The Afterthought: West Coast Rock Posters and Recollections from the '60s
Rocky Mountain - 2014
Though it was Canada's third city by a long shot, Vancouver in the 1960s had the good fortune to be many thousands of kilometres closer to the epicentre of counterculture than either Toronto or Montreal. A journey to Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco or L.A.'s edgier Sunset Boulevard was really just a drive - albeit a longish one - down the old Highway 101. And those visits were reciprocal, with the early Signe Anderson-fronted Jefferson Airplane making the trip north for two nights in January 1966 at the Kitsilano Theatre and then of course Big Brother and the Holding Company, the Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service showing up that summer for the Trips Festival at the PNE Garden Auditorium.
Jerry Kruz was a 17-year-old high school dropout in 1965 when he started booking bands at various venues around Vancouver under the name The Afterthought. The budding promoter had chutzpah almost from the get-go, marching into City Hall dressed in a suit to get permits for concerts that he was legally unable to attend, and even inviting Jerry Garcia and company to hang around and play at his club after the Trips gig. The Dead, whose B.C. dates would mark the first time they had ever performed outside California, ended up sticking around town the entire week.
Kruz trekked down to northern California in early 1967 to see for himself what was happening in the hippie haven. "I had gone to California and the whole hippie movement was just starting," Kruz told BeatRoute magazine. "Vancouver and San Francisco were in sync with their hippie movements. I went and saw the [Human] Be-In...and became friends with Joe McDonald and Janis Joplin." He returned to B.C. with his head filled with ideas, and soon after hosted his own "spontaneous celebration" at Stanley Park in March 1967. About a thousand aspiring freaks - and bands like Country Joe and the Fish - showed up for an anti-Vietnam rally holding placards that read "Burn pot, not people", leading many to dub the west coast city the "hippie capital of Canada".
The Afterthought may have lasted just a couple of years, eventually giving way to larger-scale ventures like the Retinal Circus over on Davie Street, but it was most definitely the catalyst that introduced Vancouver to the psychedelic rock experience. As its title suggests, The Afterthought: West Coast Rock Posters and Recollections from the '60s is a collection of the many promotional prints that Kruz commissioned from graphic artists like Frank Lewis, Doug Cuthbert, Bruce Dowad and of course Bob Masse. From the first rather crude renderings for a 1965 coffee house to the full-blown drug-referencing psychedelia of the later gigs (something that ultimately led to Kruz's arrest at the hands of the notorious undercover narc, Abe Snidanko, who would later be lampooned by Cheech and Chong as the clueless Sergeant Stadanko), the book chronicles in full colour Vancouver's coming of age from musical backwater to essential stop on the west-coast rock circuit.
The 256-page hardcover is physically quite a spectacle to behold, with (mostly) full-page reproductions of nearly every poster during that tumultuous two-year period. Kruz tells that story, as well as his own, through the accompanying reflections, which it must be said range from the rather mundane minutiae of a concert promoter's labours to the much more insightful biographical details of a life - or at least its teen years - lived to the hilt. The cream of west coast rock royalty are all well represented, from B.C. bands like the Collectors, the Painted Ship and the United Empire Loyalists to full-on Bay Area juggernauts like the Dead, the Jefferson Airplane, Country Joe and the Fish and Steve Miller. Still, for all Kruz's recollections - and that being the sixties, his sometimes drug-induced lack of them - The Afterthought will probably appeal as much to students of graphic design, or even local Vancouver history, as to those of a more musical bent.
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