A rock ‘n roll weekend at the Speedway

Written by: Jared Majeski, Historic Resources Management Branch

Summer isn’t over just yet, which means its still appropriate to reminisce about the events and people taking part in what’s now a regular, annual tradition: the summer music festival.

Original poster for the 1972 Edmonton International Pop Festival, by Phoenix & Arabeth. Apparently, glossy colour posters were plastered around the city only a couple weeks before the event. They were replaced almost as fast as they were stolen.
Original poster for the 1972 Edmonton International Pop Festival, by Phoenix & Arabeth. Apparently, glossy colour posters were plastered around the city only a couple weeks before the event. They were replaced almost as fast as they were stolen.

In what may have been one of Edmonton’s first outdoor weekend music events, the Edmonton International Pop Festival took place August 26 and 27, 1972. Held at the old Edmonton International Speedway in northwest Edmonton, the hastily-organized and promoted festival cost $15 to attend, which, if you’ve ever attended a Folk Fest or Interstellar Rodeo festival, is microscopically cheap in comparison.

You may be wondering, I wonder what a rock festival in Edmonton in 1972 looked like? Well, you’re in luck, because the event was taped by two brothers, Myron and Malcolm Achtman. Check out the video below to bask in the glory of awkward dancing, men backstage in top hats, cutoff jean shorts, screaming guitar solos and a smoking cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter”.

 

The headliners at the festival were: Joan Baez (who would just have released her Come From the Shadows LP); Taj Mahal; Billy Preston (who you can see playing the organ during the Beatles’ famous rooftop concert); and the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra (hot off the release of the legendary Procol Harum Live: In Concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, recorded at the Jubilee Auditorium). Edmonton blues mainstays Hot Cottage also performed.

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Preview of the festival from the Journal’s Jon Faulds. Source: Vintage Edmonton.

Legendary hard blues trio James Gang were scheduled to perform, and if I was there, they would have been at the top of my list to check out. But there were disagreements about their contract, and when it looked like wouldn’t get paid before their set, they decided to vamoose. In the concert review by the Edmonton Journal’s Ron Faulds, he included a great little anecdote from the bands’ road manager accusing someone of ripping out the distributor from their van to prevent them from leaving. Edmonton festival promoters did NOT mess around!

Jon Faulds' review of the pop fest. Promoters lost money due to low attendance, but it seemed like both the bands and the people who did end up going had a good time. Source: Vintage Edmonton.
Jon Faulds’ review of the pop fest, including the two images below. Promoters lost money due to low attendance, but it seemed like both the bands and the people who did end up going had a good time. Source: Vintage Edmonton.

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If you attended the Edmonton International Pop Festival, and have pictures or videos to share, leave a comment and let us know!

Sources:

Malcolm Achtman (YouTube)

Vintage Edmonton

Edmonton Journal

 

 

 

One thought on “A rock ‘n roll weekend at the Speedway

  • I remember the old Speedway but was too young to experience the music festival. We moved away in the 70s and I returned in the 80s. By then the old Speedway was just a memory.

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