Yesterday – Sunday, March 26th, 2017 – marked the 50th anniversary of the first “Be-In” held in Vancouver. The event marked a huge cultural (or counter-cultural) shift in the city, as well as in North America. Inspired by the San Francisco “Human Be-In”, held in Golden Gate Park two months previous, Vancouver’s “Be-In” saw over 1,000 young people descend on Stanley Park’s Ceperley Meadow for a “gathering of all people who wish to participate together in music and festivity, simply enjoying each other’s presence”. In other words, coming together and just being.
Organized by poet, activist and arts organizer, Jamie Reid and his partner, Carol Reid, the event proposed to be “a peaceful and loving gathering”. Reid applied for an event permit from the Vancouver Park Board to hold the “Be-In” festival and was refused. Reid and the other organizers decided just go ahead with the event regardless. Amongst the helium balloons, handmade kites, incense and flowers various poets read their works and three bands, including Berkeley’s famed Country Joe and the Fish, played psychedelic rock for the gathered crowd (two years before their famed Woodstock gig).
Fortunately for us, the whole event was documented through the efforts of CBC Vancouver producer and director, Stan Fox. I’ve embedded a quick 30 second excerpt at the top of the page; the entire 18-minute program can be viewed here.
Both “Be-Ins” predate San Francisco’s infamous “Summer of Love” (1967), which made the Haight-Ashbury district a household word as the center of the counter-cultural movement and introduced the word ‘psychedelic’ to the mainstream. Vancouver had it’s own “Summer of Love” centered on Kitsilano’s 4th Avenue. It became the mecca for hippies, university students and those wanting to “turn on, tune in, and drop out”. (The Kitsilano hippie scene was the subject another CBC Vancouver production, also produced by Fox, titled “What Happened Last Summer” and airing in November, 1967).
The March 1967 event was also known as the “Easter Be-In” (the first event took place on Easter Sunday). Subsequent Be-In’s were held in Stanley Park each spring into the 1970s, after which time the incense was extinguished and disco music and the “Me Decade” took over popular culture.
Local concert promoter Jerry Kruz booked the bands for the first “Be-In”. He is one of the organizers of a proposed 50th-anniversary rendition of a concert modeled on the first “Be-In”, slated to be held in July of this year. It’s been suggested that even “Country Joe” McDonald has expressed an interest in performing at the event 50 years after he and his fellow ‘Fish’ performed outdoors in Stanley Park. Now wouldn’t that be something.
I recall heading down to the be-in at Stanley park Easter Sunday several times in the mid 70’s. Always an awesome friendly open atmosphere of people.
“Fish” wasn’t the name of band. “Country Joe” and “The Fish” were Joe McDonald and Barry Melton.