The Subhumans play at the Anti -Canada Day concert in Stanley Park on July 1 1978. Left to right: bassist Gerry Useless (aka Gerry Hannah), drummer Ken “Dimwit” Montgomery, singer Wimpy Roy (Brian Goble), and guitarist Mike Normal (Mike Graham). Ian Lindsay / Vancouver Sun
There have been a lot of memorable rock concerts in Vancouver. But there’s never been anything quite like the Anti-Canada Day punk rock show in Stanley Park on July 1, 1978.It was billed as an Anti-Canada Day concert because it was put on by anarchists, including Ken Lester, one of the organizers of the 1971 “Smoke-In” by hippies that turned into the Gastown Riot.Being anarchists, they didn’t believe in getting a permit — a poster just said the show would be at Lumbermen’s Arch at 1 p.m.Alas, when the bands and fans showed up, the site was already taken by a group that had gotten a permit. So the concert moved to a softball field/picnic area near Prospect Point.A couple of guys stayed behind with a big black flag to redirect fans to the new location. Which made for quite a sight on Canada Day — maple leaf flags everywhere, and this one giant black flag, the international symbol of anarchy.Another problem ensued at the green space near Prospect Point — a Christian group was having a picnic there.“It was crazy,” recalls Joe Keithley of DOA, one of the bands scheduled to play. “We pulled up with a flatbed trailer with a sound system on it. But we didn’t have a permit, and the police showed up on motorcycles. There’s famous footage of (bassist) Randy (Rampage) puttin’ his arm around a cop and giving him a kiss.“The police were going, ‘You guys are not playing, you don’t have a permit.’”
The poster for the Anti-Canada Day concert in Stanley Park on July 1, 1978 is classic of punk poster art. It was done by David Lester, who went on to fame as guitarist in Mecca Normal. Quotes range from the revolutionary Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakhunin to Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols and DOA’s Joe Shithead.
Fans began wandering in after making the trek from Lumbermen’s Arch, but nothing happened for a couple of hours. Then the SFU radio station’s punk-friendly disc jockey Phil Smith started negotiating with the Christian group.“He talked to the church group that had the permit, and they said, ‘As soon as we’re done, you can have the permit,’ which was very Christian of them,” said Keithley. “Phil showed the permit to the police, and the police were fuming, because the show went on. (But) the show didn’t get started until about seven, so it was getting dark and we didn’t have lights.”Three bands — DOA, Private School and the Subhumans — quickly mounted the stage to play a set before darkness set in. And it was amazing.DOA had just released Disco Sucks, Canada’s first punk anthem, and came out blazing. It was the first show for the Subhumans, which roared through punk classics like F— You and Slave To My Dick.There had been punk gigs before this, but the Anti-Canada Day show was sort of the big bang of Vancouver’s musical underground, sparking a magic period when Vancouver became one of the creative hotbeds of the punk/new wave scene. The fact that in some ways the gig was a disaster and there were only about 100 people there only added to its legend.
Punk rockers at an Anti-Canada day concert at Stanley Park on July 1, 1978, negotiate with a Christian group to set up in a softball field/picnic area near Prospect Point. The man in the white coat is unknown, but Phil Smith is beside him, then Joe Keithley of D.O.A., and Brent Taylor, who later became one of the Squamish Five urban guerrilla group. Ian Lindsay /Vancouver Sun
Martyn Stubbs shot some wild video of the gig for Soundproof, a North Shore cable access show. Part of it was used in Suzanne Tabata’s excellent Vancouver punk documentary Bloodied But Unbowed. DOA’s blistering performance of Disco Sucks can be viewed on YouTube.In between songs, some anarchists got onstage and railed against the state and borders. At one point, somebody urged the audience to burn money, and lit some on fire.“Me and Randy tried to grab the bill because we were so broke — he was burning like a 20,” laughs Keithley. “We were going, ‘You’re insane!’ and tried to wrestle the bill out of his hands before it burned up.”Forty-one years later, the 63-year-old Keithley is still playing in DOA. On Saturday night, he returns to one of his old haunts, the Smilin’ Buddha, to play solo at a record release party for DOA: 1978, a compilation of rare and unreleased songs from the band’s first year.He has another gig earlier in the day. Keithley was elected a councillor in Burnaby in the last civic election, and has formed a duo with Burnaby Mayor Mike Hurley. Saturday at 1 p.m. they will be at the Burnaby Legion, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary.“We do The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” said Keithley. “Taking Care of Business, The Hockey Song. He sings and plays bass or acoustic guitar, I play electric guitar and sing.”Did the punk rock legend ever envision he would be playing Gordon Lightfoot and Stompin’ Tom Connors songs with the Mayor of Burnaby?“Well, I didn’t think I’d ever be on council,” he laughs. “Anything’s possible, right?”email@example.com
Another shot of the Subhumans playing at the Anti -Canada Day concert in Stanley Park on July 1, 1978. L-R Gerry Useless, Dimwit, Wimpy Roy and Mike Normal. This was the band’s first show. Ian Lindsay / Vancouver Sun
Ian Lindsay /
The late, great Vancouver punk legend Zippy Pinhead waving a black anarchist flag at an Anti-Canada Day concert on July 1, 1978, by photographer Lynn McDonagh.
July 1 1978. Brent Taylor, leader of the Squamish Five (urban guerrilla group) at The Anti-Canada Day concert at Prospect Point in Stanley Park. Ian Lindsay /Vancouver Sun