Board became the sole body in charge of student activities Thursday night... [The board has already been approving fund-raising events.] 
One such request the board passed Thursday was to allow the Grateful Dead and three other bands to be brought to the University for a dance Tuesday, Jan. 30. Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) will sponsor the dance. Admission will be $3 per person for advance tickets, and $3.50 per person at the door. Prices will be lowered if the Dead will play for a lower price, said Bill Watson, spokesman for SDS. 
There will be a 1,500 limit on attendance, since the dance will only be in the EMU Ballroom. Only University students and their dates may attend, and student body cards will be checked. 
Besides The Grateful Dead [and] The Quicksilver Messenger Service, The Highlights and The Hammond Typewriter will play..."

(from the Oregon Daily Emerald, 12 January 1968)



The Grateful Dead and the Quicksilver Messenger Service will perform from 8 until midnight in the Erb Memorial Union Ballroom. 
Appearing with the two nationally known groups will be the PH Phactor Jug Band and Headlights by Jerry Abrams. 
Admission to the event, sponsored by the Students for a Democratic Society, is $2.50. 
Tonight's performance is part of a tour of the Pacific Northwest which the Dead and Quicksilver are now conducting. 
The Emerald recently conducted a telephone interview with Rocky Sculley, leader of the Grateful Dead. For that story, see page 2.

(from the Oregon Daily Emerald, 30 January 1968)

* * * 


The ship of sun is drawn through the heavens by the Grateful Dead.
From this excerpt from an Egyptian book of the Dead came the name of one of the nation's top psychedelic bands - the Grateful Dead.
According to Rocky Sculley, leader of the Dead (as the group refers to itself), since the time the band was formed and the name selected, other possible interpretations of the title have been found.
But Sculley says the group still likes the idea of a "divine wind."
In a recent telephone interview, Sculley talked at length about the group and its brand of music which he says grew up largely in the San Francisco area.
He said the music grew out of experiments by Ken Kesey, who was working with lights and light shows and groups of people in the Bay area who were experimenting with tribal dances.
Out of these things, said Sculley, a combination has emerged.
Originally there was no division between the bands and the dancers. People who knew each other would get together for small parties and dance all night long. Sculley started participating in such parties as a result of his association with the Student Non-Violent Co-ordinating Committee in San Francisco.
In the winter time, he said, people would enjoy the parties as a means of escaping the dreary atmosphere of San Francisco's damp, foggy climate.
In the summer, the parties went out-of-doors and the be-in was born.
Sculley says the environment was the most important thing. People would bring things, "like apples and incense." The groups performing made no money.
As the band leader puts it, the be-ins were for "feeling good being with your brothers."
"It's the spirit," he said, "and people should be able to get together."
"Activism means nothing without a goal - an alternative. The alternative was digging each other. The word was "love", but since that time the word has been prostituted."
"We got together and we found out we all have the same fears, that we're all brothers."
"Freedom is where it's at," said Sculley. He stresses freedom over power, adding, "We don't say it in words very much, we say it in our music and in our environment."
The environment tonight when the Dead performs at 8 in the EMU Ballroom will include the Quicksilver Messenger Service, PH Phactor Jug Band and Headlights by Jerry Abrams.
Sculley said that by experimenting the Dead found that two bands on stage together "can really do a nice thing, a real experience."
He also said the Dead have really come to like road shows because it's new and often times people don't even know what to do.
Originally the small parties were comprised of bands and their friends. "It was groovier, not so much of a show."
Now in San Francisco at places like the Fillmore and the Avalon, Sculley feels much of the creativity has been lost because there is a separation between performers and audiences. For this reason he hopes the University crowd will participate.
Sculley said that musically both the Dead and the Messenger Service have been "developing fantastically" over the past three or four months. The Dead, he said, are adding an Indian touch of gongs, bells, and chimes. This is because one of the group's two drummers, Mickey Hart, is a student of the Indian guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
Other members of the Dead are Bill Kreutzman, Jerry Garcia, Pig Pen, Bob Weir and Phil Lesh.
Speaking on the Dead's entire philosophy, Sculley said, "we're all working for ourselves. It isn't going to make or break us, but it is going to teach us."

(by Mike Fancher, from the U of Oregon Daily Emerald, January 30 1968)

* * *


"My music gets me higher than any kind of drug you take," says Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead.
He doesn't like the label of "psychedelic," often applied to groups like the Dead, "since it implies that they are drug oriented."
Hart is the protégé of Allarakka, the drummer for sitarist Ravi Shankar. He says, "we are the Grateful Dead and we play the Grateful Dead. Our music is our music."
The drummer says the San Francisco group has created a phenomena they call the "wall of sound." With this effect they attempt to fill every inch of space in the hall with sound. "We work within the wall. We can work with fantastic volumes, but we can also bring it down, lately, and still keep the wall."
Hart comments that it is not necessarily the volume, but the fact that they must be together, which creates the "wall." He points out that this is along the idea of Indian music. "We are playing only using their (the Indian) example, the way they form their rhythm structure, which no other band is doing." Hart emphasizes that the Dead are not trying to play Indian music, as other bands have done, but their own music using the Indian concept of rhythm.
They use the "tahai," an Indian rhythmical expression, to signal while they are playing. Hart analogizes the "tahai" to the capitalization of the opening word in a sentence. "When we hear this we know where it ends and we're coming to something new."
The Dead, says Hart, have "bowls of fixed composition" that serve as points of departure from which they improvise.
There are two drummers in the group and often one will "split" off in one direction with half of the band while the other half, with the other drummer, goes into a separate theme. From these separate improvisations, the two halves will meet again in another "bowl." Here they solidify themselves and then "take off" again.
Hart claims that the Indian "rhythmic structure is thousands of years ahead of ours." He says that after first hearing Indian music he told himself that he would learn to play Indian music or he was not going to play the drums again. He realized, "I don't know a thing...and I've been playing for 15 years."
Hart says, after talking to "the finest jazz drummers of our day," that "they feel like they are playing on the kindergarten level compared to Indian drummers." He says Allarakka "will play...things the most advanced jazz drummers...cannot even attempt."

(by Ron Baylor, from the U of Oregon Daily Emerald, January 31 1968)

* * *


"In a light show, the audience becomes part creator of what's happening. It's like an impressionistic painting...it's only half there unless somebody's looking at it, reacting to it."
Jerry Abrams, of "Jerry Abrams Head Lights," stopped to talk a few minutes about the mechanics of a light show and his philosophy of this art medium.
Abrams was in Eugene with the "Grateful Dead," the "Quicksilver Messenger Service" and the "PH Phactor Jug Band." Along with four other crew members, he performed a light show in the EMU Ballroom last night.
Jerry Abrams Head Lights is a San Francisco based group. They do a show at the Avalon in San Francisco about once every three weeks and spend the rest of the time traveling with various bands.
How do you transform a staid, respectable ballroom into a viable entity conducive to a light show?
Abrams brings along his own screens on which to project the images. According to Abrams, "white is the best surface on which to project light. Most walls are dull colored and uninteresting."
For the effects, Jerry Abrams Head Lights uses strobe lights, slide projectors, overhead or liquid lights and original films.
Abrams is primarily a film maker and almost all of the films he uses are his own creation.
Abrams is trying, by putting the lights and the music together, "to create a total environment which stimulates not only aural but visual responses."
"We almost create a third organ which is neither the ear nor the eye but a combination of both, " explained Abrams.
Abrams described the effect as a "strictly sensual thing," which eludes definition and is not susceptible to a thinking, analytical reaction. You feel it.

(by Barb Fields, from the U of Oregon Daily Emerald, January 31 1968)

Alas, no tape circulates!

These articles, some newspaper ads for Oregon shows from 1968-69, and more, can be found in the Archives section at http://home.earthlink.net/~deadtraders/or_archi.htm (now defunct, however the Daily Emerald archives can be found here: https://oregonnews.uoregon.edu/lccn/2004260239/ )

Jul 18, 2013

June/July 1970: Festival Express in the news

[This is the third in a three-part series of Festival Express articles.]


A group of Toronto promoters will stage the biggest pop festival in Canadian history Saturday and Sunday - if it doesn't rain.
If it does, the men behind Festival Express '70 at the CNE grandstand will collect insurance from Lloyds of London that protects them against "inclement weather."
The insurance "costs an arm and a leg," according to Ken Walker, one of the organizers. So do the tickets.
They're going at $16 for both days at the gate - $14 in advance - the highest price ever charged for a rock concert in this city.
But even at those prices, the promoters expect about 30,000 people both days. About 10,000 people have already bought tickets, they claim.
The series of concerts is being organized by Eaton-Walker Associates, the company responsible for the Toronto Rock Festival last fall and the Toronto Pop Festival last summer, and Maclean-Hunter Publishing Ltd.
The promoters originally planned to stage a concert in Montreal today, then pack some 17 bands into a special chartered train for the two concerts here on the weekend, then on to Winnipeg and Calgary for performances there.
The Montreal police squelched that idea when they decided they didn't want 30,000 people at a rock concert on St. Jean Baptiste Day, the traditional day for riots in Montreal.
Instead, the train will leave Toronto Monday morning for the trip west.
Bands booked for the series read like a Who's Who of pop music - Janis Joplin, The Band, Delaney and Bonnie and Friends, The Great Speckled Bird, Mountain, The Grateful Dead, and strangely tucked away among the rock and blues bands, jazzman Miles Davis, who will give one performance Sunday.
The Toronto concerts are scheduled to begin at noon, and run for 12 straight hours.
The promoters have laid out a total of $900,000 in expenses - $500,000 of that in talent fees - but they expect to get it all back and hope to turn a tidy profit of about $250,000 on the whole series.
However, they won't get the money without hassles. A group of 15 radical organizations, headed by the May 4 Movement from Rochdale College, is protesting the high prices for the concerts and demanding that 20 per cent of the gate receipts be turned over to them for day-care centres, a bail fund, and equipment for "people's parks."
They have circulated a leaflet urging people who can't scrape up the price of admission to crash the gates, and they've promised to have hundreds of supporters at the CNE on Saturday to help them do it.

(by William Dampier, from the Toronto Daily Star, June 24 1970)

(Details on the Toronto concerts are here: http://deadsources.blogspot.com/2013/07/june-27-28-1970-festival-express-toronto.html )

* * *


WINNIPEG - Festival Express, the cross-country touring rock music show, ran into little problems Wednesday, but promoters of the event took a "financial beating".
Only about 4,600 people paid to attend the 12-hour show, well below the expected 20,000. The promoters, Eaton-Walker Associates of Toronto, estimated the cost of bringing the show to Winnipeg at nearly $180,000. Estimated gate revenue was about $55,000, of which about $7,000 goes to Manisphere.
Police reported no violence, no arrests and few bad trips during the show, which ran nearly 14 hours.
A planned gate crash by the New Democratic Youth failed to materialize.
A group calling itself the University of Winnipeg Libertarian Club distributed pamphlets urging young people to reject the demands for a free festival, saying the slogan "make it free" actually meant "make others pay for it."
The show, which included performers such as Janis Joplin, Ian and Sylvia, The Band, and Bonnie and Delaney, left for Calgary for performances July 4 and 5.

(from the Saskatoon Star Phoenix, July 3 1970)

* * *


Calgary has just spent two days as the rock music capital of Canada.
It appears that the city, with a little cleaning up and some help from its uniformed friends, might just recover.
Thousands of young people are on the roads out of town today in an exodus as peaceful as the weekend rock festival that brought them here.
Despite scuffles between gate-chargers and police, Festival Express was every bit as "cool" an event as optimists had hoped during the tense weeks that preceded the show.
Most of the credit has to go to Calgary police who spent their time inside McMahon Stadium bouncing babies instead of teens and looking the other way at some open use of alcohol and drugs.

