SWINGING TRAIN RUMBLES TO TOWN
The Festival Express rumbled into town early today and Calgary - which has been anxiously awaiting the arrival with emotions ranging from joy to apprehension - hardly noticed.
The welcoming party at the CN station was confined to a horde of taxis and half a dozen youngsters on bicycles asking for autographs.
But it was just as well that nobody knew where and when the special charted 14-car train was arriving, because none of the 140 people - including more than 50 performers - felt like facing a throng of fans.
The official schedule will tell you that the group - which includes some of the currently most popular rock music acts in North America - is performing at three concerts across the country.
But the people on the train disagree.
Between bites of ham and eggs and while piling into taxis, they told The Herald that the festival has been a week-long party - with all the things that make a good party.
"It's the best -- party I've ever been to," howled Janis Joplin over her breakfast. And it was obvious that for her - with hair flying in all directions and her raucous, grating voice - the party was still on.
The specially equipped train included two cars, fully equipped with amplifiers and musical instruments.
Among the performers is the French-Canadian hard-rock singer Charlebois, regarded by many as the radical, separatist voice of young Quebec.
And there were the elder statesmen of Canadian folk music, Ian and Sylvia. "That's an unfortunate description," Ian said as he boarded a taxi. "But we are glad to be here and it was really a wonderful trip - what I can remember of it."
"We're all like one big team," said James Good, of James and the Good Brothers. "At Winnipeg we were cheering each other on. It's like we were all going out to face the world together."
(by John Gibbs, from the Calgary Herald, 3 July 1970)
* * *
'MOVEMENT' CRITICIZES FESTIVAL
The cross-Canada rock music festival - featuring 22 acts - rolled into Calgary early today aboard a 12-car charted CN train amid charges that the festival represents a "cultural rip-off" of the young.
Two young men, claiming to represent an organization called the May Fourth Movement, demanded Thursday that ticket money be refunded and the festival opened to all free of charge.
They called a press conference at the University of Calgary student union building and charged the festival - jointly produced by Eaton-Walker Associates and Maclean-Hunter Ltd. - with "capitalizing on youth."
"They (the promoters) have taken our culture and are packaging it and selling it back to us. The young people in town will decide what to do about it just as they did in Toronto and Winnipeg," said 20-year-old spokesman Jim Rudy.
Promoters of the festival are still optimistic, however, that they'll have a quiet, peaceful and "successful" festival here despite slow ticket sales to date and the low attendance in both Toronto and Winnipeg, where only 4,300 paid to see the concert.
(from the Calgary Herald, 3 July 1970)
* * *
ROCK FESTIVAL RUNS INTO YOUTH OPPOSITION IN CALGARY
CALGARY (CP) - A group called the May Fourth Movement called a news conference at the University of Calgary, Thursday to knock a rock festival scheduled for McMahon Stadium today and Sunday.
"We demand that the entire weekend be free to everyone and that the ticket money be refunded," said Jim Rudy, a spokesman for the group.
"This rock festival is a cultural rip off. It is putting our culture in a package and selling it back to us at a profit."
Mr. Rudy said the news conference was called because the May Fourth Movement is upset that "basically, the people putting on the show - Eaton-Walker Associated Ltd. of Toronto and Maclean-Hunter Publications - have a long history of oppression."
"Maclean-Hunter forms part of the ruling class of Canada whose only concern is to make larger profits, not what happens to people.
"We also object to increased police harassment of young people.
"I've been in this city a long time and have never seen the police cracking down so hard like they have been recently. They are creating paranoia among the kids so that they can't have a good time this weekend."
Asked if his group would attempt to disrupt the festival, Mr. Rudy said:
"The people will decide what to do. We don't speak for everybody. We do have quite a sizable supporting group but it wouldn't be politically expedient to reveal any numbers."
He noted that only 4,000 tickets had been sold for the festival and said this "shows that the kids are becoming conscious of how the capitalistic system operates and are rejecting it all."
"The entire weekend, everything, should be free."
Earlier, local festival promoter Don Lloyd announced that a free rock festival would be held (Friday) on an island in the Bow River.
Mr. Lloyd said the free festival will feature local bands and is "something for the kids who have nothing happening this weekend."
