Vancouver psychedelic relic hits the Prairies

Hydro Electric Streetcar was like Vancouver’s Grateful Dead, a hippie quartet fond of long jams

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Vancouver’s hippie-era psychedelic posters are now collectibles and can be very valuable – a 1967 Bob Masse Grateful Dead poster was recently sold for $ 15,000 at an auction in Florida.

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Alas, you rarely, if ever, see them outside of the Neptoon Records Collector’s Store.

So imagine the surprise to find a stunning poster for Vancouver’s hydroelectric streetcar in a Winnipeg antique store. The price: $ 15.

The 8-by-11-inch poster was made for a performance at Assiniboine Park in Winnipeg on Sunday August 10, 1969. It is hand-screenprinted and does not appear to have ever been displayed. But it’s a classic, from the 60s or so.

The band is described as “Pacific West Coast Acid Rock” that will “feed your head” and say the show will be a “Be-In” at the top.

In true psychedelic style, the lettering is so distorted that it takes a while to figure it out. It’s printed on inexpensive purple paper with orange Day-Glo lettering, perhaps to make it even harder to read.

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You have to guess that the purple paper is a nod to the purple acid, or LSD, which was popular in the 60’s. But you can’t ask the artist because there is no name. on the poster.

Hydro Electric Streetcar drummer Stan Tait was pleasantly surprised to see the poster when I posted it to Facebook Group 4e Avenue / Kitsilano 1970 Reunion. He had never seen her before.

“I remember going to that kind of place like a hippie center (in Winnipeg), where we kind of walked around,” he guesses. “Maybe someone did.”

He doesn’t remember much of the show, other than it was in a park and in front of a baseball backstop or amphitheater.

But he has some memories of the band’s one and only tour of Western Canada, which was a bit of a disaster.

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“We bought an eight-door limo, an old one, and drove all the way to Calgary in a limo,” he says.

“There was a problem with the muffler and everyone got carbon monoxide poisoning. So we had to sell that.

The full poster for the Hydro Electric Streetcar performance at Winnipeg's Assiniboine Park on Sunday.  August 10, 1969. The silkscreened poster features the band as
The full poster for the Hydro Electric Streetcar performance at Winnipeg’s Assiniboine Park on Sunday. Aug 10, 1969. The silkscreened poster features the band as “Pacific West Coast Acid Rock” that “will feed your head” and says the show will be a “Be-In” at the top. The artist is unknown, but in true psychedelic style the lettering is so distorted that it takes a while to figure it out. The poster measures 8.5 inches wide and 11 inches high and is printed on inexpensive purple paper with the orange Day-Glo lettering. perhaps to make reading even more difficult.

Buying a cool old limo seemed like a good idea at the time, but it made the long-haired hippie quartet – singer / guitarist Danny Mack, guitarist Al Wiebe, bassist Lee Stephens and Tait – an easy target for music. RCMP.

“Every detachment (RCMP) stopped us, they stopped us, all over BC all the way to Alberta until we sold this limo,” Tait said. “And you know what? They never found him.

“It” would be the pot, which was an essential part of the band’s daily life in 1969.

“We were smoking constantly, all day, every day, and playing music,” he said.

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“And lived together. We lived in a small house, there were 13 of us in a one bedroom house at one point. It was in Kitsilano, east of Burrard.

The use of weed worked with the type of music they played, which was fluid and experimental.

“In terms of psychedelic rock, we would make some noise,” he said. “The song was different every time we played it.”

Unfortunately, this was not the road to commercial success. But The Streetcar developed a local following that continued with a subsequent psychedelic country incarnation, Fireweed.

Hydroelectric tram in their country version.  Fireweed, at the Aldergrove Music Festival in the early 1970s. Courtesy of Stan Tait.
Hydroelectric tram in their country version. Fireweed, at the Aldergrove Music Festival in the early 1970s. Courtesy of Stan Tait.

Anyway, let’s go back to 1969. In Calgary, Tait told a guy in a bar that they were looking for a van, and lo and behold, the guy didn’t have one to sell – and fuck if he didn’t. He wasn’t his friend from Gordon Mitchell Elementary School.

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In the new vehicle, they drove to Winnipeg, only to wake up one morning to find that guitarist Wiebe had quit and brought the Greyhound back to Vancouver. Tait thinks they did the concert as a trio.

They regrouped in Vancouver with an incredible new guitarist, Danny Tapanila, and a third guitarist, Danny Tripper. But the heart of the group has always been Danny Mack, a local legend recently deceased in Australia, where he had lived for several years.

Mack resurrected the group in the 1980s, but at that time Tait was living in Bracebridge, Ont., Where the 73-year-old is a successful jewelry designer.

“I’ve never had a job in my life,” he laughed. “I have been a very successful full time artist. “

The hippie dream lives on.

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The members of Hydro Electric Streetcar in their country version, Fireweed, circa 1972-73.  From left to right: Danny Tapanila, Danny Mack, Lee Stephens and Stan Tait.
The members of Hydro Electric Streetcar in their country version, Fireweed, circa 1972-73. From left to right: Danny Tapanila, Danny Mack, Lee Stephens and Stan Tait.
Bob Masse took his most famous design - a topless art nouveau hippie goddess originally made for a 1967 Grateful Dead poster - and repurposed it for a Dan Hicks concert at PNE Gardens where Fireweed (country version of Hydro Electric Streetcar) opened.
Bob Masse took his most famous design – a topless art nouveau hippie goddess originally made for a 1967 Grateful Dead poster – and repurposed it for a Dan Hicks concert at PNE Gardens where Fireweed (country version of Hydro Electric Streetcar) opened.
December 7, 1988. The late Vancouver psychedelic country-rock legend Danny Mack, who ran Hydro Electric Streetcar in the 1960s and reformed it in the late 1980s. Brian Kent / Vancouver Sun
December 7, 1988. The late Vancouver psychedelic country-rock legend Danny Mack, who ran Hydro Electric Streetcar in the 1960s and reformed it in the late 1980s. Brian Kent / Vancouver Sun
A color photo of Danny Mack from the same 1988 photoshoot.
A color photo of Danny Mack from the same 1988 photoshoot.
The Vancouver Sun story of December 8, 1988 for which the photo was taken.  Oddly enough, there were no stories about Hydro Electric Streetcar in the Vancouver Sun during the heyday of the 1960s.
The Vancouver Sun story of December 8, 1988 for which the photo was taken. Oddly enough, there were no stories about Hydro Electric Streetcar in the Vancouver Sun during the heyday of the 1960s.

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About Nell Love

Nell Love

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