The only times the police had problems were when they had to keep the Festival Express from turning into a "free" show for gate-crashers. Saturday, and again Sunday, hundreds of determined young people made spontaneous attempts to fight their way in through the stadium gates and wall panels.
Using carefully-rehearsed techniques, city police motorcycles met the charges, separating the crowds into smaller and smaller groups until no crowd remained.
Verbal abuse from the angry young people who couldn't - or wouldn't - pay the $14 price of admission was heavy, but there was little physical contact. Only two people were taken into custody, one for pulling a motorcycle officer from his machine and the other for abusive language. Both were released after "cooling off."
Only a handful made it over the walls: too few to test promoter Ken Walker's tough pledge that the festival would end if the gates were crashed.
It was a line Mr. Walker, of Eaton-Walker Associates who are co-promoters of the show with Maclean Hunter Ltd., held even when Mayor Rod Sykes attempted to intercede for the crashers Sunday afternoon.

With about five hours of the festival to run Sunday, Mayor Rod Sykes tried to persuade Mr. Walker to open the gates to several hundred young people outside the stadium.
"These kids had been extremely well behaved all weekend, and I thought it would have been a fine gesture for Mr. Walker to give them free admission at that time," the mayor said today.
"We had a fairly heated discussion and while Mr. Walker's associates were in agreement with the idea, Mr. Walker was apparently in a mean mood because he had lost money on the venture."
Mayor Sykes was also disturbed by a rumor, originating from an unknown source, that the city police were opposed to throwing the stadium open.
He said the police had not been involved in any decisions of that kind and praised the discipline they had shown during the festival.
Mayor Rod Sykes praised city police for their courteous attitude during the two-day event.
"No other city in Canada has been able to put on anything like this without seeing a lot of serious and ugly violence on the part of agitators and also on the part of the police.
"Our police can be very proud of the way they have handled the festival," the mayor said.
The promoters have declined to say just how big the peaceful crowd inside the gates was for each of the 12-hour shows Saturday and Sunday. Public relations representatives made claims that Sunday's crowd was "over 20,000," but more conservative sources suggested a figure of 9,000 for each show.
The crowd, except for rare moments when a lull in the music let them hear the shouting and banging on the stadium wall panels, remained oblivious to the trouble outside.
Inside, the policeman was a "cool guy" who strictly followed a pattern of not interfering with the crowd in any way. So good was the police image that, on one occasion, when two youths began yelling "pig" at an officer they had the crowd turn on them.
A large part of the image came from the common realization that the police were following a "hands-off" policy on drug and alcohol use.

The 90 to 100 uniformed officers inside the stadium largely ignored wine and beer drinking and the odor of burning marijuana. Some sources estimated that as many as one of every three people in the crowd were using some kind of drug. Drug Information Centre personnel on duty reported that everything from LSD to cocaine and morphine was circulating in the packed playing field.
So open was the use of drugs that, when announcer Terry David Mulligan made a half-joking appeal for "some grass for the stage," he was answered with a shower of marijuana cigarettes.
The openness apparently lulled some young people into a false sense of confidence. Before Saturday night had ended, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police - whose undercover agents were circulating in the crowd - had arrested four persons on charges of trafficking. One was reported to have had more than $2,000 on him when he was arrested. There were no charges, however, of possession.

Drug problems were comparatively rare. Of the 150 people treated in the Drug Information Centre's Tranquillity Base during the two days, only 69 involved drugs.
And these, centre staff stressed, were usually minor problems caused by mixing the drugs with too much excitement and 80-degree sunshine, and too little food.
The most serious case involved the use of amphetamine (speed) drugs. A young man, unconscious from an overdose and haemorrhaging from an ear, had to be taken to hospital for treatment Saturday.
For the promoters, it was a successful finish to an otherwise dismal tour. The show, in both Toronto and Winnipeg, drew only a fraction of the predicted attendance.
In Calgary, the last stop for Festival Express, the scene was much better.
"Calgary," local organizer Don Lloyd said Sunday, "was the only city to meet its financial obligations."

The show here, he suggested, managed to make enough to "break even," something that didn't happen in either Toronto or Winnipeg.
The show was successful in non-financial terms as well. It verified the promoters' - and the mayor's - claim that it was going to be a "cool" scene. Although a great deal of adverse attention was focused on the show's coming, with residents in neighborhoods near the stadium forming vigilante groups to protect property, there were no complaints filed about damage or trouble outside the grounds.
Today, McMahon Stadium is empty. The performers have left and the young people are hitching their way to other places.

(by Jacques Hamilton, from the Calgary Herald, July 6 1970)

* * *  


The threat of organized gate-crashing failed to materialize as assaults on McMahon Stadium were limited to two brief spontaneous mass actions and numerous individual expeditions. 
Only about 15 people got in Saturday when a crowd of approximately 450 ripped two metal panels off the stadium wall, and a confrontation Sunday evening between police and close to 1,000 young people failed to get anybody into the stadium despite charges at the gates that involved sporadic violence and scuffling.
There were no arrests in either incident as police returned gate-crashers to the outside or held them until they "cooled down."
For most part, the estimated 1,500 people who spent the weekend listening to the music from outside the southeast gate were involved in their own festival.
"It's really so good out here. There is a lot of energy," one young man said. "But if we could get this group together with that group inside, then it would be really out of sight."
It was the persistent restlessness of the outside group to join those inside that caused the only city police arrests at the festival as seven young males....were taken into custody for disorderly conduct when groups crowded around the gates.
In one incident, a police officer was kicked.

Many young people got in by climbing the walls at the appropriate times and hundreds more - according to festival organizers - gained free entry Saturday through abuse of special privilege cards. (A tightening of regulations Sunday prevented the use of most cards by more than one person.)
Both police and festival organizers had feared a possible repeat of the Toronto experience a week earlier where 2,000 young people - apparently organized - attempted to break into the festival there.
But a concentration of police manpower around the outside perimeter of the stadium and the use of motorcycles and police dog units thwarted most actions before they got out of hand....
[Details on the break-ins follow; the crowd pulled metal panels off the wall & some ran in or vaulted over the wall before being driven off by police.]
The young people - some as young as 9 and 10-year-olds - circled the stadium a second and third time before settling down to listen to the music.
"Did Jack get in?" a girl asked when the procession passed her.
"Out of sight," she said.
At another point a youth called to two friends: "Hey, I thought you two were going to get in this time."
And the grim reply: "So did we." ...
[The police were reinforced on Sunday.]
About 6 p.m. Sunday the crowd outside the gates started making their own music - with bongo drums, tin cans and sticks - and began to sing and chant.
At 6:30 up to 1,000 moved over to the nearby southeast gate and tried to force their way through - still singing and chanting. Police were able to hold them at bay....
[Motorcycle police dispersed the crowd. One man who pulled an officer off a motorcycle, and a "young lady who repeatedly screamed obscenities at an officer," were taken into custody & later released.]

Most of those outside the stadium, however, spent their time listening to the festival music - lounging on the grassy slope, standing in groups or sitting on the roofs of their various buses and vans.
"A lot of people are going to be sorry they paid to get in," said one young man from Ohio, perched atop his van and clutching an American flag with the stars replaced by a peace symbol. "I mean you can hear everything from here."
The only problem, he said, was non-existent washroom facilities....
[A nearby service station opened its bathrooms for use, but "by Sunday the men's facilities had become stopped-up from over-use."]
Despite such inconveniences - which also included long line-ups to get refreshments from one of two coffee wagons - many people agreed it was possible to enjoy the weekend without the high price of tickets.
Among these was a 30-year old Calgary computer programmer who was stretched out on the grass with his wife and four-month-old son.
"Why buy a ticket?" he asked. "It's nice right here. We can hear the music and we have a nice sunny place to sit."
But for most, inside was the place to be.
Whenever one emerged from an exit with a pass - to allow re-entry later in the day - there was always a sea of hopeful faces and eager hands waiting to claim your pass if you should decide not to return.

(by John Gibbs, from the Calgary Herald, July 6 1970)

This issue also includes an accompanying article, "Few Crimes Committed At Weekend," in which the police chief expresses relief that "'our biggest complaints for the festival concerned noise. We made only 10 arrests in all categories of crime for the two-day event. There were no complaints from the home and business owners in the McMahon Stadium area about any damage to property. As far as our men were concerned, the only trouble they had in the stadium vicinity came from a number of attempts at gate-crashing, but they were handled without any of the trouble other cities had.' ...Chief Kent added that because of crackdowns in the last week on drug problems in the Calgary area the stadium was relatively drug free."
Another article, "Banff Police Crack Down On Drugs," notes that there was a police blockade of car inspections for drugs "aimed primarily at vehicles heading east for Festival Express Calgary."

An article from the November 11, 1970 Toronto Globe & Mail - "Called 'Scum' By Mayor, Promoter Says" - has more details on the clash between Walker & Sykes:
"Toronto promoter Ken Walker, who said Mayor Rod Sykes had called him "Eastern scum" yesterday, said he was neither drunk nor under the influence of drugs, as the mayor had said, when they clashed at McMahon Stadium on July 5....
He said that during the festival he was exhausted after six days without sleep but that he finally exploded under a "torrent of abuse" from the mayor, who accused him of "trying to skim" the young people of Calgary.
The festival ran July 4 and 5, and attracted 10,000 to 12,000 people each day.
Mr. Walker said that at one point he had torn up the mayor's festival pass and told him to leave the stadium. Mr. Sykes had said the story of his pass being torn up was a myth.
Mr. Walker's dispute with the mayor began after the mayor asked that young people outside the gates be let in free.
The mayor had testified that "this animal (Walker) came to this city to try to make a fast buck."
Mr. Walker said the Festival Express lost $500,000 in Toronto, Winnipeg, and Calgary, about $150,000 of it in Calgary."

* * *


TORONTO - The promoters of the recent Festival Express train which organized stadium-type pop festivals in Toronto, Winnipeg, and Calgary lost $350,000. Although final figures are not yet available, a publicist for the Express said that only about 60,000 had attended the Express - including a claimed 37,000 in Toronto, 4,500 in Winnipeg and about 20,000 in Calgary. The Express was marred from the start by youth demonstrations.
It had been produced by Ken Walker, Thor Eaton and George Eaton, the latter two promoters being part of the Eatons merchandising family.
Originally, it had been intended for the Express to start out from Montreal, but city authorities vetoed it at last minute. Legal action is apparently being considered by the promoters.
The Express then started from Toronto, where most of the demonstrations took place. There were ugly scenes between police and protesters attempting to break into the CNE stadium without paying. Eventually, the police asked the promoters to organize a free concert in an adacent park.
Several thousand pop fans watched the free festival, and enjoyed free food and drinks supplied by Polydor Records, through the foresight of Alan Katz and Lori Bruner, two company executives from Montreal. Polydor boosted its image enormously by the gesture.
In Winnipeg, the Festival was simply a disaster. It drew only 4,500. Calgary was a brighter scene for the promoters, but the damage had already been done.
The original budget for the Express was reported to be $900,000, with gross receipts only reaching $500,000.
Most of the loss was suffered by the MacLean Hunter publishing company, who had invested heavily in the project.