"We must face the fact that many young people just don't have the money to attend the major rock festival this weekend.
"Rather than be forced into giving a free concert Saturday and facing the same problems as Toronto, we thought the pre-festival show would be a good idea."
Prices for advance ticket sales for the Calgary show are $10 and $12. In Toronto, a number of people were arrested during a demonstration protesting high prices.
Mr. Rudy said the free show is just a means to contain young people until the McMahon Stadium show starts at noon Saturday.
The Calgary show is the third in a province-hopping affair called Festival Express 70. Mr. Lloyd said attendance in Toronto and Winnipeg was far below expectations, with 4,600 paid admissions in Winnipeg.
"I think the promoter is going to lose money, but he's still prepared to go ahead," he said.
About 100 residents of the McMahon Stadium neighborhood and the nearby stadium shopping centre filed protests with the Calgary police commission opposed to the staging of the show, but the commission said Monday it does not have the power to cancel it. [ . . . ]
But Mr. Lloyd said "we're looking forward to a cool, happy festival." He said organizers and police have taken great pains to defuse the possibility of trouble - including hiring 50 potential radicals as aides to work as ushers and attendants inside the stadium.
(from the Brandon Sun (Manitoba), 4 July 1970)
More on the free festival that Friday:
* * *
GATE-CRASHERS GIVEN WARNING
Gate-crashers could shut down this weekend's rock festival, warned Festival Express promoter Ken Walker as the performers straggled off their private train this morning.
"No one is getting in free or I'll close the show," Mr. Walker said.
"Performers have to earn a living too - and they don't want to do anything for free. If they want to they will - but that's charity."
Anyone seeking free entertainment will find themselves facing an empty stage, he added.
"We'll just pack up and leave the stage equipment there to hum.
"It'll still be a great show - we've got one of the greatest stage sets ever."
Rock music may create opportunities for violence, Mr. Walker said, "but there's no way the two belong together.
"Anyone who comes to break heads or cause trouble has ideas not in keeping with what the train and the performers stand for.
"Stopping the show is the most emphatic way to show this."
If the crowd has to be stopped, it remains a question just how big an audience will be disappointed.
The last ticket-sale figure given was 4,000 - well below the 20,000 to 30,000 predicted.
Local promoter Don Lloyd, however, said today that "Thursday was the best ticket sale day we've had to date." Mr. Lloyd said he did not have a precise figure, just general reports from ticket outlets.
Mayor Rod Sykes, meanwhile, has made public a detailed list of the services that will be available to the young people who are pouring into the city - for the festival or in spite of it.
[list of hostels to sleep at]
The mayor also announced free food will be served at the YMCA and at Prince's Island.
(by Catherine Campbell, from the Calgary Herald, 3 July 1970)
* * *
SON OF WOODSTOCK? SORRY.
An Idea Whose Time Is Past.
Ian Tyson, perspiring over a drink, sums the whole thing up.
"The festival thing is dead." He has to raise his voice over the din of the press reception. "That's last year. This year they're losing their shirts."
(Across the sticky hotel room two members of the Festival Express crew take the cue and strip to the waist - in a bid to cool off.)
"I feel sorry for Kenny Walker (Eaton-Walker Associates) and people like that. They're losing their --'s." The last word is unprintable.
A radio interview shoves his mike in front of Ian Tyson (Canada's Ian and Sylvia, Great Speckled Bird).
Interview number, 9,847 or something like that, as Ian points out later.
After 10 minutes the interviewer confides he's from a "sort of underground" station in Edmonton and wonders "if there's anything you'd like to add?"
"Hell, if I'd known that I'd have used my special vocabulary."
Instead Ian rolls his eyes and tells the tape recorder, "I haven't played Edmonton in a long time, but I'm looking forward to playing it again. Maybe," he beams, "this summer."
The radio man shuts down and moves off.
Ian mutters another unprintable, turns back to his drink, and starts to gossip about the Toronto scene.
"Lightfoot doesn't do anything for nothing, don't worry. He's a real business man."
But there's too much attention to gossip for long. Ian Tyson is one of the few of the Festival Express celebrities to show up for the special press reception Friday, marking the arrival of the 22 acts in Calgary. Most of the people in the crowded room are members of the media dressed in sandals and, if they've managed to find them, battered jeans.
