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Review

The Afterthought: West Coast Rock Posters and Recollections

By Jerry Kruz

January 13, 2015

Review By Henry Trim

Jerry Kruz’s beautifully illustrated autobiographical work provides an intriguing first hand glimpse of Vancouver psychedelic music scene. The book revolves around Kruz’s years as a concert promoter from 1966 to 1969. Although it briefly describes the later years of his life, its record of the 1960s will be of most interest to scholars. The whirlwind of activity (much of it drug induced, according to Kruz) during these years saw the foundation of Kruz’s promotional organization, the Afterthought, as well as the popularization of psychedelic rock concerts, the pioneering of laser light shows, and the production of numerous iconic posters.

Kruz and his fellow promoters had a central role in Vancouver’s 1960s music scene. For those studying the spread of hippy culture and psychedelic happenings on the west coast, Kruz’s work highlights the circulation of bands and styles between San Francisco, Vancouver, and the cities in between. His compelling remembrances of trips to Seattle and San Francisco to book new acts capture the frenetic pace of Kruz’s life and resound with more than a few echoes of Hunter S. Thompson’s more famous drug-addled travels.

While his success in bringing in the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, and other famous bands attests to his central place in Vancouver’s music scene, Kruz’s belief that the Afterthought pioneered laser light shows is unconvincing. Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters had been producing such shows for at least two years before the Afterthought began to provide them. Further, since Kruz recounts being offered a laser show when he organized one of his first concerts, it seems likely that they were already an accepted part of hippy concerts in 1966 and that Kruz simply conformed to expectations. That said, the ease with which the Afterthought began producing laser shows, and their subsequent popularity, speaks to their spread from the Bay Area throughout the west coast, and Kruz and the Afterthought certainly played a leading role in their popularization in Canada.

While the book’s discussion of laser technology and the Vancouver music scene is interesting, The Afterthought really shines for its depiction of visual art, especially Kruz’s fine personal collection of concert posters. This collection includes many posters by Bob Masse, the renowned Canadian poster artist who did much to define the psychedelic style of the 1960s in Vancouver and up and down the west coast. For those interested in the development of psychedelic art, these posters make for a fascinating case study. Since these iconic works of art were created as advertising, they also speak to the tense combination of rebellion and commercialization that gave the 1960s counterculture much of its energy. Kruz’s reminiscing about the struggles surrounding the production of these posters, particularly when “square” authorities felt they encouraged drug use, highlights the very real risks that he and other promoters took in producing this commercial art.

Kruz’s autobiographical style, unfortunately, is less useful in his description of hippy drug culture. A recovered addict, Kruz slips into a self-flagellating and moralizing tone when discussing drug use in Vancouver’s psychedelic scene. While obviously heartfelt, this slows the narrative and adds little to the larger discussion of drugs on the west coast during the 1960s. Despite this, The Afterthought will be useful to those studying the counterculture and essential to those interested in reliving old memories.

The Afterthought: West Coast Rock Posters and Recollections
Jerry Kruz
Victoria: Rocky Mountain Books, 2014. 256 pp. $40.00 cloth