(from Billboard, July 25 1970)

* * *


TORONTO - "Financially, it was a write-off; but it was a helluva good party."
Ken Walker, who admits he promoted last summer's rock-'n'-roll-on-rails Festival Express for the money, was glibly philosophical later about his train trip from Toronto to Calgary that turned into a costly ride.
"The question was not how much I was going to make, but how much I was going to lose. If I wanted to impress anybody, I'd staple my financial statement to my back."
His plan was to bring Janis Joplin, The Band, The Grateful Dead, Delaney and Bonnie and Friends, Sha Na Na, Eric Anderson and more to 200,000 people in five cities.
When they tore down the stage in Calgary, only 60,000 rock freaks had paid $540,000 in admission - barely enough to cover the cost of the talent alone.
"The train had some romance and appeal to it," said Walker, who promoted and made money with the Toronto Pop Festival two years ago.
"Historically, it brought nations together. Rock music brings kids together, so we just combined the two."
When Walker and George and Thor Eaton, of the department store family, first got in touch with Canadian National Railways in Toronto, officials shook their heads and said it couldn't be done.
"They nearly choked when I gave them the order, five sleepers, two lounges with 110-volt service for jamming, a diner - they wanted to give them a cafeteria car - three flatcars and two 150-ton diesels."
The price?
"Under $100,000." Including nine waiters.
A $500,000 talent budget was handed to Dave Williams, who used to work for Apple Records in New York, and he filled it with the greatest collection of rock, folk, and blues musicians Canada had ever seen.
Then things started to go wrong.
Empire Stadium had invested about $900,000 in artificial turf and "they didn't want it to melt," so Vancouver had to be scratched.
Nervous city fathers in Montreal hurriedly cancelled the 12-hour show there because it clashed with St. Jean Baptiste Day celebrations, and Walker was left with dates in Toronto, Winnipeg, and Calgary.
"Montreal was afraid some fanatics were going to bomb it," he said.
In Toronto, the May Fourth Movement, a group of Yippies and Maoists who want to liberate everything from men's washrooms to the city jail, tried to storm the gates of CNE Stadium.
Police and young people were injured and there were anything but good vibrations.
"When we got to Winnipeg, people were scared out of their minds by what went down in the papers.
"Parents were saying: 'Hold it. You're not going to anything where there's dope, wild riots and death.'"
The one-day stand in Winnipeg drew only 4,500 and was upstaged by the Manitoba Centennial appearance by Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau and his cabinet.
The May Fourth Movement branch was also on hand in Calgary.
There was only a token attempt at gate-crashing on the last day, but it was enough to make Walker furious. He had three of the demonstrators arrested outside McMahon Stadium.
"How do they expect us to do it for nothing? The performers want to get paid, I want to get paid, the stadium wants to get paid, the cops want to get paid.
"They say it's their music. Well, it's the performers' music first and my music second. They play it and I bring it. Then it's their music.
"I'm providing the entertainment - I'm not on a crusade."
The whole incredible trip was filmed from Toronto to Calgary, on and off the train, but unless Walker comes out with a Festival Express sequel to Woodstock, few people are going to know what went down between stops.
"It'll take another $350,000 to complete the film and the sound track is worthless without it.
"If worse comes to worse, I'll have the greatest eight-track stereo home movie in the country. I may just print it up and send it to the people on the train." 

(by Michael Bennett, Canadian Press, from the Winnipeg Free Press, October 24 1970 - the article also ran in other papers such as the Vancouver Sun.)

Thanks to Pairdoc for the articles.

Jul 17, 2013

June/July 1970: The Festival Express

[I've added chapter headings due to the length of this article.]


“The train trip wasn’t a dream, it was a stone boss reality. I’m still on the train. I just turn on the switch, and the fan’s on and the train’s still moving.”
– Pigpen

One of the amazing communal events in the history of rock and roll took place on the Festival Express – 12 Canadian National train coaches traveling with 140 musicians and friends from Toronto through Winnipeg to Calgary, playing festivals and concerts at each city, jamming and partying the rest of the way.
Train passengers included: Janis Joplin and her new band, Full-Tilt Boogie; the Grateful Dead; Delaney and Bonnie and friends; Buddy Guy’s band; Ian and Sylvia and the Great Speckled Bird; Eric Andersen; Tom Rush; James and the Good Brothers; the New Riders of the Purple Sage; Robert Charlebois; Mashmakhan; and Rick Danko of the Band.
“It’s Mother,” Janis Joplin said about the five-day train trip (June 29th – July 3rd). “It’s the best time I’ve had since I left Port Arthur.” Jerry Garcia, walking along the corridor, poked his head into the bar where Janis and Bonnie Bramlett were rapping. “A train full of fucking musicians, man, I thought this was the Orient Express!”
[ . . .] Festival Express let the musicians take over and find and share their music with their friends. “People are really alienated,” Eric Andersen said, “And the musicians are alienated, too. At a concert or festival, you see someone and say, ‘Hi, Delaney,’ and five minutes later he’s gone. I changed on this trip. I’ll go again anytime if I’m invited.”

People not only embody spaces, they create the spaces they embody. The spaces in which we have daydreamed recreate themselves in a new daydream.
In the Rally Room of the York Hotel in Calgary, Alberta, 100 musicians and friends are trying to recreate the daydream. Ian and Sylvia, the Good Brothers, Bob Weir, David Torbert and Marmaduke of the New Riders of the Purple Sage are singing country songs, but tonight the musicians are remote, huddled in a corner. It’s an attempted evocation, as if we are again all back in one of the lounges of the train where people sat down together and joined in the music. Everyone is trying to recreate the train’s spaces in this institutional square-shaped reception hall, like an anniversary party in a Czech film. The illusion comes and goes as people stand around tables piled with sandwiches.
“Is this the bar car?” Janis askes, entering the room like an explosion, and everyone catches himself momentarily in an automatic reflex to the rocking of an imaginary train. Janis was the presiding spirit of this journey, the bacchanalian Little Red Riding Hood with her bag full of tequila and lemons, lurching from car to car like some tropical bird with streaming feathers, defying the sun to interrupt our revels with another day.


The train was waiting for us at the Toronto Coach Yard. A slick modern diesel, 12 coaches long with FESTIVAL EXPRESS painted in orange and black ten-foot letters on the baggage car. “She’s a born speedster, more like a bullet than a kettle,” an old brakeman confided to us as we crept aboard, furtively as hobos riding the freight, at the dimly lit station in the early hours of Monday morning. Before setting off we were asked to sign a waiver which says in part that we will “keep the Festival Express from any harm or danger that may present itself,” and for an instant we flashed on ambushes by hostile bands of Sioux and Blackfeet or hordes of buffalo swarming the tracks like a sea of fur.
And to look at the company of cowboys boarding the train – the Grateful Dead in their rodeo boots, embossed “Nudie” belts, sheath knives, and hoedown shirts from Miller’s western store in Denver, James and the Good Brothers in Wrangler Levi suits, and the Riders of the Purple Sage decked with the unmistakable ciphers of the genuine cowhand – it was possible to imagine that we were all setting off on some perilous journey towards the Great Divide.
Once inside the sleeping cars – given dreamlike names: Valparaiso, Beausejour, Etoile – the illusion of the Great Iron Horse pushing westwards into unchartered land is superseded by the stainless steel, baked enamel surfaces of the interior. Early arrivals are checking out the tiny sleeping compartments: “Man, I’ve been in jail cells larger than this,” a Marin County voice shouts.
The little box-like rooms with neat blue curtains stretch down the length of the sleeping cars like space-age opium dens, or a modern hygienic bordello. Each cubicle is about 3’ x 6’ and a technological miracle. A galaxy of instruments and conveniences are insanely compressed into this tiny column of space: a large blue couch, a bed, a toilet, wash-basin, jumpseat, icewater dispenser with paper cups, a drainless washbasin that folds away used water magically into some receptive crevice (a stainless steel sleight of hand), a clothes closet, an air conditioner, a fan, a cupboard and clusters of metallic outgrowths: ashtrays, hooks, handles, clips and catches.
All this compression is relieved by a giant window that spans the width of the compartment like an 8mm movie screen registering the trees, lakes and rivers outside at 24 frames per second. In essence, the cubicles are both sleeping tubes and meditation chambers where the musicians spend quiet hours between the orgies of music in the lounges, writing songs, practicing, rapping, getting stoned. The compact space encourages daydreaming, but its closeness forces you out into the lounges and bar cars to participate in what’s going on in the world of the train.
The ingenuity of the room’s design was also the source of endless Chaplinesque situations: bodies bobbing in and out of the compartments, bumping, tripping, spilling into the aisles in various states of mind and undress. Marx Brothers slapstick exits and entrances were re-enacted in the early morning hours, as stoned, drunk, wiped-out occupants attempted to deal with the machine in comic desperation.
To get into bed meant stepping out of the room, because pulling the bed down meant filling the whole space in the compartment. But, once you were in bed, wanting to use the wash basin or the john involved getting out into the corridor again, closing the bed, using the basin, re-closing it, going out into the hall a second time, and finally pulling down the bed. As The Drunken Train lurched its way through the sparsely inhabited continent, this mechanical ritual reached the level of high farce. Janis emerged early one afternoon about the third day out triumphantly announcing she had discovered her washbasin while looking for a place to hang her clothes.

JUNE 29-30

On the first night aboard, the passengers made their acquaintance with each other in the dining car, where a buffet of triangular sandwiches had been laid out. The atmosphere was cautious, almost morosely quiet. Delaney and Bonnie played poker for octagonal Canadian nickels and Steve Knight, Mountain’s organist, bemoaned the fact that he didn’t bring his Monopoly set. “Thirty-six hours of this is really going to flip us out,” someone said. The awkward encounters had the overtones of the first day at summer camp, where everyone hangs around waiting for something to happen. A subtle panic crept up on everyone: 5 days stuck on a train with nowhere to go and nothing to do but look at 130 other freaks. Better to crash at Holiday Inn.
To make matters worse, a dope panic set in. No one brought anything to smoke, sniff or swallow on account of crossing the Canadian border, where a girl was busted the same day we went through customs with 1000 caps of acid taped to the inside of her levis. It had been a pretty effective lesson about carrying, especially since sentences for importing grass alone in some Canadian provinces can theoretically get you as much as life imprisonment.
Road managers were dispatched from the train to make a last-minute raid back into the city to stock up. They returned with three ounces. At this point, the expedition was considered a complete failure. “That’s not even going to last us till daylight, man,” someone said disdainfully. “What we need is a bushel of cocaine, and then we could run this fucking train into the sea.”
A few people started to drift into the forward lounge. Leslie West and Felix Pappalardi pulled out guitars. West, toying with his tiny ancient Les Paul Gibson as if it were a stalk of grass, lazily picked out Delta bottleneck blues, and Mountain’s drummer, Corky Laing, sang along: Let it rain, let it pour / And let it rain some more / Got those deep river blues. Jerry Garcia, Delaney, and Kenny Gradney, Delaney’s bass player, joined in, and as the swarm of guitars picked up to resonating hum, it became obvious what we would be doing for the next week.
From early Monday morning until we finally got off the train in Calgary five days later, the music stopped only once – when everybody got off at Winnipeg for the festival. Buddy Guy’s drummer Roosevelt, immaculate in his flashy snakeskin suit, played for two days straight, and it was a common thing to fall out, get up, have breakfast, and get back to the lounge to find the same “set” rocking on.
The Festival Express was the reenactment of a piece of blues mythology: the box car studio, where drifters like Bumble Bee Slim and Tampa Red, with harmonicas and dobros, hopped the Illinois Central from New Orleans or the M&O from Mobile up to Memphis, St. Louis and Chicago, on trains with names like the Panama Limited, the Flying Crow, Midnight Special, Yeller Dawg, Green Diamonds, Rock Island Line now resonant with blues connotations, incorporating the clicking steel rhythms of the train and the shrill “quills” of the fireman’s whistle into lazy delta harmonies.
[ lyrics, “Southern Blues,” Big Bill Broonzy ]
“The train is like the guitar, man,” said Willie Dixon. “You know, when you look down those tracks from the caboose? You see the ties closing up like the frets on the guitar. The further you get from the Delta, the higher up you’re playing on the neck. In Chicago, baby, we’re really wailing!”