"Look at the dudes," French-Canadian singer Charlebois sneers at the press representatives.
He leans back, regal in the red and white striped trousers and white cowboy hat and black and red and white cowboy boots.
"Bought them today," he replies to a question from a curious reporter who happens to speak a little French.
What about the hat? Someone present that to you?
Charlebois is indignant. "I bought this." He taps the brim. "This is quality; it's going to last."
The reporter, changing the subject, asks how things are in Montreal.
"Ahhh," Charlebois beams. "Montreal." It comes out More-ee-all. "It's a real good scene. Lots of Negroes and draft-dodgers and big bands. Lots of fun."
The new outfit, he confides, is something he'll save for somewhere besides Calgary. "Maybe back in Montreal.
"Here I'll wear my Canadiens hockey sweater. It would be better for them here, no?"
A with it bandsman wanders by sipping a milkshake. Another illusion shattered.
James of James and the Good Brothers explains that his group spent the day on a trip to Banff.
"We went to the top of Mount Norquay this afternoon. Fantastic.
"But the cops stopped us on the way - searching for dope.
"So while they were looking we just got out our instruments and played them a few tunes." He grins.
"While they were going through our stuff, they were sort of tapping their feet."
Someone is trying to persuade Charlebois to go to a party.
Charlebois looks up in astonished innocence. "Here in Winnipeg?"
The man gives up after a few minutes.
Someone connected vaguely with the management of The Band (The Band didn't show up at the press reception) is commenting vaguely that Festival Express is "no Woodstock."
Woodstock, the festival in New York state that drew 400,000 last year, has become a by-word; a legend among festival legends.
"But don't worry," he adds cynically. "Just wait two weeks and this will be turned into another Woodstock."
A photographer, hired by the promoters to record the tour, flashes a picture.
"Anyway," the Band man adds with a shrug, "in Winnipeg when we only had a couple of thousand kids, it really happened." He laughs.
"You'd get high just being downwind of the stage."
A Calgary newsman strides in wearing white pants and white shoes and an electric-blue velvet shirt.
Even the other media people wince.
(by Jacques Hamilton & Catherine Campbell, from the Calgary Herald, 4 July 1970)
Two other article fragments from the July 4 Calgary Herald:
Friday. The Festival Express grooved along railroad tracks into
Calgary, heading for a weekend performance promising to outdo recent
shows in Toronto and Winnipeg.
Friday night. A press reception by
the twenty-two musical groups turned into "something a little [?]."
This [pre-taste] indicated the entertainment will include something
"appropriate" to every audience, Saturday morning. Total attendance
figures in Calgary not yet tallied, but no matter.
were undaunted by small audiences in Toronto and Winnipeg. Even
disappointing turn-outs can be turned on. "We're a team," said one
musician. "We turn audiences into a sort of with-it standing ovation."
The bellboys were hustling trays loaded with tomato juice (hangover remedy) through the halls of the hotel Friday morning... As the temperature rose, so did the number of tomato juice trays.
Festival Express '70 had hit town earlier in the morning; now the hotel was crammed with distracted-looking musicians, promotions men, bodyguards, fans - all tired.
Some were less tired-looking than others, depending on their experience with the routine of touring. Mashmakhan - new, Canadian, on the verge of making it - looked like they were still revelling in the experience.
"It's fantastic, man, it really is. This train has been really incredible, really incredible."
Speaking is Jerry Mercer, drummer [of Mashmakhan]...
* * *
EVERYONE BECAME INVOLVED AS ROCK FESTIVAL GROOVED
You don't just attend a rock festival, you either groove with a total sensory involvement or it doesn't work.
Festival Express, 1970, worked.
The music, all 23 hours of it, ranged from the mediocre to the fantastic, but hearing is only one of the senses. Mind you, it was the sense carrying the heaviest burden with tiers of amplifiers sending out solid layers of sound which could crash and crush your mind.
On stage, the strutting, leering musicians from Sha Na Na, the hair and feathers and abandoned motion of Janis Joplin combined to give your eyes a sense of perpetual movement. On stage or off, your sense of sight was wild with the confusion of not knowing where to look next.
As for the music, I don't think anyone was disappointed.
