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home | Acid Test Chronicles | The Acid Test Chronicles - Page 17 - . . .

Trips Festival Poster for Longshoreman's Hall Jan. 20, 21, 22, 1966 - This poster is made of cardboard. There are only about a half a dozen known examples.
Trips Festival Poster for Longshoreman's Hall Jan. 20, 21, 22, 1966 - This poster is made of cardboard. There are only about a half a dozen known examples.

The Acid Test Chronicles - Page 17 - Trips Festival 3-Day Acid Test - (7th Test)Longshoreman's Hall - Jan 21, 22, 23 1966

   The 3-Day Trips Festival at Longshoreman's Hall was the largest Acid Test in terms of overall attendance. This event marked the beginning of the Psychedelic Sixties in many ways. This event preceded Monterey Pop by 4 Months, the Be-In by 1 year, and Woodstock by 3 years. This event really brought the Grateful Dead to the masses for the first time. It was also the most heavily advertised of any of the acid test events of all. Handbills were printed by the hundreds, and posters were posted all around the event. The poster for this event is very rare though, while the handbills are much more common. 

   "It was actually Stewart Brand who thought up the great Trips Festival of January 1966. Brand and a San Francisco artist, Ramon Sender. Brand was 27 and an ex-biologist who had run across the Indian peyote cults in Arizona and New Mexico. Brand founded an organization called America Needs Indians. And then one day he took some LSD, right after an explorer satellite went up to photograph the earth, and as the old synapsys began rapping around inside his skull at 5000 thoughts per second, he ws struck with one of those questions that inflame men's brains. Why haven't we seen a photograph of the whole Earth yet? -- and he drove across America from Berkeley, California, to 11th Street, N,Y, City, selling buttons with that legend on them to Leftists. Rightists, Fundamentalists, Theosophists, malcontents, anyone with the health or stealth of paranoia or the puton in their souls..." -- Electric Kool Aid Acid Test - Tom Wolfe - Pages 251-52
Handbill for the Trips Festival at Longshoreman's Hall Jan 21, 22, 23, 1966 (Wes Wilson Design)
   Handbill for the Trips Festival at Longshoreman's Hall Jan 21, 22, 23, 1966 (Wes Wilson Design)
Backside of the Wes Wilson Handbill
   Backside of the Wes Wilson Handbill
Alternative BG Handbill for the Trips Festival at Longshoreman's Hall in Jan of 1966. This handbill is rarer than the Wes Wilson design.
   Alternative BG Handbill for the Trips Festival at Longshoreman's Hall in Jan of 1966. This handbill is rarer than the Wes Wilson design.
Program (Front) for the Trips Festival
   Program (Front) for the Trips Festival
Inside Pages announcing the Acid Test
   Inside Pages announcing the Acid Test
Inside Pages announcing the Grateful Dead
   Inside Pages announcing the Grateful Dead

   Lee Quarnstrom: "Stewart Brand did a thing called the Trips Festival. It was three days long and only one day was the Acid Test. It was pretty astounding to come to this festival and see how many people were doing psychedelic related stuff. It would be like Getting to the North Pole and seeing three or four groups of explorers coming from the other direction -- and feeling good about it."
   ....."Kesey had been busted again for smoking pot, so he and Mountain girl had gone underground because he was facing two felong drug counts. So, the day of the Acid Test he couldn't show up as himself because he was a fugitive. So he came wearing a sort of mylar-like space suit and a helmet and sat up in the balcony somewhere with a microphone and loudspeaker so he could talk on the public address system. His voice was there, but none of the reporters or cops could find his body. He did meet with some reporters, finally, and announced he was running for Governor of California. After that, he split for Mexico." -- On the Bus - Paul Perry - Pages 151, 153-54