As blue phosphorous light settles on the marshalling yard, the Riders of the Purple Sage (Marmaduke, Dave Nelson, and Dave Torbert, who form part of the Dead’s 20-member family on the train) unpacked their Gibsons, and blues gave way to country: Hank Williams, Merle Haggard, Kris Kristofferson.
Just then Harvey, the Dead’s equipment manager, arrived with electric guitars and small vibro champ amplifiers. Electricity! The session picked up and for a moment the train lights dimmed, the Fenders eating up the current. Corky pulled out a couple of swivel chairs and set up a drum kit in one corner, and someone else had plugged in an electric piano. The wheels turned, the rhythm of the train rocked the coach as it began to move against the rhythm of the guitars, and transporting us, a flotilla of musicians and freaks set off.
Eventually people drifted off and fell out. We woke up the next morning in the forests of northern Ontario: an infinity of lakes and rivers cut into a wilderness of birch trees. On both sides, fields of daisies, trillium, and buttercups curved up from the verge of the tracks. Giant copper-red boulders seemed to squeeze the train as it passed through them, and sheets of rock, flat as mirrors, refracted the harsh northern light that edges every stone and leaf and tree. Swirls and eddies of water wash around white tree trunks, half submerged, and islands slope down to find white gravel. There are so many lakes it seems one map could not contain them, and stands of birch and elm so immense, in this land inhabited only by water, trees, animals and clouds, that images practically assault the eye.
In the lounge, where a session composed of musicians from the night before and some who had just got up was still in full swing, the images within and without multiplied, and looking down the length of the car, the windows on both sides gave the illusion of looking into a giant stereopticon, that by some trick of light and space seems to suspend the musicians in an unreal landscape. The train was moving very slowly, you could almost walk alongside. “Why are we moving so slowly?” someone asked, and one of the stewards answered him inscrutably: “So you can play what you’re seeing.”
[ Omitted imaginary interview with the train. ]
The session had shifted to an uptempo blues with Bonnie and Buddy Guy trading verses: “Knockin’ on my door, don’t want me around no more…” “Forget it and let this trouble pass…” Delaney’s horns join in, and A.C. Reed (Jimmy Reed’s brother) from Buddy’s band pumped a fat Detroitish sound from his sax. The music slows down to a slow boogie in the afternoon as we pull into a small town.
Capreol: A telephone wire cat’s-cradle above the tracks, tract houses shingled in creosote imitation brick skulking around the station. As we glide between the soot-black CNR oil tanks, the music ground to a lugubrious funeral step, like a New Orleans street band.
Our first stop since leaving Toronto. The names of the little towns, some scarcely more than a huddle of shacks, that we had passed through on the way evoke the mystery of unknowable places. The nostalgic transplants from the suburbs of London: Islington, Tottenham, Bayswater, Bethnal; French trapper posts: Foleyet, Lainaune, Giroux, La Broquiere; Iroquois names: Kawa, Kowash, Unaka, Minnipuka, Paqwa, Penequani; and crazy wilderness names that trail into each other like a serial poem: Ophir, Snakesbreath, Decimal, Malachi, Forget.
Sam Cutler scrambles down the gravel bank to the dirt track that is the main road in Capreol, looking to score. He comes across an ice cart being wheeled to the train, tests the ice, which is used for cooling the compartments, and heads for town.
Downtown Capreol is two opened stores: a food store, and the Oriental Emporium Variety Shop, run by a Chinese family, which sells Mountain Dew.
Sam happily goes off with an eight dollar shimmering kimono of many colors and ten packages of Smarties candies. By the side of the train station and down a sand dune is a lake suited for beavers and black-flies, intersected by a row of joining pieces of lumber. Delaney and Bonnie’s sax and horn men played a lonesome Dixieland duet at the water’s edge, while musicians shippered stones. Six teenage girls were standing by the train looking for Janis, who was asleep.

Music: Leslie West, Delaney Bramlett, Jerry Garcia, and Kenny Gradney jamming a slow misty early evening blues.
Through the window: a section break. Red clapboard section gang hut next to an enclosed woodpile. Rain dropping off the leaves of two poplars onto watered buttercups bending into each other, like an Indian girl, whose tribe once lived just past the hillock where an abandoned orange hooded truck now rests, leaning over her Indian friend’s right shoulder to talk to him, for you imagine them lovers.

Goin’ down the road again
Don’t wanna be treated that way no more

[ See http://archive.org/details/gd1970-07-00.aud.miller.106571.flac16 ]

That night the backers of the Festival were sitting in one of the bars talking about the reasons for the financial failure of the Festival – a matter of some $350,000. Thor Eaton and Ken Walker of Eaton-Walker Associates, Ltd., which produced Festival Express and whose companies along with those controlled by Maclain Publishers put up the money for the Festival, and Dave Williams, Festival production coordinator, sat drinking tequila and watching the sunset.
“Our publicity for the Festival was strong,” said Dave Williams. “We started on April 28th putting 10 to 15 spots a week on Canadian radio. We distributed 200,000 bumper stickers, 100,000 fliers, 50,000 bus cards. But there are low concentrations of population in Winnipeg and Calgary. And some people confused us with John Brower’s Peace Festival, calling our thing the Peace Express, and then saying, Well, the Peace Express is off. But mainly press silence or the playing up of the M4M attacks hurt us.”
“M4M?” someone said. “What group is that?”
Suddenly darkness entered the bar, lights were turned on, and the windows beside us began to project our images out into the nighttime Canadian woods we were passing through, magically holding us steady, tippling ghosts traveling intangibly through interdimensional space. “This will show you what’s been happening,” someone said, trying to sound “objective.”
If it was an All Power to the Musicians state of mind that kept the train going at such an ecstatic rate, it was an All Power to the People agitprop campaign that caused the dates in Toronto, Winnipeg, and Calgary to suffer disappointing attendance, a number of police confrontations, and a sometimes small but nagging feeling of up-tightness and restrictiveness, especially after the openness of the train journey.


M4M (May 4th Movement) is a coalition group of students and street people formed to commemorate the Kent State murders, which inaugurated a confrontation with Toronto Police at the American Consulate on the issue, with 91 persons arrested. They've begun organizing and highlighting various exploitation issues: unemployment, authoritarian schools, police repression, American imperialism, English-Canadian business oppression, $20 bellbottoms, and cultural exploitation. And Eaton-Walker Associates, Ltd., was M4M’s first target.
They spotted Eaton and Walker, who ran the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival and the Toronto Pop Festival last year, from the windows of Rochdale College, where M4M is headquartered, and, with a lovely gift for comic energy, revolutionary force, and political simplicity, swooped down, their message picked up and promulgated by the (not notoriously revolutionary) Toronto press: STOP THE RRRIP-OFF EXPRESS!
Rochdale College (often pronounced Roachdale by bewildered foreigners), ironically facing Marshall McLuhan's offices, is an “18-story high-rise freak palace.” Originally granted government money for the support of a residential experimental college, it has turned into what might be called a front for subsidized housing (though the rents aren't that cheap).
People live and work in this housing-project type building with an incredibly high lifestyle. You see those dope police wearing white institutional jackets? You think they're there to bust you? Forget it. They test the quality of the grass, hash and acid when a complaint about the drug's efficacy is brought up. Hard drug pushers are kindly requested to move on. The fire alarm system is actually used for bust warnings. Local rock groups like the People's Revolutionary Concert Band and Boogie Dick hang out and play for free. There's naked sunbathing on the roof, underground films in the film room; and the College supports the Coach House Press which publishes poetry books and magazines of extraordinary quality. Graffiti decorates all the halls (“Gee, Tonto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore”) and the College paper runs community news and requests: “I want to paint a 17-story marijuana leaf in such a way that it would be visible only from the second floor patio. Come rap with me.”
M4M has offices on the third floor. The representatives we'd met were frustrated by the lack of political consciousness among residents of the College. But the group's attack against Festival Express brought them enormous publicity, and they aim for a wider following than Rochdale College inhabitants. An “Open Letter to a Closed Corporation” presented to Eaton, Walker, and Dave Williams on June 19th contained the following:
“We demand that Transcontinental (Rip-Off) Express be free for everyone and all tickets refunded; there be free food, dope and music for the people there, with no cops. Failing these totally reasonable and just demands, we demand that 20 per cent of the gate receipts be returned to the community in the following ways: money for already existing free food programs, day care centers...collective bail fund to fight Toronto pig repression...equipment for all People's Parks,” etc, etc.
Thor Eaton, whose family, M4M was quick to point out in a kind of character assassination, owns Eaton’s stores (equivalent to Macy’s in the United States) and which, M4M claims, are non-unionized, had the following to say about his meeting with M4M:
“Twelve guys from M4M showed up. They came into the office and said, ‘Are you ready to meet the demands?’ ‘What demands?’ we said. We read them and said no. Free dope, free food, and 60 per cent of the profits! They didn’t discuss the 20 per cent figure then. They just said, ‘Do it our way or you’re in trouble.’ These people have a loose grip on reality. At least they called me a ‘rip-off artist’ and not a ‘rip-off promoter.’”
Ken Walker, Eaton’s partner, whom M4M with social realism describes as “a young capitalist with his black moustache and business suit,” defended his actions:
“The press covered everything M4M said. The Canadian Broadcasting System taped an interview with them and didn’t ask us to appear. M4M appealed to kids who figured they’d just wait around and get in for free. It’s a bit like looters who see a store window busted and go in and take something themselves. Did you know that M4M threatened kids putting up advertising posters for the Festival?
“Look, we had a $500,000 talent package. Our admission turned out to be 80 cents an act. What’s fairer than that?”

On the first day of the Toronto Festival, about 2500 kids had tried to break into CNE Stadium, fighting with the cops. Ten police were injured, a number of kids, and 22 were arrested. (Of these apparently 18 were American. Some Canadians who criticize M4M for being led by Americans resent the interference.)
Jerry Garcia had helped cool things down by setting up a Free Festival at nearby Coronation Park, where the Dead, Purple Sage, Ian and Sylvia, James and the Good Brothers, and People’s Revolutionary Concert Band played to 4000 kids the first day and 500 the next day. According to Walker, with M4M leaders under surveillance and its impact diminished, kids went in and paid to see the second day's show. He also said that, although he did not announce it, he’d paid for the supply of free food that was given out at Coronation Park.
About 37,000 persons had attended that two-day Toronto Festival, about 13,000 fewer than expected. The Toronto press played up the violence: “Bashed Heads and Bad Trips.” There were about fifty persons treated for bum trips, but the organization in charge of the medical operation for some reason upped the figure to 500. The atmosphere was extremely tense, with police using force against kids using their force to break into the Stadium. It had affected the stage presentation, which was sometimes slow.
And it had affected some of the music, for when, as on the first day, kids clambered on stage trying to politicize the event and were yanked off, the music had a hard time making sense of its own joyousness. You could almost forget the hassles of the day during Garth Hudson’s introduction to “Chest Fever” – suggesting notes, picking them up and transforming them into wondrous and unheard-of structures – or when the Dead played, except when a kid came onstage and pointed to each member of the Dead and shouted, “You're all phonies, you and you and you...”


[ lyrics, “Nobody Cares About the Railroads Any More,” Nilsson ]
The further west you travel in the prairies, the more squashed down, nubbed, the trees seem in the unrelieved flatness, stunted by the prevailing winds. The grass grows up between the tracks.
Jerry Garcia walked down the tracks singing a country blues he is just completing. The film crew closed in, pleased to be shooting in daylight for a change, and captured a few solarized moments.
The train made its first overnight stop at the Winnipeg Depot, a flat, industrial area about four miles from the center of town. Brick and cement buildings – facades of a displaced industrial revolution – stood in an open space overgrown with weeds, suggesting the disconcerting familiarity of dreams where the geometric syntax is dislocated; a monstrous 19th Century pump behind a wall of green glass, a cement signal box, sheds, and platforms. “Welcome to Omaha!” says Sam Cutler.