Janis Joplin was obviously the queen. She topped Saturday's bill, coming on in an explosion of sound and sight which set off a chain reaction in a turned-on crowd that wouldn't let her go. She sings bluesy rock in an almost unhuman voice, low, earthy tones alternating with high, piercing notes which sounded like someone had keyed a chorus of sirens to an organ console. She never lost control either of her voice or her audience.
Janis was one kind of experience, Sha Na Na another. Sha Na Na does a parody of 1950s rock and roll, basing this caricature of what rock was on a sound knowledge of how rock and roll should be played. That this sneering, greasy-haired bunch succeed is shown by the fact that while you laugh, you also tap your feet.
When Sha Na Na sing Rock And Roll Is Here To Stay, they may not be far wrong. Most of the groups threw in a rock and roll number, and the audience lapped it up and called for more.
As well as a trend toward reviving basic rock and roll, the recent rush for Nashville was also in evidence. At times it was hard to tell whether the festival was devoted to rock or to country and Western music.
The Grateful Dead did the Nashville bit along with some heavy, free-form rock which had the ground trembling. Some of their stuff was so wild and so loud it left people near the speakers a little light-headed.
One of the best groups was Mashmakhan, a Canadian assembly which has a lyrical, contemporary sound that blurs the line between pop and jazz. Sunday, they were at the top of their form.
The Band, also Canadian, was very much in evidence. The Band's set closed the show on Sunday and the crowd, I think, would have gladly kept them on until daybreak. They did very well, as did Delaney and Bonnie and Friends, a heavy group from the U.S.
The best local group was the Gainsborough Gallery, a hard-driving, talented bunch of musicians who hold their own in a top-flight international line-up.
Tom Rush and James and the Good Brothers turned in the best vocal performances. Both have acts which I would gladly watch any time and any place.
So much of the music was good and everybody joined in experiencing it. If some of it was bad, it didn't really matter. It was a two-day high in a different world, a remarkably good world.
That's what mattered.
(by Bill Musselwhite, from the Calgary Herald, 6 July 1970)
* * *
FESTIVAL EXPRESS LEAVES SIGN - VICTORY 'V'
Festival Express has left its mark on Calgary: a peace symbol and a victory "V" for both crowd and police behavior.
Except for the weather, everything was cool in McMahon Stadium Saturday and Sunday as thousands of young people revelled in sunshine, music, and various refreshments.
The only storms occurred outside the stadium: two near-futile attempts at gate-crashing and one violent thunder, dust and rain storm which began just as the first band took the stage Saturday.
"It's a sign," muttered a disgruntled girl, glowering at the swollen purple clouds.
"Stand up and show the sky what you think of it," shouted a voice from the stage.
The plea launched the first demonstration of the group solidarity that grew throughout the weekend.
Apparently encouraged by thousands of threatening gestures aimed at the clouds from the football field, the sun beamed at its scorching best for the rest of the festival.
"It's just like a great big picnic," enthused Dr. Dunbar Rapier, a child psychiatrist.
"People are flying kites, throwing frisbees, and running around.
"I can't understand what all the fuss was about beforehand."
Tents, blankets, sleeping bags, and lounging bodies obscured the ground in front of the stage, but the far end of the stadium remained a playground for the energetic.
Frisbees caught the wind and hung among the gulls who were awaiting the scraps from thousands of lunches and suppers being consumed on the grass below.
Footballs, beachballs, and occasionally people - hurled upwards by groups wielding a parachute in trampoline fashion - spurted spasmodically from the throng.
Toddlers challenged their elders in rolling races down the steep slope at the end of the football field.
Turning up at the festival without a small child in tow - or at least an exotic-looking dog - seemed almost like wasting one of those rare times when everyone is welcome.
Tolerance was the byword.
Accidental victims of errant frisbees, sandwich-thieving dogs, and the inevitable jostling, accepted their fate with good humor.
Line-ups for food, phones, and gate passes were patient.
A lost wallet containing $150 was returned to its owner - intact.
Sharing cigarettes, wine, drugs, and food was spontaneous.
As the first group of performers mounted the huge stage each day a euphoric mood settled in: The audience surprised itself by being content to merely sit and listen for 12 hours, idly observing the more intriguing forms of dress and dance.
