Manseau Pop Festival, Canada 1970

Manseau Pop Festival, Canada 1970
Authored By John Nicholson

In the run up to this festival, talk was that it was gonna be the Quebec equivalent of Woodstock. But then there was nothing exceptional in that, pretty much every festival for a year after Woodstock painted itself in that way, understandably enough. Organized by Productions Woods, brothers Filiatrault Lahaie and Claude Lahaie and Ziggy Wiseman it was held between Fri Jul 31, 1970 - Sun Aug 02, 1970 it was an absolute stone cold disaster. 

From the outset, the Ministry of Justice of Quebec assured that the Sûreté du Québec would not intervene on the site of the festival for drug issues. Ok, that was cool. No point in busting kids for a spliff and downing the vibe. However, the authorities reserved the right to do so outside the site, so as long as you used up your stash before splitting, it was still cool.  This decision was strongly criticized by the media and the population of the region, who doubtless feared thousands of kids out of their box roaming around the streets.  However, the ministry went ahead and authorized the consumption of illicit drugs on the festival site.

As the gig approached bad vibes were in the air, some felt the organisers were rip off merchants who were merely exploiting the Woodstock love and peace groove for serious bucks. Well, they wouldn’t have been the first nor the last. It didn’t help these developing trust issues that they were reluctant to release the line-up for the festival. A prevention committee was formed to try and put kids off from attending.

This location is 50km northeast of Montreal and as usual, with the gig approaching, the good folk began to panic about rumours of riots, robberies, and looting. The worry was that an army of freaks and weirdos who, they seemed to assume, lived a lawless life and would come to town and like some sort of swarm of hairy locusts, strip them of everything they owned. Needless to say, this didn’t happen. 

It was estimated that the total number of festival-goers would reach 200,000 to 300,000 people or maybe more, as the locals began to whip themselves up into a frenzy. Obviously, no such thing happened. No more than 20,000 people arrived and of them, less than 7,000 paid admission of $ 15.00. The relatively costly entrance fee had put off many from bothering turning up and the doubts over who would play had made people feel that maybe it was a rip off. They were right. It was. 

The bill announced was a mix of well known acts and local amateurs with Canned Heat, Dr John, Little Richard and Richie Havens the big names scheduled. Trouble was only Dr John played. Whether the others bailed or had never even been booked isn’t clear, I suspect the latter.  

The cops and authorities flooded the place with numbers, even deployed two choppers. Cop cars lined the road into the site and undercover officers were everywhere. What did they think was going to happen? Manseau was never going to be the boiler room of the freak revolution now as it? 

It rained heavily on Friday. The torrents turned the place into a mud bath and disgruntled people stormed the stage  on Saturday when it became clear the named bands were not turning up. At this point, to placate the freaks, it was made a free show. Yeah, well, thanks for nothing, buddy.

OK, people got naked and stoned, regardless. Well, hey, whatchagonnado, baby? Some freaked out on bad acid and some were arrested for assaults and the rape of a minor. Heavy vibes. Others just got wrecked and passed out in the traditional style.

There were only 7 bust for drugs and some people got arrested for the heinous crime of walking down the road naked. Like that’s worth the paperwork of an arrest. Take it easy buddy, it’s only nature.

In short, the Manseau Festival , Quebec's first pop festival, has been a resounding failure. There were questions in parliament and three people tried to sue Woods Productions

From July 31 to the end of August 2 there was 7 accidents and 57 traffic violations, 2 auto thefts and a motorcycle, a hit and run and an assault on an employee. Three complaints of fraud against the organization were filed.

On August 2, 1970, the Premier of Quebec, Robert Bourassa, announced that the Ministry of Justice would conduct a full investigation into the failure of the Manseau pop festival and all the circumstances surrounding the organization of the festival in the aim to determine whether legal proceedings should be taken: "It is normal," said Mr. Bourassa, "that the government decides to investigate this failure and the abuses to which this demonstration gave rise ... In this case, it is obvious that there are some curious things that have happened."

But by then Filiatrault Lahaie, Claude Lahaie and Ziggy Wiseman were long gone. What became of them, history does not record but, they sold $105,000 worth of tickets, seem to have spent little of it on bands or anything else and were offski sharpish before the end. So I assume they lived off that for a while. There are no other records I can find of them getting back into the festival promo trade. 

All in all, it was one of the most shambolic festivals of the era and given some of the disasters that happened, that’s really saying something. 

Scroll To Top