“Believe it or not, I helped lay this section of track, hammered in these spikes right here,” says Frank Duckworth, publicist for the Festival Express, making the anonymous stretch of track as vivid as a piece of the true cross. “People forget what goes into a track. They laid this section during the Depression, 75 cents a day for breaking your back in humid 95 degree weather. Do you know what it takes to rock one tie in place? Look,” Duckworth says, demonstrating, “you hook your pick under the tie so you’ve got one foot on the handle of the pick and the other on the end of the tie. It’s like being stretched in the rock, and with a free hand you rake in the gravel under the tie, rocking back and forth until it settles. Most of us passed out the first day on the job.”
Duckworth spoke almost laconically, like an urbane Bill Cody, but the words brought up a host of sweating images all reduced to this unassuming thread of metal that abstracts 4000 miles from Nova Scotia to the Pacific. He picked a squat green plant from beside the track. “Know what this is? Lambs quarters. You soon get to know your weeds when you’re starving like we were back in the days of ’29, ’30. Makes a delicious salad, and it grows just about anywhere. They used to feed us a staple diet of prunes – CNR strawberries, we used to call them.”
The idea of the Festival Express, a train trip across Canada, was Duckworth’s. He talks of the railroads with the deep affection of someone who was physically and emotionally involved in their life.
“The train was the only form of communication this country had. It linked up all the outposts, trapper stations, mining towns, with the centers. Even the telegraph followed the train lines. When we were planning the Express originally, I’d thought we could maybe dig up some of the old telegraphers who used to work on the CNR and send all our messages by Morse Code. The organizers said, ‘What’s the point, when we can use the telex?’ But this is just the point, re-living the experience of a whole nation. I wanted one of the old steam engines – beautiful things – but we eventually gave in to convenience and settled for a diesel. You only have to look at the 5934 locomotives on exhibit in Calgary to see the grace and elegance of the old steam models.
“The idea was to remind people of the romance of traveling by train in the old days when the train was still a vital form of communication, and combine that with rock and roll, which is the most vital form of communication today: bringing things together.
“Trains are almost all freight today, and it’s a pity, because they were a very elegant, leisurely form of transportation. In a plane you have no sense of traveling at all, it’s like being pushed through a tube, very sterile, inhuman experience. Imagine the opulence and tastefulness of traveling in those days. Did you ever see the carriage Queen Victoria traveled in when she made her state visit to Canada? Tassels and velvet, padded and tuffeted like a case for the Czar’s Easter eggs.”


Janis stepped down from the train, a blur of colors, as her red and blue bows gently brushed against her face in the light wind. “Morning, boys,” she says, crossing the tracks to the buses that had come to take us into town.
A local hippie warned us that the mood in Winnipeg wasn’t too friendly. “They’re burying the chief of police today,” he says. “Some guy shot him and two other fuzz down in this alley, and the cat who did it is claiming he was high on acid.” Today was also Canada’s centenary, and Pierre Trudeau, the Prime Minister, was in Winnipeg to give a speech.
The buses took us to the Municipal swimming pool, a monstrous Olympic size swimming pool with diving boards ten meters high. Coming from the confined space of the train, no one knew how to deal with this liquid space, and eventually everybody ended up draped along the edge of the pool.
A feeble attempt at a relay race, the Dead vs. Everybody, but it didn’t really get together, in spite of Cutler’s voice volleying obscenities around this hangar-like space. In the shallow end, Buddy Guy and his band were playing water polo. “This is the first time I’ve been swimming since 1955,” Buddy’s road manager said casually. “I thought if I got too near the stuff I was gonna melt.”
Janis, Marmaduke, and Eric Andersen set off for town and Tiny Tim’s bar. Longhairs were shifting around the town square waiting for Trudeau to arrive, and Janis and Eric offered everyone a moment’s unexpected entertainment by wading through the fountain.

Back at the train there was a press conference, the promoters answering questions about the “Festival Express Rip-off.” The local DJ rag, Youthbeat, had run a headline reading, “NDY [New Democratic Youth, a Canadian radical group vaguely similar to SDS] charges ‘exploitation,’ urging kids to ‘bust festival’”; and the press, who had nothing else to ask anyway, were using it as a wedge to lift copy for the morning papers.
Basically the press and the promoters understood each other. Sipping cocktails in the bar car they laughed over the “ludicrous” demands for free concerts, free food, and free dope. But the press feeds on such obvious and platitudinous controversies as “Woodstock vs. Rip-Off Express,” and anyway, the whole thing is such a ready-made headline.
Outside in the lounge a young girl was telling the Dead and Kenny Gradney that there are people starving in Saskatchewan. She was arrogant and sensitive, and even though her words were almost as cliched as those at the press in the bar, her tone was convincing, pleading, intuitive; she spoke with passion.
Jerry Garcia objected to her using the word “pigs.” “If you call people pigs, that’s what they will become. We're not trying to alienate people, we're more interested in getting the whole thing together.”
She became angry at not getting through and she stepped up the rhetoric. Kenny told her she didn't know how well off she was. “The radicals in the States have some point. Alberta itself is as far left as anywhere in North America outside of Cuba, so what are you complaining about? This ain’t no East LA. Have you ever been taken into a gas station washroom by a couple of cops?”
She backed down and started hitting the price of admissions. To her amazement the Dead sided with the promoters! “If you want something for nothing, jerk off,” said Bob Weir, and everybody got up and left.
She was left standing there in the vacuum of her utopian philosophy: simplistic politics, fired by incredible energy and sincerity. While the claims of the M4M are relatively naive and unthought-out, their energy and sincerity is quite convincing, and like harpies descending on the feast, their questions undermined attendance at the festivals. In Winnipeg, where the promoters would have needed an attendance of at least 21,000 to break even, fewer than 4,000 people showed up at the Manisphere Stadium for the 12-hour concert on Wednesday.

[ See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SpocOtyjF2A ]

The stadium is right next to a midway, where barkers entice the simple plains people into their grotesque booths. “See the horror of the electric chair”; “The incredible half elephant, half pig”; “The body of a 2,000-year-old man preserved in ice”; “Vicious rats devouring a live python.” Next to this exotic cosmos of freaks, a festival seemed tame.
The crowd barely filled the front of the stadium, but it was an enthusiastic one. Charlebois got a good reception, although he was singing mainly in French. There is a large French community here, in fact, and at midnight there is a Cajun music festival held on the banks of the Bow River.
In spite of the good reception from the audience, the groups were not happy. The Band played a short set, and later, Robbie Robertson talked about the problems involved in playing festivals: “I think we are in a period where the art of personal performances is declining; it’s a strange situation for a performer to be in. We are perhaps especially sensitive to it because our sound is subtle and slippery, and it’s very difficult to communicate that at a festival where there are so many variables. When you are playing in the open air it’s very hard to hear what the other people in the band are playing, the sound comes and goes, and what’s worse is that we are usually sandwiched between groups like Ten Years After and Led Zeppelin. Like at Woodstock, I think we came off like a group of choirboys after Alvin Lee.
“We did this tour because of the idea of the train, which appealed to us, and you know we are all Canadians, except for Levon, and we sort of felt obliged to do it, but this is probably the last festival we will play.”
To add to the problems at Winnipeg, a strong wind picked up during the afternoon, blowing spirals of dust into everyone’s face. A sudden gust blew the Good Brothers’ drum kit right off the stage. It was like those sudden Mid-Western dust storms blowing up into tornadoes, and as the concert ended, with paper cups swirling off the ground in little pools of air, it seemed that the currents might sweep us all away into another Oz.
Janis closed the show, and her set was remarkable under the circumstances. In the middle of “Maybe,” a burly cowboy leaped onto the stage and asked for “a kiss for the boys from Manitoba,” as in some scene from an old Dietrich movie. Janis obliged, and as she was leaving the stage, the delirious embodiment of Manitoba thanked the stage hands for letting him through. “Why are you thanking them, honey?” Janis asked in her plaintive voice. “They didn’t do nothing for you!”

