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On August 29, Man-Pop Festival - Winnipeg 1970, one of Winnipeg's first outdoor rock festivals, took place at the Winnipeg Stadium. Man-Pop was part of the youth festivities for the Manitoba Centennial celebrations. Concerts had been held across province all summer long and Man-Pop was the grand finale. The Centennial Corporation budgeted $230,000 for the event, expecting to make back $100,000 of that through ticket sales.
In July 1970 the lineup was announced. The show would be held at the Winnipeg Stadium, headlined by Led Zeppelin. Their fee was $50,000. It also included a mix of local, national and international acts: Iron Butterfly; The Youngbloods; Chilliwack; The Ides Of March; Diane Heatherington and the Merry-Go-Round (not the Dianne Heatherington); The Mongrels; Next; Justin Tyme (I see what you did there, Justin); Chopping Block(really?); Sugar & Spice (urgh); Hay Market Riot (err...if you say so) and Euphoria (hostage to fortune with a name like that).
The Centennial Corporation extensively promoted the show in advance, perhaps worried about the dismal ticket sales of the earlier Festival Express, which sold about 4,500 of 35,000 tickets. The expenditure of taxpayer dollars on a rock festival drew the ire of some who thought it was a bit rum to fund hairy freaks to get stoned and have wild sex while some purveyors of groovy riffs got their buzz on.
Fifteen thousand people showed up at noon for the start of the eleven-hour concert, but later in the afternoon disaster struck in the form of a heavy downpour that lasted for over an hour. The field became a muddy pit, the concert's power source was damaged and a number of bands, including Zeppelin, had some or all of their equipment destroyed.
Knowing that the festival was a one-off and could never be re-booked, Maitland Steinkpopf, chairman of the Centennial Corporation, and his team had an idea: Instead of calling off the open-air concert, move it to the neighbouring Winnipeg Arena.
Organizers scrambled to find replacement equipment for the bands and chairs for the arena floor. Dozens of Winnipeg Transit buses were booked to run concert-goers home in the wee hours of Sunday morning.
Concert-goers were sent to the Arena, but not everyone got a seat as the fire department locked the doors when the capacity reached 14,000 and threatened to cancel the show if any more people were allowed in. Some angry fans broke three of the Arena's windows, but there was little other violence. The Centennial Corporation offered refunds for the couple of thousand people left in the rain.
In what was an organizational triumph, just three hours after the stadium concert ended, the arena concert began.
Some bands took it in stride, making do with borrowed equipment and putting on a great show. The headliners, however, were not as enthusiastic. Mention was made in the media that performer Diane Heatherington had to coax Led Zeppelin to stick around and play their set. It worked, and Led Zeppelin, with some equipment borrowed form The Guess Who, took to the stage around 2 a.m. and the concert got out shortly after 3 a.m. Sunday morning. Bruce Rathbone who was managing a local band has some further insight into what happened that day.
"The band was already partying, the whole sound system thing concerned them and we had no lights except for the follow spots. Maitland had arranged for Government of Manitoba cheques for the balances due. They had all received a 50 per cent deposit. However, Peter Grant, Zeppelin's manager, was now demanding U.S. cash instead of a cheque or they would not perform."
There was also the matter of the naked man in the hallway outside one of their hotel rooms. He was knocking on one of their doors begging for his clothes back. Nobody cared. Too much going on.
It was now around 8 p.m. The arena was bursting at the seams. It was hot and humid from all the wet clothing. You could actually see the steam coming off the crowd. It took a long time to get patched in and ready but the Youngbloods were going to be the first to try the system. They were about to take the stage, but at the last minute decided they too wanted to get paid before they went on, in U.S. cash. They were finally convinced to start and that payment was coming. They went on to thunderous applause.
At the hotel the other major acts were now also concerned that if they didn't get to play they wouldn't get paid or the cheques would bounce when they got back home. They were all demanding U.S. cash and Frank was frantic.
Just after that Maitland went to the hotel to talk to Peter Grant. The very heavy-set manager was getting a bit drunk. As Jerry recalled it, Maitland plunked $25,000 US cash in mixed bills on the table in big stacks. Jerry didn't know where he got it, on a Saturday night in Winnipeg in 1970, but there it was.
Grant said, in a slurred thick British accent, Mr. Steinkopf, you are a gentleman. We are ready to give the best goddam show we've ever played. We will play anytime you're ready for us and as long as you'll have us! And that was that.
The only problem was, it was so late by the time the band took the stage, they were all hammered.
Meanwhile back at the arena the Youngbloods, who at first wouldn't take the stage without being paid, now wouldn't stop playing until they got their money. They went on and on but Youngbloods fans, oblivious to what was really going on, thought it was great. It was quite some time before their road manager was satisfied but he finally gave the signal and they left the stage.
Next up, the Ides Of March, who from all accounts performed beyond expectations and were very well received. George Belanger of Harlequin fame noted, They weren't really a favorite band of mine but I thought they stole the show musically; them and Iron Butterfly.
It was after 11 p.m. when Iron Butterfly got on stage. According to Dennis Lind They easily had the largest stage set-up. The drummer was so loud he was behind Plexiglas, un-miked, and was still loud!! They were smokin' right from the start with David El Rhino Reinhardt and Mike Pinera, the singer from Blues Image, on guitars. Their version of Easy Rider was phenomenal. Their show was unbelievable. They got standing ovations. They were the best act there.
Then, finally, what everyone was waiting for. With spotlights swirling, Led Zeppelin took the stage to deafening applause. It was obvious they were really enjoying themselves, and they played forever. You could tell they were all loaded, but who wasn't? I remember Jimmy Page's guitar solos being incredible. After many standing ovations they finally closed the show and left the stage. It was 3 a.m.
By most accounts the concert was a success, despite the change in venue and the heat and humidity inside the arena. Most concert goers and bands realized that it was a case of make the best of the situation or miss out. Police noted that the atmosphere was generally friendly with just 21 arrests, mostly for drug violations amongst minors. The only damage reported were those three Arena windows and the muddy, littered mess at the hastily vacated Winnipeg Stadium, which did get cleaned up in time for a game the following week. Phew. So that's alright then.