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home | Acid Test Chronicles | The Acid Test Chronicles - Page 12 - . . .

The Acid Test Chronicles - Page 12 - 2nd Acid Test - San Jose Dec. 4, 1965 - After The Stones

   The San Jose Acid Test was the second Acid Test and the first to use any form of mass flyering or advertising. This, however, was limited to the night of the Rolling Stones concert and the event itself, as far as I have been able to gather.
   Posters were tacked to trees outside the show, and handbills were passed out to people on their way home after the show. The idea was to get them to go to the Acid Test right away. Some fortunate ones did, and the unlucky ones lost out. The posters and handbills were hand-drawn with crayons and had very primitive design, basically, all it was, was the lettering that reads, "Can You Pass the Acid Test? " and the location of Big Nig's house. Neither the poster nor the handbill which I know exist, have the date or name of the band on them. 
   A Poster and a Handbill have finally turned up. The poster was tacked to a tree, and the handbill was picked up off the ground that night, by two sisters who later attended one or two of the events and saved the items all these years.

   "For three or four days the Pranksters searched for a hall in San Jose and couldn't come up with one-- naturally -- it really seemed natural and almost right that nothing should be definite until the last minute. All that was certain was that they would find one at the last minute. The Movie would create that much at least. And what if the multitudes didn't know where it was going to be until the last minute? Well, those who were meant to be there--those who were in the pudding--they would get there. You were either on the bus or off the bus, and that went for the whole world, even in San Jose, California. At the last minute Kesey talked a local boho figure known as Big Nig into letting them use his old hulk of a house.
   Kesey had hooked up with a rock 'n' roll band, the Grateful Dead, led by Jerry Garcia, the same dead-end kid who used to live in Palo Alto with Page Browning and other seeming no-counts, lumpenbeatnicks, and you had to throw them out when they came over and tried to crash the parties on Perry Lane. Garcia remembered--how they came down and used to get booted out "by Kesey and the wine drinkers." The wine drinkers--the middle-class bohemians of Perry Lane. They both, Kesey and Garcia, had been heading into the pudding, from different directions, all that time, and now Garcia was a, yes, beautiful person, quiet, into the pudding, and a great guitar player. Garcia had first named his group The Warlocks, meaning sorcerers or wizards, and they had been eking out a living by playing for the beer drinkers, at jazz joints and the like around Palo Alto. To the Warlocks, the beer drinker music, even whan called jazz, was just square hip. They were onto that distinction, too. For Kesey--they could just play, do their thing.
   The Dead had an organist called Pigpen, who had a Hammond electric organ, and they move the electric organ into Big Nig's ancient house, plus all the Grateful Dead's electrified guitars and basses and flutes and horns and the light machines and the movie projectors and the tapes and mikes and hi-fis, all of which pile up in insane coils and wires and gleams of stainless steel and winking amplifier dials before Big Nig's unbelievable eyes. His house is old and has wiring that would hardly hold a toaster. The Pranksters are primed in full Prankster regalia. Paul Foster has on his Importancy Coat and now has a huge head of curly hair, a great curly mustache pulling back into great curly mutton chops roaring off his face. Page Browning is the king of face painters. He becomes a full-fledged Devil with a bright orange face and his eyes become the centers of two great silver stars painted over the orange and his hair is silver with silver dust and he paints his lips silver with silver lipstick. This very night the Pranksters all sit down with oil pastel crayons and colored pens and at a wild rate start printing handbills on 8 1/2 X 11 paper saying CAN YOU PASS THE ACID TEST? and giving Big Nig's address. As the jellybean cocked masses start pouring out of the Rolling Stones concert at the Civic Auditorium, the Pranksters charge in among them. Orange and silver Devil, wild man in a coat of buttons -- Pranksters. Pranksters!