JULY 2-3

Next morning the Festival Express set off early. Mountain split and the Band was expected on board, but only Rick Danko and Jon Taplin, the Band’s road manager, made the train. Robbie had to go back to New York to check out the mixes on the Band’s upcoming album, and the others, who were at a party the night before, didn’t make it up in time for the 8 A.M. departure.
As it is, Rick and Jon only just got on board. Their taxi arrived as the train was pulling out of the station. They leaped out of the taxi and ran for the train, ran back again to pay the driver, clambered over a couple of fences with their bags, and leaped on board at the last minute.
Many musicians ended their day with breakfast and started with late lunch or dinner, straggling into the dining car for the last call. It was one of the few occasions when sober, unstoned dialogues took place. One lunch, Bonnie and Janis discovered how alike they really were. “She’s as macho as me, man,” Janis said early one afternoon, and Bonnie told how she lived out her whole being on the stage; that it was the only real thing she knew.
Janis agreed and recalled the ecstasy of the first time she’d got up on a stage. “They threw these musicians at me, man, and the sound was coming from behind, the bass was charging me, and I decided then and there, that was it, I never wanted to do anything else. It was better than it had been with any man, you know. Maybe that’s the trouble.”
The first meal of the day generally brought out the passengers’ reveries. “I could just lie in my bed for hours, watching the trees and rivers go by,” said Eric Andersen, “and letting collected memories drop on my head. It’s only when you’re drunk or happy that you have the courage to remember, and I just get delirious watching all this go by…silver, singing skies.”
Tom Rush, in his snakeskin jacket, pointed out a lush green valley furling out of a lazy river on the right, someone else saw a cloud in the shape of a giant's toe. Sam Cutler, the jaded pirate, caustically denounced these romantic yearnings with a loud bellow: "I've already got over the trees!"
A waiter told Delaney about past trips. "Very unusual, this bunch, but a pleasure, I'm sure. You know, once we had this group of businessmen hire a train to make a business deal. They were traveling from Calgary to Edmonton, see, but when they got to Edmonton, they hadn't concluded their dealings so they said, 'Turn the train around and go back,' and so we ended up going back and forth like that three times before they reached a decision."
Although present company didn't represent the usual clientele on CNR's Western route, the personnel slowly came to terms with their unconventional passengers to the point where a delicate balance of humor was established.
One late lunch, a member of the Dead order chocolate cake, with ice cream and chocolate milk to follow, for dessert. "You must really be stoned!" the waiter said confidentially.
For those who found it difficult to get themselves together after an all-night session, Janis always had some good advice. To a tomato juice-drinking neighbor, she suggested, screwdriver in hand: "When you're out of vodka, just go on and use some gin in the juice, honey. Really, it's the way to do it. Just don't smell the gin."
There was no caboose at the end of the train, but after a late lunch you could sit on the little platform at the end of the last car and watch the tracks taper into the vanishing point. Although northern Ontario seemed to be an uninhabited landscape from this unobstructed viewpoint, one could see elk, rabbits, moose, and the occasional human. Jerry Garcia reported seeing a large black bear scratching its back on a birch tree.
“Whoooh! There’s so much talent on this train,” Janis said, laughing at her own double entendre. “I knew it was going to be a party, man. I didn’t take this gig for nothing else but that. I said, ‘It sounds like a party and I wanta be there. It’s just gonna be Rockin’ Pneumonia, Boogie Woogie Flu…wow!’”
“Holy cow, whatcha doin’ chile, / Holy smoke, it ain’t no joke…” Rick and Janis were wailing Lee Dorsey, Rick harmonizing with his Dodge City whine. After a few more old favorites like “I Kept the Wine and Threw Away the Rose,” “Silver Threads and Golden Needles,” and “Honeysuckle Rose,” Eric sang a song that he wrote on the train, a subtle, quiet song that Janis’ voice understood intuitively: “Do you remember the night I cried for you, Do you remember the night I cried for you?...”
“Are we in Calgary yet?” Janis asked as we hit the outskirts of Saskatoon. “Whooopee,” John Cooke yodeled, in his finest western manner. “The next town we git to, we’re gonna divest it of its young womanhood!”
Everybody piled off the train, and descended on the railroad souvenir shop, hungry for cultural trash: Lurid magazines, sleazy paperbacks, candy, kitsch pastel emblems depicting beavers and leaping salmon painted on felt, postcards with mounties, Indian chiefs and moose (legend on the back reads: “Mounted, this fine head makes an excellent wall hanging for club, office or recreation room”). The owners couldn’t believe it. A horde of freaks snatching up every piece of junk in the store! But to the denizens of L.A. and Marin County, Saskatoon is as exotic a place as Outer Mongolia.
Meanwhile John Cooke and Festival Express co-ordinator Dave Williams made a run on the town liquor store. They slammed down $400 on the counter. “Tell us when it’s used up,” they said like a couple of prospectors come to drink up their claim.
The “claim” was hoisted on board, and the “People’s Bar” was set up. It now included a giant totemic gallon-sized bottle of Canadian Club which seemed like the symbol of All Drink, and by the time The Million Dollar Bash was over, would prove the strongest man at last.
As we left the town behind, the band picked up, rhythm got a little faster. The wheels were turning over like a steel metronome under us, clicking off time as relentlessly as a Rhythm King, the meter of our thoughts, an invisible envelope of sound that infected everything and especially the music. The sound of the train itself was like syncopated breathing, a fast country double-time like Jerry Lee Lewis’ drummer Morris Tarrant.
The tambourine ticked off like a piston, and the brushed licked the snare like a breathless hounddog as Jerry, Janis, Marmaduke and a choir of alcoholic harmonies wailed into “I’ve Just Seen A Face,” stretching out the country, pulling the words apart like a rubber band, “I am fah-lling, yes I am faaaah-lllll-iing…” and when they got to the end they just started again. “This is one of those endless songs,” Bob Weir said, “if I could remember how it began, maybe we could find an ending or we could just go on singing this all night.”
Eventually the song dribbled off, and everybody started singing with heavy emphasis John’s melancholy imitation of Dylan, that because of some internal structure of its own became the ultimate Beatles Beach Party song. While everybody else was nailing down the chorus “HEEEY! You’ve got to hide your lovaway…” with alcoholic dexterity, Janis was moving about the lounge giving a soul lecture in a sort of counterpoint gospel: “Liisten, honey, ya can’t put your love out on the street, no, no, no, no, nooooh, you’ve got ta put your love in a pot, honey, ‘n take it on home…” The effect of all this was beautiful and ecstatic, despite the fact that the harmonies had collapsed completely, and the voices squealed and whined trying to reach the high notes.
The whole party looks and sounds like Merle Haggard live at Independence Hall on the 4th of July gone completely crazy: Clark Pierson [Joplin’s drummer] wearing a Mickey Mouse T shirt and calling out for a barmaid, Roosevelt [Buddy Guy’s drummer] wearing a beige and red striped jump suit styled after a pair of coveralls, Geri [Miller], star of the Warhol movie Trash, in a green suede fringed vest and nothing else, like an exploding green pepper, and Charlebois’ cajun fiddler Philippe Gugnon wearing his grey stove-pip hat. His long lean face made him look like an Ozark Lincoln.
“Hey, is that my guitar, man?” asked Janis, sitting crosslegged on an amp in her Thirties hustler dress with a slit up to her thighs. In her $4.95 hooker shoes, covered with beads, her cigarette holder, feathers, and American flag wrapped around her neck as a scarf, she looked like the personification of a national holiday being celebrated by a display of fireworks.
Someone handed Janis her Gibson hummingbird. “I only know one song, honey, but I’m gonna sing it anyhow.” And Janis began singing “Bobby McGee.” She sang it with her incredible intensity so that it no longer sounded like Kristofferson’s vaguely country folk song, but more like a gospel blues, and Jerry Garcia picked out sweet steel guitar licks (like his subtle playing on CSN&Y’s “Teach Your Children Well”) that danced around Janis’ raunchy voice. Everyone joined in on the chorus; it’s the theme song of the Festival Express, and it must have been sung a hundred times on this trip, in bars, backstage, in compartments late at night, in hotel lobbies and along the tracks. Seemed to sum up everything that everybody went through on this journey.
[ lyrics, “Bobby McGee” ]
The cajun fiddler, with his chrome plate violin, was trying to play along, but he couldn’t find the key. “Play the motherfucker, I’ll back you,” Jerry told him, and he began one of his backwoods reels, tapping out an incredible patter with his feet, on an old suitcase to keep time. “Hey, this guy plays with his feet, man,” Janis said.
“Bon finis, bon finis!” Janis applauded as he finished his number. The fiddler beamed. He asked her to dance, and they twirled around for a couple of reels like two imaginary creatures from Edward Lear dancing wildly by the light of the moon, and then in a sentimental moment he played for her “You Are My Sunshine,” and his heart was in his bow.
John Barleycorn was king here, and Janis was cackling triumphantly that she had finally got the Dead drunk. No one was immune from the deluge of spirits. The CNR cop was playing the tambourine, and at every lull in the music he shouted out a request for “Holy, holy,” by Neil Diamond. It fell on deaf ears. Someone offered him a joint. He walked over, looking like he was actually going to take it! “I just wanted to smell it,” he said sheepishly.
It was the last night on the train, and everybody was aware of it. “Let’s just refuse to leave!” Jerry Garcia suggests. A number of impossible suggestions were made, like diverting the train to San Francisco. “We could have the whole goddam city turn out to meet us at the Union Station,” John Cooke suggested.
Things ended on a comic note, however – Rick Danko singing in his hokey country voice, as creaky as Chester in Gunsmoke.
“I been in jail and I got a jail sentence for 99 years.”
“Oh, no, not 99 years to wear the ball and chain?” someone asked incredulously.
“Yeah,” said Rick, continuing the story, “so my old lady came to visit me, and she said, ‘Son, but you don’t have to think about this, because, because it’s the best of the tears,’ and we all said:”
Ooh, ooh, ooooh,
And we all said,
No more cane in the Brazos.
Rick: “So I said, Captain, don’t you do me like you done me…” And the words became more surrealistic, stumbling over one another in their eagerness to finish the line. The evening ended with a hymn, “Amazing Grace,” and a thundering version of “Goodnight Irene” that was so loud that it seemed as if it would rock the train right off the tracks.

[ See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSRV3pXSMlc ]


The next morning we were in Calgary. Jerry Garcia was walking down the tracks to get a cab to town in the pure blue morning at the coach yard where the train is stationed, sun shimmering on a luminescent waterfall of light, smiling and groaning, “I promise never to drink again, your Honor. How’s my head? I need a lobotomy.”
“Woodstock was a feast for the audience; the train was a feast for the performers,” Bob Shuster of Albert Grossman’s office said in Calgary. And whether festivals can work successfully on a financial level (Festival Express cost just under a million dollars and lost about $350,000) or in a communally open way any more was really called into question after the experience of the festivals in Toronto, Winnipeg, and Calgary. Thor Eaton himself admitted that Festivals might be unworkable in the future “at least as they’re now structured.”
It used to be that you could walk down streets at dusk and catch the entire new Beatles album drifting out, band overlapping and interconnecting. The music somehow realized and extended the senses of what many thought was a new Christmas on Earth. Persons entered the music and the music received them. Monterey was the first and best festival, for it felt like a true embodiment of a seemingly actualizable social happiness.
Now the thrill seems to be going, we realize over and again that we are volunteers and victims. And rock and roll, too, has not been able to escape its various esthetic and economic prisons. If a group like Led Zeppelin is going to charge $75,000 an appearance, as a Festival Express associate has reported, then only a highly priced and structured Festival can manage to accommodate the group and its management. (Our feeling is: Save the money and call on Bukka White.)
The Festival structure is finally pyramidical – groups playing in order of financial draw (though sometimes popularity) and a closed spatial environment, stadium walls enclosing performers and audience, blocking out the kids standing outside. It is this boundary implicit in the structure that undermines the boundlessness of the music. And confrontation is as inevitable as low attendance.
Ticket prices for the Festival were fair. As one guy from Calgary pointed out, Three Dog Night had played Calgary the week before, selling out for four, five, and six dollars a seat, so he wasn’t complaining about his having to shell out $14 to hear 20 groups. But if kids came to a Festival expecting to be let in free when organizers have to pay half a million dollars for the acts, then a compromise isn’t going to be reached.
Musically, of course, the groups all played better and better as the Festival progressed as a result of the shared excitement and openness generated by the experiences on board the train. The train trip, in fact, allowed the performers to enter the kind of traveling energy people used to discover in themselves as they entered “their” music. Now, for the musicians, the train embodied that state in which, as someone once wrote, “the same form that it had when it enclosed original warmth.”
At the Calgary Festival, there was an open jam featuring Bonnie and Delaney, Ian and Sylvia, Rick Danko, and Jerry Garcia. This would have been inconceivable at the Toronto Festival. “We thought you were just California freaks,” Rick Danko told Jerry Garcia, “but you’re just like us.”
The old United Nations cliché about people being all the same underneath all those different pigmentations and under trees of brotherhood turns ot to be true when you have a community of sympathetic interests, a sense of compassion, and good old give and take. Only Janis could turn the Dead and assorted heads into a bunch of “Goodnight Irene” singing drunkards. And one of the nicer ironies of Festival Express was that the communitarian ideal as exemplified on board the train was written off as “expenses.”


“There are things you tell yourself. There are things you tell other people. And then there’s the truth,” Ken Walker said something along that line. He likes to shoot bear. Close range with a .38 Magnum. Right in the chest. At 24, he is already an ambitious entrepreneur and a master of paranoic business in-fighting. When Allen Klein came up to the Toronto Rock and Roll Festival on behalf of John and Yoko Lennon, Walker was offering Klein’s clients $158 a person – union scale. “I promised that John and Yoko would be in Toronto,” Walker said, “not that they’d play.” Klein, according to Walker, was displeased. “Meet me in the bathroom,” he told Walker. “What’s this Carpetbaggers scene? Are we going to piss for distance?” Walker inquired. The Lennons walked off stage with scale and tape of the concert.
Walker’s connections seem staggeringly all-inclusive. When eight L.A. radicals were coming up to Canada, supposedly to help disrupt the Calgary Festival, Walker was immediately informed by the Mounted Police that they had been refused entrance into the country. Walker brooks little interference with the realization of his projects. When M4M picketers showed up a second time at his Toronto offices, supposedly threatening him, Walker had Toronto police paddy wagons mosey around the block. Twelve picketers split. Walker ordered four Cokes to be brought out to the remaining four. Two were rejected. “That’s progress,” Walker says about the two Coke drinkers. And if there also seems a bit of friction between the John Brower gang and Eaton-Walker Associates for the control of Canada’s rock and roll territories, then Walker and his condottieri, while losing money, won a lot of points with their version of Festival Express.
After the Calgary Festival, Ken Walker magnanimously invited some friends to recuperate at the palatial Banff Springs Hotel, an edifice right out of pre-revolutionary Russia: shimmering flower beds, sun-flecked paths sloping through arbors, distant voices beyond the greenhouse, algae-brocaded woods, and a voluptuous blue sky.
Walker’s party added some life or anxiety to the elegant scene, depending on whether you were working as a chambermaid or as Hotel Security. One afternoon in his suite, Ken Walker talked about his most recent unbelievable encounter with the Mayor of Calgary who had come around to the Festival to see what was happening and spied out some future voters.
“I had already paid for crash facilities and transportation for the kids at Prince’s Island,” Walker said. “But the Mayor, who’s also Commissioner of Police and Head of Planning, comes up to me outside the Festival Stadium”:
Mayor (like the Pied Piper): Let the Children of Calgary pass through the gates free.
Walker: I pay my performers, I have my bills. My insurance won’t cover it. If a person wants a TV set, should he just take it? How far do you go?
Mayor: You S.O.B. All this city has done for you and you won’t do a thing?
Walker: You want them in? Underwrite it.
Mayor: You’ll never come back to Calgary.
Walker: You show me power-tripping Calgary style, I’ll show you power-tripping Toronto style. Where’s your Festival Courtesy Pass? [Walker rips up pass.] I don’t have to talk to you. Split, quick.
Mayor (to Deputy Police Chief): I’m Commissioner of Police. Arrest that man.
“I started chasing the mayor down the passageway,” Walker related. “He went to take a swing at me and the Deputy Chief grabbed him. I wound up. I let one go, and I hit a steel garbage drum. The doctor came over and said, ‘I’ve already given you five tranquillizers, Ken.’”
“I don’t care if you’re King,” Walker shouted at the Mayor, as associates separated the two again. “I’m from Toronto!”
“I have to go through these kinds of things all the time,” Walker said. “But I had a good time on the train. So I lost some money. As the Egyptians say, Maalesh. You think I’m going to lie down on the tracks? Wait until you hear about my plans for the next Festival!”
Among other astonishing things, Walker tried to educate Canadian police during the Festival Express trip, attempting to enlighten them as to the politics of drug culture. Walker, for instance, invited a staff superintendent of the Calgary Police to watch the Toronto proceedings; and this superintendent later cooled out the Calgary police, preventing more than the one bust in the Calgary Stadium of a kid selling strychnine acid.
Walker also brought along an expert in psychopharmacology so that he could approach local drug clinics and explain to them the best means of dealing with bum trips. Walker bought 2,000 tabs of valium, and he trained doctors so that now, as he says, “Winnipeg knows how to take care of things.” And finally, Walker invited John Sagar, a Community Relations Officer for Metro Toronto Police, to convince local Canadian police to observe rather than bust kids.
“You can’t definitely say what the police are going to do with the information they received first-hand about the way the kids behave at festivals,” Walker said. “But hopefully we’ll now be able to talk to them. You see, I believe in reciprocation. I’ll help the police if they’ll help me and the kids coming to the Festivals. I asked the M4M: if you want a free show, how are you going to reciprocate? We’ll clean up Toronto, they said. But how’s that going to pay my bills? I asked them. Don’t say you’ll hold a benefit because I don’t like charity. And what about the city sanitation workers? Kick them out of their jobs?
“There’s another way of running a show,” Ken Walker said, walking out to the suite’s balcony overlooking the baby azure river winding through pine forests and reflecting the purple mountains. “Let everyone in free and charge to get out.”


