There is a blizzard of stuff out about the ’60s right now; extraordinary. Last night I watched The Trips Festival Movie, put together by Eric Christensen, and it was right-on. A welcome take after so many years of media-bashing of the ’60s.
Interviews with Stewart Brand, Bill Graham, Roland Jacopetti, Jerry Mander, Mountain Girl, Bob Wier, Ben van Meter about not only the 3-day festival in San Francisco in 1966, but about everything else that was going on in SF at that time.
Everyone interviewed is articulate, and there are a number of insights that made me say, “Hey, yeah…” Someone said that in the early years of the Fillmore and Avalon dances, the performers and spectators were one, and that when the performers later became stars and the bands got successful, all that changed.
Ben van Meter told a story: A young long-haired kid in Kansas is ostracized in his high school, gets beaten up by the football team every so often, hears about Haight Ashbury, and hitches across the country. Gets to the Haight, and it’s Nirvana. He meets a pretty girl, they smoke pot, take acid, sleep together, and wander around the neighborhood when it was still wonderful (before the Summer of Love). They go to the Avalon and are dancing under the strobe lights, and the kid extends his hand, looks at his fingers, and wonders where his hand ends and the rest of the world begins.
“It wasn’t sex, drugs, and rock and roll,” says Mountain Girl, “it was about consciousness expansion, increasing awareness.”
“Through a series of informative and entertaining interviews, Christensen’s film explains why a crazed event with 10,000 folks on LSD was able to work: it was organized and run by some very bright and innovative people. Indeed, the alumni from the Trips Festival would go on to play vital roles in communes, be responsible for a surge in growth in the Sierra Club and other like-minded ecological movements, develop the Whole Earth Catalog, create the influential online group, THE WELL, and much, much more.…”
From Jason Buchanan, All Movie Guide, New York Times:
The Summer of Love was still eighteen months away when a collective of San Francisco-based filmmakers, musicians, performance artists, entrepreneurs, and futurists planted the seed of the counterculture movement, and that seed was called the Trips Festival. For three full days, attendees at the Trips Festival were treated to a non-stop multimedia rock show comprised of guerilla theater, psychedelic light shows, and Grateful Dead music. Of course the LSD-spiked ice cream didn’t hurt in creating a transformative vibe that would resonate throughout the culture in the coming months. In addition to highlighting how the Trips Festival would ultimately become the blueprint for Burning Man, director Peter Christensen and narrator Peter Coyote trace the careers of festival presenter Bill Graham (who forever altered music history by booking the very first rock show at the Fillmore Auditorium), and festival producer Stewart Brand (who not only created the Whole Earth Catalog, but also pioneered the online community the Well).