--handing out the handbills with the challenge, like some sort of demons, warlocks verily, come to channel the wild pointless energy built up by the Rolling Stones inside.
   They come piling into Big Nig's, and suddenly acid and the worldcraze were everywhere, the electric organ vibrating through every belly in the place, kids dancing not rock dances, not the frug and the --what? --swim, mother, but dancing ecstacy, leaping, dervishing, throwing their hands over their heads like Daddy Grace's own stroked-out inner-courtiers--yes!--Roy Seburn's lights washing past every head. Cassady rapping, Paul Foster handing people weird little things out of his Eccentric Bag, old whistles, tin crickets, burnt keys, spectral plastic handles. Everybody's eyes turn on like lightbulbs, fuses blow, blackness ---wowwww!--the things that shake and vibrate and funnel and freak out in this blackness--and then somebody slaps new fuses in and the old hulk of a house shudders back, the wiring writhing and fragmenting like molting snakes, the organs vibro-massage the belly again, fuses blow, minds scream, heads explode, neighbors call the cops, 200, 300, 400 people from out there drawn into The Movie, into the edge of the pudding at least, a mass closer and higher than any mass in history, it seems most surely, and Kesey makes minute adjustment, small toggle switch here, lubricated with vasaline No. 634-3 diluted with carbon tetrachloride, and they ripple, Major, ripple, but with meaning, 400 of the attuned multitude headed toward the pudding, the first mass acid experience, the dawn of the Psychedelic, the Flower Generation and all the rest of it, and Big Nig wants the rent.
   "How you holding?"
   How you holding---
   "Yeah, I mean like," -- says Big Nig to Garcia. "I didn't charge Kesey nothing to use this place. like free, you know? and the procedure now is that every cat here contributes, man, to help out with the rent."
   With the rent--
   "Yeah, I mean like," -- says Big Nig. Big Nig stares at Garcia with the deepest look of hip spade soul authority you could imagine, and nice and officious, too--
   Yeah, I mean like---Garcia, for his part, however, doesn't know which bursts out first, the music or the orange laugh. Out the edges of his eyes he can see his own black hair framing his face--it is so long, to the shoulders, and springs out like a Sudanese soldier's--and then Big Nig's big earnest black face right in front of him flapping and washing comically out into glistening acid-glee red sea of faces out beyond them both in the galactic red lakes on the walls--
   "Yeah, I mean like, for the rent, man," says Big Nig, "you already blown six fuses."
   Blown! Six Fuses! Garcia sticks his hand into his electric guitar and the notes come out like a huge orange laugh all blown fuses electric spark leaps in colors upon the glistening sea of faces. It's a freaking laugh and a half. A new star is being born, like the lightbulb in the womb, and Big Nig wants the rent--A new star being born, a new planet forming, Ahura Mazda blazing in the world womb, here, before our very eyes--and Big Nig, the poor pathetic spade, wants his rent.
   A freaking odd thought, that one. A big funky spade looking pathetic and square. For twenty years in the hip life. Negroes never even looked square. They were the archtypal soul figures. But what is Soul, or Funky, or Cool, or Baby---in the new world of the ecstacy, the All-one...the kairos..." -- Electric Kool Aid Acid Test - Tom Wolfe - Pages 236-39

