AU­GUST 24, 1969

Vancouver Sun - - WESTCOAST NEWS - John Mackie, Van­cou­ver Sun

Woodstock is the most fa­mous rock fes­ti­val of 1969, but there were a bunch of other ones, from the At­lanta In­ter­na­tional Pop Fes­ti­val to the Toronto Rock and Roll Re­vival and the Seattle Pop Fes­ti­val. The Seattle fes­ti­val drew 50,000 peo­ple over three days with a lineup that in­cluded Led Zep­pelin, the Doors and the Guess Who. So pro­moter Bert Gart­ner de­cided one might work north of the bor­der, and staged the Van­cou­ver Pop Fes­ti­val at Paradise Val­ley near Squamish on Aug. 22, 23 and 24. On pa­per, it looked promis­ing, with a lineup that in­cluded the Grate­ful Dead, Chicago, Lit­tle Richard, Love, Alice Cooper, The Straw­berry Alarm Clock, Canned Heat, Poco, The Guess Who, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, Taj Ma­hal, The Grass Roots, The Fly­ing Bur­rito Broth­ers, The Ras­cals, The Cham­bers Broth­ers, Merry Weather, Mother­lode, Mer­rilee Rush and Crome Syr­cus. But the Grate­ful Dead never showed up. And nei­ther did the throngs of rock fans Gart­ner had an­tic­i­pated. Van­cou­ver Sun writer Eileen John­son wrote “the mu­sic was ex­cel­lent, the sound sys­tem worked fine, the weather couldn’t have been bet­ter, the light show was a de­light, and there were so few peo­ple at the Van­cou­ver Pop Fes­ti­val no one could have suf­fered from over­crowd­ing.” John­son noted Gart­ner had hoped to at­tract 30,000 peo­ple, but got 15,000, which made the $ 200,000 fes­ti­val a fi­nan­cial dis­as­ter. The event also had a weird vibe, be­cause a ton of bik­ers showed up. “It was like ev­ery out­law mo­tor­cy­cle gang in the Pa­cific North­west came to this thing, and me and my two bud­dies from Sur­rey,” re­calls Dave Ch­es­ney, who at­tended the event. “It was un­be­liev­able. The bizarre part was when Lit­tle Richard came on. All these bik­ers were right up front. I think he came on af­ter Alice Cooper, and Alice Cooper stunned the bik­ers into a state of hys­te­ria. “Then Lit­tle Richard came on and poured gas on the fire by taunt­ing them. “I thought, ‘ We’re all go­ing to die here.’ It was bizarre. You’ve got to re­mem­ber it was 1969, and Lit­tle Richard was minc­ing it up big time, and ques­tion­ing their sex­u­al­ity whilst flaunt­ing his.” Some­how Lit­tle Richard es­caped un­scathed. But the Van­cou­ver Pop Fes­ti­val lost so much money there wasn’t an­other lo­cal event like it for years.


The Fly­ing Bur­rito Broth­ers per­form at the Van­cou­ver Pop Fes­ti­val on Aug. 24, 1969. The fes­ti­val was a fi­nan­cial dis­as­ter for or­ga­niz­ers.

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