Thunderbird Peace Festival, British Columbia, Canada 1969

Thunderbird Peace Festival, British Columbia, Canada 1969
Authored By John Nicholson

This festival is one that belongs in the ‘It never happened’ file. However, unlike many that languish there, this one had real scale and ambition. Booked to happen on Sat Sep 06, 1969 - Sun Sep 07, 1969 on the Capilano Indian Reserve, North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, the Thunderbird Peace Festival was set to be a really high profile affair. If it had happened it would have had a genuine claim to have been Canada’s Woodstock. 

The lineup for the show was Class A rock and psychedelic bands. Jimi Hendrix, Steppenwolf, The Steve Miller Blues Band, Country Joe & the Fish, The Youngbloods, James Cotton Blues Band, Buddy Miles Express, Collectors, Pacific Gas & Electric, Southwind, Fields, The Band, John Mayall, Taj Mahal, Sly & the Family Stone, Spirit, Albert Collins, Sweetwater, and Crow. 

To get Jimi on board was always a real status symbol for any festival and a guarantee of ticket sales. 

Artist Bob Masse, who was already famous for his psychedelic posters was contracted to draw the poster, so you knew Libra Promotions were serious about putting this gig on. 

Get a t-shirt of it here > 

With a date 3 weeks after Woodstock, all seemed set fair for them to catch the winds of change and be part of counterculture legend.

However, while all the bands, unlike in some other scamola situations, had certainly been booked and had agreed to play, when it came time to put down deposits to secure the bands and also to build the infrastructure, there just wasn’t enough money. Whether this was because of poor ticket sales - which seems unlikely - or whether the $5 advance fee was just too low to pay the fees of some of the biggest bands of the day - isn’t clear. JImi had got $18,000 for playing Woodstock, The Band $7500, Sly & The Family Stone $7,000 and Country Joe & The Fish $2500. So there’s over $35,000 for a start - they needed to shift 7,000 tickets just to cover those fees. 

If you didn’t have wealthy backers, as was the case at Woodstock, then you probably needed to sell at least 30,000 tickets upfront just to give you the working capital to book and pay everyone. A lot of bands would want their money upfront and you needed cash to pay all the labour hired to build stages and rent a PA. 

Maybe the location just couldn’t pull the numbers needed but anyway, the event was cancelled. A big case of what could’ve been. 

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