Camped in a back corner of the stadium, two almost unrecognizable school buses held court.
The Rabid Dog Bus Line - a pale brown parody of another more prominent bus company, and bearing the warning "Caution, Weird Load" - was parked behind Blue Bus Number Two.
About 25 travellers from the eastern U.S. inhabit the Blue Bus and its two "cabooses" - Volkswagen vans.
"But it fluctuates, man," explained a Blue Bus dweller. "People are quick to adopt the bus."
The bus-riders - including innumerable babies and puppies - are aiming to attend every festival they can, until the nine-year-old vehicle collapses.
They give away balloons, candy, and toys, and earn their keep by doing odd jobs.
One, a tall, solemn-looking man, clad in a white sheet and carrying a cardboard box and long spike, made a noble, if hopeless, attempt at leaving the stadium litter-free.
On the side of the blue bus is painted: "The question is not why - but why not?"
Though suffering in the hottest-possible uniforms, police inside the stadium were credited by most festival-goers with "keeping their cool."
Flinging footballs, chatting to just about anyone, and ignoring drug and alcohol consumption appeared to be a routine - and successful - aspect of their duty.
"This is a really good assignment," said one young policeman. "The kids inside the stadium are great - though outside it's a bit different. The price is the reason - they shouldn't have charged so much.
"About half the guys (on duty in the stadium) don't like the music much. But this is really my kind of sound.
"In fact," he confided, "when I'm through here I'm changing my clothes and heading for Prince's Island."
(by Catherine Campbell, from the Calgary Herald, 6 July 1970)
* * *
The party was on the second floor of the York Hotel in Calgary last weekend.
Janis Joplin, clutching a bottle of tequila under one arm, bounces into the room with beads a-swaying to and fro. She takes a lick of salt, a swig of tequila, and a bite of lemon.
In a colorful language, known to friends and fans, she enters a group conversation at one side of the room.
Tom Rush, a soft-spoken folksinger, sits in a corner sipping a Labatts 50 and chatting with a man with a beard.
In another corner, Ian Tyson, his wife Sylvia, members of the Grateful Dead and The Great Speckled Bird are engaged in a jam session.
Charlebois, wearing a recently-purchased black and red cowboy hat, searches for someone who speaks French. Eric Andersen is talking with an unidentified musician.
Others in the spirited gathering include members of Sha Na Na, Mountain, and James and the Good Brothers (Brian and Bruce).
It was Friday night and the Festival Express was preparing to run out of steam. The entertainers were warming up for their last three nights together.
Chatting with Miss Joplin, Rush, Ian and Sylvia, and other entertainers at the bash, I learn they all dig the Vancouver scene and were disappointed Vancouver as a site for the festival was cancelled.
"I'd love to play Vancouver," said Rush.
Miss Joplin, who was scheduled to appear solo in Vancouver Friday night, said it was unfortunate the show had to be cancelled.
Brian Good said if his group could get a booking in the Vancouver area, they would head west without hesitation.
Many of the entertainers and people who travelled on the 12-car CN Festival Express train, expressed regret that the journey had come to an end.
For the first time, top entertainers in the rock and folk music fields had become a closely-knit package; jamming together, eating and sleeping together, and partying together.
The Friday night party comes to an end well past dawn. Everyone gets a few hours sleep before heading out to McMahon Stadium for 12 continuous hours of music.
The party resumes Saturday night after Miss Joplin brings the on-stage day to an ecstatic close. The guests include the same entertainers who are just as generous with their informal jamming.
At 5:30 a.m. Sunday, the last of the merrymakers hit the sack. Out to McMahon again at noon for another 12 hours of music, sunshine, and whatnot.
Sunday night the party is subdued and thinned out. It comes to life with members of the Sha Na Na picking up their guitars and violins. The hectic weekend quietly comes to an end at 3:30 a.m.
The Festival Express is over but thousands of people in its path will long remember its run from Toronto to Winnipeg and on to Calgary.
Asked Ken Walker, co-promoter of the festival, whether he would do it again but he replied: "I don't know."
There were a mountain of headaches for Walker during the festival but when bags were being packed in Calgary for homeward journeys, entertainers and others agreed he had done "one hell of a job."