   "The next Acid Test was in San Jose on the night of the Rolling Stones concert, the second tour, and the door was kept by a cat called Big Nig, who very cordially set up a gig that made money for Big Nig and some of the musicians. That was one of the few Acid Tests that kept Kesey out of the money trough. The crowd was big and the guys in the band decided to put pressure on Kesey and Babbs to do a big production. The first Human Be-In was just around the corner." --- The Grateful Dead - Vanguard of a New Generation - Hank Harrison - Page 132

   "The next Test was in San Jose, at a house occupied by a friend of Kesey's known as "Big Nig". It was located down the street from the old San Jose coliseum, where the Rolling Stones were playing that night. We set up our equipment  on the other side of the room from the pranksters, an orientation that would later prove very productive. Kesey's avowed goal was to "diffuse the pyramid of attention" so that people weren't focused solely on the stage; we were after a more rounded experience, where many types of stimuli were occuring simultaneously. 
   Unfortunately the room was very small, so all the attendees were crammed into the same space as the band, and the crush of bodies together with the wind-tunnel sound and flashing projections turned the Test into a mind-numbing blur of noise, light and heat. There was no way any one individual could be aware of everything going on in the place. It was a free-for-all, with untold amounts of input quanta streaming into one's sensory cortex all at the same time. The band was set up in one corner, with speaker columns so large one could crawl into the subwoofers and lie there. Across the room was Prankster Central, where the supplemental sound and some lights resided. The tape-loop master control was in Prankster hands; this ran a series of very long delays through the Mobius strip speaker setup, with speakers in all corners of the room, receiving input from microphones and other mixers scattered everywhere.
   Occasionally, the Thunder Machine -- Ron Boise's tuned metal sculpture bristling with contact microphones and festooned with areas marked "HIT ME!, STROKE ME, SCRAP ME, and other tender endearments designed to encourage participation -- would make an apperance. The output of this was also plugged into Prankster Central. And then there were the strobe lights: intensely powerful flashes of pure white light, which could be pulsed quickly or slowly, or anything in between. With several of these light sources operating at different speeds throughout the whole darkened space, the experience could be intensely disorienting, even phantasmagorical. The finest exemplar of strobe-light art was, of course, Neal Cassady. Even in broad daylight, his every move was part of a sacred dance of life --- under a strobe, the line was split up and reassembled in time, leaving me wondering: How on Earth can he catch that hammer in the dark, or in between those flashes? Neal was the closest thing to poetry in motion I've ever seen.
   The chaos at the San Jose Test didn't stop us from playing as long and as loud as we could, and we found that while high we were able to go very far out musically but still come back to some kind of recognizable space or song structure. I knew instantly that this combination -- acid and music -- was the tool i'd been looking for. After the cops closed the party down, it was low comedy at it's finest to watch Kesey, Babbs, and Billy divvy up the take (one dollar at the door) at the end of the evening. -- Searching for the Sound -- Phil Lesh

   "The second Acid Test happened on Dec. 4, 1965, in San Jose, on the night of a Rolling Stones concert. At the concert, the Pranksters passed out Crayon-lettered handbills for a house party. Their cryptic message was a street address and the words: "Can YOU Pass the Acid Test?" About 300 to 400 people showed up and the Grateful Dead played until the police broke up the party." -- On the Bus - Paul Perry - Page 115

   "The first [public] Acid Test was held on December 4, 1965, in San Jose at the home of a bohemian named "Big Nig". Page Browning, one of the Pranksters, was a friend of Garcia's from the Chateau and knew that Jerry would do something just for kicks. He called Garcia and told him about what was going down in San Jose and asked if the band would come. Garcia observed, "One day the idea was there: 'Why don't we have a big party, and you guys brings your instruments and play, and us Pranksters will set up our tape recorders and bullshit, and we'll all get stoned." That was the first Acid Test.
   Mountain Girl described what happened: San Jose was the first [public] Acid Test in 1965. It was a complete blowout -- manic bash. Nobody forgot it-- It was cataclysmic! The band played, everybody got high, weird and strange. LSD was legal then and people were taking high doses. Some poeple took their clothes off and it spilled out into the street.
   It was a watershed event that drew the public into the psychedelic adventure that Kesey and the pranksters had begun. The San Jose Acid Test was on the night of the Rolling Stones concert in the Bay Area, and the Pranksters had passed out handbills at the concert that read: "Can YOU Pass the Acid Test?" and giving the location of the event. About four hundred people showed up and the psychedelic revolution had begun.
   After that, the Pranksters got the idea to do it regularly. Garcia remembered, "After that first one we all got together, us and Kesey and everybody, and had a meeting about it, and thought, well, you know, that first one there had all those people there, but it was too weird 'cause it was somebody's house.
   ...We decided to keep on doing it, that was the gist of it...the idea was to move it to a different location each week." -- Captain Trips - Sandy Troy - Page 71-72

   Ram Dass: "I remember the first time that I saw, in the San Jose mercury, a story about a "drug orgy." I realized at that point that Ken and the group were forcing society to reckon with this stuff that we had hoped would stay underground a little longer. I felt that the Acid Tests forced drug legislation. It was our whole hope that before society caught onto the heresy that was inherent in acid, we could get more entrenched into the policy-making levels. We were spending time meeting with psychiatrists and turning on people connected with the government -- as well as major philosophers and poets -- people who could be a voice for this stuff that undercut established societal structures. Kesey brought it to the surface too fast." -- On the Bus - -Paul Perry - Page 148