“The problems involved in festivals have cost us a lot of thought,” mused Rock Scully, of the Dead entourage. “First of all, the train made friends of everybody. We rarely come across each other for any length of time, rapping, playing music especially. Music most the time has to be hammered out, it isn’t in the air, as it was on the train.
“When we once tried to save San Francisco’s Carousel Ballroom from the commercial trip, Janis said: Let Bill Graham run it, he knows how to do it. I’m a performer.
“Now Janis’ and Jerry Garcia’s music has grown up with their own personal involvement. They’ve taken a lot of knocks. And it’s Janis’ music and Jerry’s music. The wellsprings of music are located in your common experience, in the way you live. Like you’re working in the garden together and at the end of the day everyone is singing.
“Here we were on the train, uprooted from the normal functions of everyday life, and the drummer had this train beat going. It influenced the Festival’s music, it let all of us use our four or five years’ experience and turn it back on its roots.
“When you have 500,000 people looking at six guys, well, that’s a million eyes staring at you. That’s an unnatural form. It’s been used up. Sure, it’s better than playing ballrooms, and we haven’t talked about whether we’ll play festivals again.
“But I think a festival has to be spontaneous. It has to be announced as other than an all-star lineup. All these kids will come together to celebrate a solstice, say, and it will become people’s music.”

After the final Festival concert at Calgary, a guitarist mysteriously showed up at the York Hotel where the farewell party was taking place, and with the deep and painful voice of some Ancient Mariner performed songs of unbelievable dignity. No one knew his name. He said: “It doesn’t matter the kind of music I play. Your mind sort of melts and becomes that one place of beautiful bliss which is the only place to be.” His name turns out to be Bob Carpenter, who’s putting together a first, privately recorded album, one of whose songs contains the lines that might stand as an epitaph for the train journey:
Man is the woman revealed as the child
Concealed in a handful of play.

(by David Dalton & Jonathan Cott, from Rolling Stone, September 3 1970)


Jul 15, 2013

June 27-28, 1970: Festival Express, Toronto


Plans for a million-dollar series of rock festivals to be held this summer in Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg and Calgary, were announced by Eaton-Walker Associates working in co-operation with Maclean-Hunter Ltd., at press conferences held simultaneously in the four cities yesterday.
Festival Express 1970, a train rented from Canadian National Railways, will start in Montreal on June 24, with a show at the Autostade on the Expo ground, and will roll into Toronto to present two 12-hour rock and folk concerts at the CNE stadium, June 27 and 28, beginning at noon and ending at midnight.
On the train, which will have the Festival Express logo on the front of the engine (the logotype is a white bird flying on a series of blue circles) will be performers - The Band, Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead, Delaney and Bonnie and Friends, The Great Speckled Bird (Ian and Sylvia), Buddy Guy, Eric Andersen, James and the Good Brothers, Ten Years After, Sha Na Na, Tom Rush, and more - plus all their equipment, and a Canadian film crew, which will make a movie of the modern-day wagon train.
The train will stop in Winnipeg July 1, for a one-day show at the Winnipeg Stadium, then continue on to Calgary, for two days, July 4 and 5 at McMahon Stadium. Ken Walker, one of the producers, said it was impossible to get the stadium in Vancouver, since the field is covered with Astro-Turf, a type of very expensive artificial grass made of plastic, which wouldn't stand up to the wear and tear.
The train's 12 cars include two engines, one diner, five sleepers, two lounge cars (one for jamming), two flat cars, one baggage car, and one staff car. Travel on the train is being restricted to performers and technicians. "We have been flooded with requests from performers to be on the train. There are just too many people wanting to come along," said Walker. "The performers like the idea of the train. They normally travel by plane, so it's like a scenic tour for them. We're making the movie on the train, to give different glimpses of the performers off stage. But the performers don't want to be hassled on the train."
Bill Hanley of Boston, who did the sound for last year's Toronto festivals, will bring his own organization to Canada to take charge of sound facilities in each city.
"We're having the shows in stadiums," said Walker, "because stadiums are easy to get to, there are washrooms and facilities for food, and security precautions."
Local acts from each city will be added to the shows. Tickets are $9 a day in advance, $10 at the gate for one day; $14 in advance, or $16 at the gate for the two day shows. All the major headliners will appear in the one-day shows, but on the two-day shows, with extra acts added, they will double up, to a total of 30 acts. Budget for the performers is $500,000.
Walker said that Festival Express 1970 is not associated with Peace Festival 70, although there is a similarity in the logos.
They expect to sell 50,000 seats in each city.

(by Melinda McCracken, from the Toronto Globe & Mail, May 1 1970)

(The Montreal show was later canceled - see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Festival_Express )

* * *


All was quiet at the Canadian National Exhibition grounds this morning as the travelling Festival Express rock concert drew to an end and weary young people prepared to camp on the grass.
On Saturday the Festival Express got off to a rough start when about 2,500 young people protesting against admission prices of $14 and $15 attempted to crash the gates at the grandstand and clashed with police.
Ten policemen were injured, one of them suffering a broken nose when hit by a brick, while others were treated for bruises, suspected concussion and cuts. Police arrested 18 people Saturday on charges including assaulting police, causing a disturbance, mischief, common assault, carrying an offensive weapon, and theft. Yesterday nine more were arrested on charges of causing a disturbance, having liquor in a public place, and possession of marijuana.
Early this morning [Monday, June 29] two concerts were still in progress, one at the grandstand and the other - free - at nearby Coronation Park.
Many of Saturday's gate-crashers - inspired by the left-wing May 4 Movement - were successful in their attempt to "liberate our music" and got inside the gates despite the phalanx of Metro policemen on foot, a mounted detail and motorcycle officers.
But it was a free rock concert in nearby Coronation Park - arranged with the help of entertainers from Festival Express - that finally cooled the boisterous crowd outside the stadium. Police said that had it not been for the free concert, the situation would have been much worse.
Those who attempted to crash the gates and open the concert to everyone viewed it as a political issue. They felt $14 and $16 for the two-day festival was too expensive and accused promoters of the show of being "hip capitalists out to rip off the highest possible profits from our culture."
Police also felt the gate-crashing was politically fomented. Deputy Police Chief Jack Ackroyd said: "It's too darned bad that thousands of kids have their fun threatened because 2,500 allowed themselves to get steamed up over a political issue."
When the disturbances at the gates died and the poor man's concert at Coronation Park started, the stadium settled down to a peaceful rock scene with a crowd of about 12,000 sprawled on the football field and scattered through the stands absorbing the pulsating music, among other things. Organizers estimated about 40,000 attended during the two days of the festival.
Police turned a blind eye to sweet-scented smoke - much the way they treat the hip flask at football games. Trailer, a volunteer organization that helps people freaked out on bad drug trips, reported about 650 bad trips.
At one point the crowd was cautioned over the loudspeaker system not to take the white acid (LSD) that was going around because it was a bad lot. A doctor at Trailer said some of the patients showed minor symptoms of strychnine poisoning, but it could not be confirmed whether it was strychnine or over-reaction to LSD.
Along the Trailer was a first-aid station set up in a dressing room under the grandstand. Several persons were treated for minor injuries by the volunteers. A spokesman for the St. John Ambulance said that the organization treated about 60 persons, with two of the injuries being suspected fractures. A police spokesman said two persons were believed to have been stepped on by police horses.
Trouble broke out at about 11:30 when the gatecrashers first attempted to get into the concert. About 100 were successful in getting in Gate 3 before police sealed off the entrance. Police then shut all gates on the north side of the stadium and concentrated on keeping the crashers off fences and buildings.
Despite police cordons, several youths managed to get into the stadium, one way or another. Police said many of the crashers threw pepper in the faces of pursuing police, temporarily blinding the officers.
Many of the youths suffered cuts to their hands from barbed wire along the top of the fences. There were other reports of persons trampled unconscious in rushes at the gates, but police were unable to confirm these reports.
Police seized a unloaded revolver, a 5-inch knife, and an 18-inch tire iron on Saturday. Yesterday they seized a length of motorcycle chain.
Using both horses and motorcycles, the police attempted to divide and disperse the crowds outside of the stadium. Would-be gate crashers were forced off fences by mounted police using riding crops. The young people retaliated by attempting to scare the horses with firecrackers and missiles.
The crashers shouted: "All we are saying is give peace a chance. Make it free - rip it off. Save the trouble, let us in." In literature that was distributed, they received directions on how to get in without being "busted" and Eaton-Walker Associates, promoters of the show, were accused of making a profit of more than 30 per cent.
David Walker, an official in the company, estimated that only about 350 broke into the stadium. But those who had crashed the gates boasted that they numbered more than 2,000.
The promoters arranged for the free concert, which acted as a safety valve for the Festival show, and top-billed performers - including Ian and Sylvia and the Great Speckled Bird, The Grateful Dead, and James and the Good Brothers - played at Coronation Park. Other groups from Toronto - including January, The People's Revolutionary Concert Band, Si Potma and P.M. Howard - also agreed to play at the free concert.
Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead and Metro Police Inspector Walter Magahay were instrumental in getting the free concert set up. Before the Coronation Park concert was organized, Magahay attempted to get the promoters to lower the price.
"Your problems are my problems," he said over a police loudspeaker. "I will speak to these people (the organizers)...whether they decide to go along with it, that is their prerogative. My position is completely neutral."
Insp. Magahay later announced that while he could not get prices lowered, a free concert had been arranged. As word of the free concert spread, the crowds began to disperse, many of the people heading off in the direction of the park.
Mark Whalen, who works with Festival Express, explained Coronation Park as "a free concert, man, that's all." He said the promoters had given "some help" but the performers donated their time and in many cases their equipment.
The park concert went on until 4 a.m. yesterday. Many spent the night in the park, curled up in sleeping bags, on the grass, or rolled in blankets.
Many who spent the night at Coronation Park had left the stadium when the police cleared it out after the last set of the Festival at about 12:30 a.m.