Many agreed the idea to gather big name singers and musicians and carry them across Canada on a train was "beautiful" and should be tried again.
If there is a Festival Express Revival, hopefully the Vancouver area will be able to accommodate it somewhere.
(by John Cosway, from the Richmond Review (Richmond, BC), 10 July 1970)
(Picture captions from this article: "McMahon Stadium in Calgary where more than 20,000 young people took in 24 hours of music, sun and fun last weekend. Nudity was briefly visible during a short shower early Saturday morning. Police looked the other way when drinking and pot smoking were done openly." "Mellow sounds come from soft-spoken Tom Rush, performing under sunny skies... Popular Canadians Ian and Sylvia were among the favorites during the festival. They appear with their backup group, The Great Speckled Bird. The dynamic duo, married for six years, have been performing together for 10 years." "Several encores were demanded of Delaney and Bonnie and Friends Sunday night. The super-group was followed by The Band which brought the Toronto-Winnipeg-Calgary festival to a close. Rain threatened in Calgary but never fell.")
(The 7/6/70 Nanaimo Daily News (BC) also reported:
"A few minor disturbances were reported, but an estimated 20,000 young people generally did what they came to do at McMahon Stadium Saturday and Sunday...
Residents and businessmen in the stadium area had expressed fears that the show would lead to trouble.
About 9,000 persons turned out Saturday and 11,000 Sunday. Another 1,000 listened outside the stadium, apparently unable to afford $10 to $16 for a ticket.
Wine and beer were consumed openly, with police looking the other way...
Personnel at medical drug centre set up at the stadium reported fewer casualties than expected, but noted that several youths appeared to be suffering from malnutrition."
* * *
FESTIVAL EXPRESS ARTIST TRIUMPH
NEW YORK - While the actual dollars and cents figures, loss or profit of the recent Festival Express hasn't yet been released, the success of the Festival was immense from the standpoint of the performers.
After being cheated out of the Montreal market, because of St. Jean Baptiste Day, a supposedly holy day, and suffering some losses in Toronto because of a near riot by penniless thousands spurred on by professional agitators, the Festival Express thundered out of Toronto, on time, and displaying the showbiz thing. It was partying all the way with jam sessions keeping the artists and musicians happy until they hit the windy city of Winnipeg. They didn't gather up all the bucks they had hoped for in the 'Peg and moved on to Calgary, where again it was nip and tuck insofar as profits were concerned.
After the last act appeared on the stage in Calgary, Janis Joplin called promoters Ken Walker, Thor and David Eaton, and Dave Williams, on stage. The performers had gotten together a little bread and mounted a mini-train on a plaque with a suitable inscription to the promoters for "putting together one of the best shows they've ever been honoured to participate in." Said Miss Joplin: "If you don't hire us the next time, please invite us." She then made her own personal gift presentation, a case of Tequila, which was broken open on stage and a scene similar to the finale of "Hair" took place.
Considering the money taken at the gates, the monies paid out to the performers, including the no-play Montreal date, the chartering of the train, food etc., it's hardly likely any money was made by the promoters.
Prior to the Toronto date, the Police Chiefs and their Deputies were invited at the promoter's expense, to fly into Toronto to pick up pointers on how to overcome any problems, should there be any, when the Festival appeared in their areas (Winnipeg and Calgary). They also arranged for the hiring (on loan) of John Saji from the newly organized Toronto Police Community Relations Force, to fly ahead and organize "freak-out centres" in the other cities. In view of the expected hundreds of acid trips for the shows, valium for antidotes were arranged which, according to the reports, kept the bad trips to a minimum.
When Terry David Mulligan, flown in special from CKVN Vancouver, to host the last show, brought the curtain down, profit in dollars and cents may not have been evident, but profit in experience and good relations with the odd exception, was exceptional. Noted one observer, "the clash between the rebels of the system chalked up big gains for the establishment who, unbeknownst to most, actually acted as arbitrators between the two warring factions."
(from Cash Box, 25 July 1970)
Thanks to Dave Davis.
http://deadsources.blogspot.com/2013/07/junejuly-1970-festival-express.html (Rolling Stone overview)
http://deadsources.blogspot.com/2013/07/junejuly-1970-festival-express-in-news.html (more Calgary Herald reports)