The Grateful Dead and the best concert ever

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      Next spring marks the 50th anniversary of both the Georgia Straight and the landmark Human Be-In at Stanley Park. Leading up to that, the Straight will be publishing short articles and local concert-poster art to detail the events and spirit of the late 1960s in Vancouver and the flowering of the psychedelic age.

      Memories. The poster you see above is most probably the most famous of all the Afterthought Dance Hall posters, yet it is really a commemorative poster.

      It came about because famed Vancouver poster artist Bob Masse visited our house looking for the original poster (which we still have not been able to locate). My wife, Julie, had a good idea of what it had looked like and told Bob what she remembered. Bob created this poster from what Julie had described. Still not the original, but no one seems to care; that's cool.

      It would be this poster that would forever change my life. Much later, Grace Gorman, the daughter of Don Gorman (the publisher of Rocky Mountain Books), would purchase a copy of this poster and give it to her dad as a gift. The poster got Don interested in its history, which lead to a meeting and the birth of my Afterthought book (see blurb at bottom).

      I find it strange how things work out. I have a copy of this poster signed by Bill Kreutzmann, the original drummer for the Grateful Dead. I love this poster, even if it is not the original.

      Meanwhile, back with Owsley...

      Now, to continue from my last 50th-anniversary post: I have been asked if I was writing about the Owsley "Bear" Stanley, and indeed I was. It seems that Owsley became somewhat famous as an LSD manufacturer. Who knew? At the time, all I wanted to do was put on a Grateful Dead dance and light show.

      We started the afternoon of August 5 (the date of the Dead's Afterthought concert at the Pender Auditorium) by setting up the sound rig. I had never seem so much equipment before! It just kept coming and coming. This stuff was different from any band gear I had ever seen. It was custom developed by Owsley, who was the Dead’s audio designer and financier as well as their manager.

      Owsley was very particular about everything being just right. After several sound checks, all was ready for what I believe was the best concert I have ever seen. This was a show like no other. There were 1,000-plus patrons and the hall was hopping even before the bands started. The United Empire Loyalists opened. I could tell how much Garcia had already influenced UEL lead guitarist Tom Kolstee in his week of mentoring. Garcia’s playing style would influence Tom for the rest of his career.

      Then the Dead mounted the stage, and shortly after they started playing, the entire room started to move to the music like waves on the ocean. Owsley was walking throughout the room, dispensing acid to anyone who opened their mouth. This, of course, resulted in a very high-energy crowd.

      The evening ended at midnight with the Dead playing Wilson Pickett's “In the Midnight Hour". The patrons were going wild. The police arrived and said, “Jerry, you know you are supposed to be shut down by midnight!” I told the police to follow me up into the hall. They saw the entire room vibrating en masse, pulsating to both the Dead and the light show. It was truly a sight to behold. The police turned and looked at me and said: “All right, shut it down when the band finishes their set.”

      The night finished without trouble; absolutely nothing went wrong that evening. But this would be the last time I ever saw the Vancouver police cooperative.

      As I write this, I still find it hard to believe it's been 50 years. So much has happened in my life. Most important is my family: my three grown children and eight grandchildren. It seems strange that 43 years ago my son would be born on Jerry Garcia’s birthday. Now every time my son has his birthday, I think about Garcia and what could have been had he lived.

      Now I am getting ready to attend the Legends Valley Music Festival and Bio Cup Canada Awards in Lake Cowichan, B.C. The times, they are a changing.

      Concert promoter and entrepreneur Jerry Kruz is the author of The Afterthought: West Coast Rock Posters and Recollections From the ’60s (Rocky Mountain Books, 2014).