(from the Toronto Globe & Mail, June 29 1970)

There are also a few accompanying pictures, one of dancer "Sherry Faith Slonim, 18, enraptured by the music and sunshine;" one captioned: "From the roller-coaster tracks, one can see the inside of the CNE stadium. Here, police constable shoos non-paying youths along the track and down;" and one captioned: "Surveying the debris, two policemen stroll across the empty field early Sunday morning, while the free festival aross the street rocks on."

There is also a short accompanying article, excerpted here:


Tucked away in the dressing rooms under the CNE grandstand, the drug emergency clinic did brisk business during the weekend as the Festival Express crowds listened to music in the stadium above.
At first, things were quiet.
The clinic team was put together by the Queen Street Mental Health Centre and included doctors, nurses, and psychiatrists from across the city backed by volunteer workers from Trailer and other organizations.
Their speciality is "head problems" - bad trips and drug crises of all kinds - but when the crowd led by the May 4 Movement rushed the stadium on Saturday morning, the first flow of customers brought unexpected problems - ankles swollen from police horse kicks, bruised arms and shoulders and hands cut by barbed wire on the stadium walls.
The team treated the injuries and before long a worker was able to say, with relief, "OK, we're back in the head business."
They were indeed. Between midday Saturday and dawn Sunday, the clinic handled about 650 people with drug problems, mostly bad trips, mostly LSD. About 30 people ended in one of the city's hospitals, but the rest were cared for on the spot - tranquillized, "talked down" from their high anxiety levels and helped to rest and sleep it off.
The figures are not precise but they are fairly accurate. Medical records were kept but by dawn yesterday everyone was too tired to count the record cards. That could come later.
A drug crisis centre in rush hour is a busy place.
In medical jargon it is called "an unstructured setting" but that only means it looks chaotic, not that it is.
When you watch for a while, a pattern becomes clear and you see that there is a flow, much like an assembly line, and that it is very professionally organized. And at times it can be very noisy.
A bad trip is basically stress and anguish and a lot of kids shout and scream and weep and moan.
Some have to be held down for the tranquilizing Valium to be administered. One man Saturday needed 11 volunteers to hold him still.
But mostly it is quiet and the kids file in, apprehensive, and lost.
Names are taken, oral Valium handed out and recorded, and a hand-holder is assigned to help the user through his crisis. Peace. Next please...
...[There were] four doctors, each from a different hospital, 10 senior nurses (three who know the ropes and seven who are learning them, very fast) and the volunteers.
All in all, a long, exhausting but fairly straightforward weekend. No serious problems - nothing that couldn't be handled, and a lot of kids who are glad there are such professional people in the head business these days.

(by Norman Hartley)

* * *


The wind on the lake had died down, and the big, soft, blue searchlights had come up. The sweet, acrid smell of cannabis hung over the 25,000 blanket-wrapped flower children in CNE Stadium just as the moon was going down on Festival Express '70 early this morning.
Janis Joplin gazed out over the crowd and kind of summed the whole thing up.
"Man," she croaked, "I never expected this of Toronto. You're really looking beautiful, man."
And indeed they were. Soaring firecracker stars split the darkness and sparklers twirled like pinwheels over the sea of 37,000 wall-to-wall bodies that had gathered over the two days to hear $1,000,000 and 24 hours of the biggest pop talent package ever to hit Toronto.
When it was all over 240 policemen had made 29 arrests and were left with nothing to do but watch the crowds file silently out into the morning.


It was a happy ending for a pop festival that had started nearly 36 hours earlier on a note of violence as 2,000 youths led by the leftist May 4th Movement stormed the gates trying to get in free.
They threw rocks, garbage cans and pepper at more than 160 policemen, injuring nine and provoking police to a series of mounted and billy-swinging counter-attacks.
Crowds of them hurtled hoardings and barbed wire fences chased by police and opened two gates from inside, letting in a rush of gate-crashers. Police estimated 350 crashers on Saturday, but the crashers themselves set their number at 2,000.
Once inside, they set up a chant to let the others in free. It was joined by 18,489 who had paid to get in, and gentle, bearded folksinger Eric Anderson had to cut his set in the middle with a shrug of apology that it wasn't his fault.


Jerry Garcia, the guitarist of San Francisco's Grateful Dead, came onstage asking the youngsters to cool it.
Then Police Inspector Walter Magahay talked the promoters into staging a free 24-hour "rehearsal" at Coronation Park on the lakefront opposite the CNE where bands could donate their time to play for the would-be crashers who didn't have the $10-a-day, $16-a-weekend price of admission.
More than 6,000 swarmed to the park by 7 p.m. when the equipment was set up and Ian and Sylvia, James and the Good Brothers, and the Grateful Dead started the rehearsal off.
Another 6,000 swarmed over after Saturday night's official concert end and camped out on the grass listening to the jamming that went on under the stars until 4 a.m.
"It saved the day," said Constable John Sagar, one of Metro's new "mod squad" community relations officers in charge of Coronation Park, who wore a yellow T-shirt with a peace symbol on it. "It took one heck of a lot of pressure off."
Despite a police force beefed up by 80 men, by Sunday the festival was a study of warm calm and the red-and-white Canadian flag with the peace symbol in the centre that had wafted over the crowd like an ensign seemed suddenly to the point.
John Scott Foley, 22, of Buffalo had been charged the previous day with indecent exposure after abruptly proclaiming in mid-crowd, "The body is beautiful," and then stripping. Now he was back, this time frugging frantically for anyone who would watch, with his pants on.
Drug deals were made in the open and kids were blatantly asking strangers for LSD. But police made not a single drug arrest.
Inspector Magahay won the respect of many fans by remaining calm even during the gate-crashing, when he told them: "Things are getting a little rough. We don't want this kind of aggravation, and neither do you."
There was some applause along with jeers of "oink, oink," clenched-fist salutes, and a rain of stones, bottles and cans.
Later Magahay said he had simply used "good old common-sense."
"I'm strict, but I'm fair as well," he said. "I can really lay it down if I have to."
Dave Ruskin, 19, a Detroit student, said: "When I saw the cops being hit and blinded by pepper, I just felt sick.
"This was one time I was on the cops' side. They went out of their way to help the festival."
The Trailer bad-trip depot set up in a basement locker room under Stairway 16 reported Sunday a "light day" compared to Saturday's 650 drug casualties.
Brian "Blues" Chapman of Trailer estimated 400 bad trippers and cases of sunstroke were treated, most of them talked out of their nightmare journeys, only two or three sent to the hospital.


Festival promoters vehemently denied early radio reports that the festival had been a financial flop, proclaiming it, before final attendance figures were in, "a financial and operational success."
The two-day gross was estimated at just under $500,000 - total cost of the 21 groups who were signed to play here, in Winnipeg July 1, and Calgary July 4-5, where the festival proceeded by train after the show early this morning.
About half of the festival's total population were estimated to have come from out of town, from as far away as Montreal, Vancouver and Florida.

(from the Toronto Daily Star, June 29 1970)

* * *


Up until 11:29 p.m. Sunday, Festival Express '70 wasn't worth the $16 admission the promoters were charging to get into CNE Stadium.
And then in one brief hour everything changed. It was worth that much and more to see and hear Janis Joplin, long-haired, swivel-hipped Janis Joplin sing with the insistence and power of a pile-driver and generate enough personal electricity to light up a stadium all by herself.
She came on stage last night at the end of a long hot day, in front of a crowd that was weary from listening to good bands for more than 11 hours, and with one song she turned on all of the 24,000 people in the park, and maybe a few sails out in Lake Ontario as well.
She's really that good.
There's nothing subtle about her. She's a shouter and a stomper, and she sings loud, heavy, powerful rock and roll, backed by a strong band - four-fifths Canadian - that knows how to drive and ride right along with her.
On the up-tempo tunes like In the Midnight Hour or Try A Little Harder she was all furious activity and power; on the gutsy down-and-dirty blues like Get It While You Can that are her trademark she was pure, painful sex.
Either way she was a natural force, as impossible to ignore as a hurricane.
Apart from Janis Joplin, the two-day pop extravaganza wasn't a failure, but it wasn't a $16 show either.
Until the New Riders of the Purple Sage appeared at 9:00 p.m. the day had been deadly.
Pop festivals never seem to get off the ground until sundown anyway, and the bands working in the first six hours Saturday were wasted.
Robert Charlesbois, the Montreal rock-chasonier who performed so successfully here at the rock festival last summer, gave a good performance that was largely unappreciated, and folksingers Ian and Sylvia, feeling their way into a new idiom with The Great Speckled Bird, must have felt they were playing incidental music to a mass picnic.
Another Toronto band, James and the Good Brothers, filled in briefly after Delaney and Bonnie and Friends cancelled their scheduled appearance because of an unexplained "accident" and "plane hassles," but the crowd was left to wander unoccupied for almost two full hours.
The New Riders injected the first signs of life when they started with their country-style almost hoe-down music. The crowd started dancing when they played Honky Tonk Woman, and stayed on their feet through Working Man Blues, I Don't Know You, and Brown-Eyed Handsome Man.
Jerry Garcia just stayed on stage when the rest of the New Riders left, and took over with The Grateful Dead.
They gave a great foot-stomping, pounding, hour-long set, the audience with them all the way, dancing and singing with the first hint of joy and happiness in the whole long hot day.
When they left the stand, all sweaty and tired, they had earned every nickel of the $10,000 the festival promoters paid them.
The Band, normally one of the best groups that can be booked anywhere, anytime, seemed anti-climactic after The Grateful Dead, perhaps because of the length of the day - 12 hours is a lot of pop for the most devoted fan - and perhaps because they play much the same kind of music: heavy, dense, complex rock.
They were good, the way any group of professionals with their years of hard experience on the round of one-night stands and honky-tonk bars is good, but they didn't give the kind of inspired performance that earned them their top name.
Sunday was a vast improvement. Mashmakhan from Montreal started the afternoon right and the crowd reacted well to their subtle but driving sound, and Tom Rush kept it together with a couple of gentle ballads that were more hymns than pop songs.
Delaney and Bonnie had them literally dancing in the streets when they made their belated appearance, particularly with a song called Where There's A Will, and the Little Richard medley they did as an encore.

(by Bill Dampier, from the Toronto Daily Star, June 29 1970)

Another brief story in the 6/29/70 Daily Star also summarizes the festival, mostly repeating the other articles:
"Metro police cool off rock festival gate-crashers"
A sympathetic policeman and the Metro Police Mod Squad cooled a confrontation at CNE Stadium when more than 2,000 youths protesting admission prices tried to storm the gates of a two-day rock festival Saturday...
...But Inspector Walter Magahay and Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead arranged for a free concert in nearby Coronation Park and [the] crowd filed off quietly.
The Mod Squad, a group of police detailed to work sympathetically with youth, and other officers were praised by young visitors from the United States for their cool-headed handling of the situation...
...[Promoter] Ken Walker, 26, admitted later he had considered calling off the show when the violence began.
"If the rioting had gotten worse," he said, "I would have stopped the whole show and got on my train and proceeded to Calgary and Winnipeg," where the festival will play next...

(The headline in this issue: "U.S. troops pull out early, Cambodia shaky and uncertain."
The story goes, "All U.S. troops were out of Cambodia today... They left behind a shaky Cambodian government which has watched the Communists take control of the entire northeastern sector of the country in the past few days... Today Nixon was working on the final details of a 'victory' statement he planned to deliver...")

Thanks to Pairdoc for the articles.