   "If nothing else, Kesey's second arrest was great publicity for the Trips Festival. It was all over San Francisco newspapers. In the hip, intellectual, and even social worlds of San Francisco, the Trips Festival notion was spreading like a fever. The dread drug LSD. Acid heads. An LSD experience without LSD, it was being billed as -- moreover, people actually believed it. But mainly the idea of a new lifestyle was making itself felt. Do you suppose this is the --new wave...?
   And you buy y'r ticket, f'r chrissake--all absurd, but the thousands pour into Longshoreman's Hall for the Trips Festival, thousands even the first night, which was mostly Indian night, a weird thing put on by Brand's America Needs Indians, but now on Saturday evening the huge crush hits for the Acid Test. Norman is absolutely zonked on acid--and look at the freaks running here. Norman is not the only one. "An LSD experience without LSD"--that was a laugh. In fact, the heads are pouring in by the hundreds, bombed out of their gourds, hundreds of heads coming out into the absolute open for the first time. It is like the time the Pranksters went to the Beatles concert in full costume, looking so bizarre and totally smashed that noone could believe they were. Nobody would risk it in public like this. Well, the kids are just having an LSD experience without LSD, that's all, and this is what it looks like. A hulking crazed whirlpool. That's nice. Lights and movies sweeping around the hall; five movie projectors going and God knows how many light machines, interferrometrics, the intergalactic science-fiction seas all over the walls, loudspeakers studding the hall all the way around like flaming chandeliers, strobes exploding, black lights with Day-Glo objects under them and Day-Glo paint to play with, street lights at every entrance flashing red and yellow, two bands, the Grateful Dead and Big Brother and the Holding Company and a troop of weird girls in leotards, leaping around the edges blowing dog whistles --- and the Pranksters. Paul Foster has wrapped black friction tape around all around his shoes and up over his ankles and swaddled his legs and hips and torso in it up to his rib cage, where begins a white shirt and then white bandaging all over his face and skull and just a slit for his eyes, over which he wears dark glasses. He also wears a crutch and a sign saying, 'You're in the Pepsi Generation and I'm a pimply freak!" Rotor! Also heads from all over, in serapes and mandala beads and Indian headbands and Indian beads, the great era for all that, and one in a leather jerkin with "Under Ass Wizard Mojo Indian Fighter" stenciled on the back. Mojo! Oh the freaking strobes turning every brain stem into a cauliflower erupting into corrugated ping-pong balls--can't stand it--and a girl rips off her shirt and dances bare-breasted with her great mihs breaking up into an endlesss stream of ruby-red erect nipples streaming out of the great milk-and-honey under the strobe lights. the dancing is ecstatic, a nice macaroni of braless breasts jiggling and cupcake bottoms wiggling and multiplle arms writhing and leaping about. Thousands of straight intellectuals and culturati and square hippies, North Beach style, gawking and learning. Dr. Francis Rigney, Psychiatrist to the Beat Generation, looking on, and all the Big Daddies left over from the Beat period, Eric "Big Daddy" Nord and Tom "Big Daddy" Donahue, and the press vibrating under Ron Boise's thunder machine. A great route in progess, you understand.
   And in the center of the hall---the Prankster's tower of Control. It had come to that, and it was perfect. Babbs had supervised the building of a great scaffolding of pipes and platforms in the center of the hall. It rose and rose, this tower, as the Pranksters added equipment, all the mikes and amplifiers and spots and projectors and all the rest of it, the very architecture of Control, finally. Babbs at the controls, Hagen up there taking movies; the movie goes on. Kesey, meanwhile, was up on an even higher plateau of control, up on a balcony in a silver space suit complete with a big bubble space helmet. He conceived of it first as a disguise, so he could be there without the various courts being raggy and outraged, but everyone recognized the Space Man immediately, of course, and he perched up above the maelstrom with a projection machine with which you could write messages on acetate and project them in massive size on the walls.
   Zonker dancing in a spin of pure unadultrated bliss, higher than he has ever been in his life, which for Zonker was getting up there. Norman, smashed, but with a mission. Norman to circulate among the multitudes with movie camera. Only he has no power pack, so he has to plug the camera in a wall socket and go out with a great long cord. His eye pressed against the sighting lens and gradually the whole whirlpool coming into his one eye, unity, I, the vessel, receiving all, Atmon and Braham, letting it all flow in until--satori--the perfect state is reached and he realizes he is God. He has traveled miles through this writhing macaroni ecstacy mass and could the camera still possibly be plugged in? --or could that possibly matter? deus ex machina, with the world flowing into one eye, becomes essential that he reach the Central Node, the Tower of Control, the great electric boom of the directional mike picking up the band sticking out from atop the scaffolding tower--and there it is--it is all there in this moment. Starts clambering up the scaffolding with the huge camera still over his shoulder and up to his eye, all funneling in, and the wire and plug snaking behind him, through the multitudes. And who might these irate forms be? --in truth, Babbs and Hagen, Babbs gesturing for Norman to get off the platform, he's in the way, there's no room, get the hell off of here -- a cosmic laugh, since obviously they don't know who he is, viz., God. Norman, the meek, the mild, the retiring, the sideliner, laughs a cosmic laugh at them and keeps on coming. At any moment, he fully realizes, he can make them dissappear down...his eye, just two curds in the world flow, Babbs and Hagen.
   "Norman, if you don't get the hell off of here, i'm going to throw you off!" -- Babbs looking huge and untamable in the same stance he gave the San Francisco cops at the Fillmore, and Norman's mind split just slightly along the chiasma, like a San Andreas fault, one part some durable hard-core fear of getting thrown off and breaking his ass, him, Norman, but the other, the cosmic laugh of God at how useless Babbs stance is now, vibrating slightly between God and not-God, but then the laugh comes in a wave, just the cosmic fact that he, Norman, now dares do this, defiance, the new I and there is not one thing, really, they can do about it--Babbs staring at this grinning, zonked figure with the huge camera clambering up the scaffolding. Babbs just throws his hands up, gives up. Norman ascends. God! in the very Tower of Control. Well, if im God, I can control this thing. Gazing down into the whirlpool. He gestures-- and it comes to pass!--there is a ripple in the crowd there and again, and there is a ripple in the crowd here--also so clear what is going to happen, he can predict it, a great eruption of ecstatic dancing in that clump, under the strobes. it will break out now, and it does, of course-- a vibration along the crack, the fault, synchronicity spoken here, and we are at play, but they do it--start the music!--and it starts--satori, in the Central Node, as it was written--but I say unto you--and at that very moment, a huge message in red is written on the wall:


   Anybody? -- The chiasmic halves vibrate, the God and the not-God, and then he realizes: Kesey wrote that. Kesey up on the balcony in his space suit wrote that with his projection machine and flashed it on the wall, in that very moment. What to do, Archangel of mine, Norman stares unbelieving--unbelieving in what?--up on stage climbs a spade with a wild head of natural spade hair with a headband wrapped around the hairline so the hair puffs up like a great dandelion, a huge shirt swimming under the lights, and it is Gaylord, one of the few spades in the whole thing, gleaming the glistening grin of acid zonk and going into a lovely godly little dance, this Gaylord God...What the hell. Norman gestures toward the crowd, and it does not ripple. Not here and not there. He predicts that clump will rise up in ecstatic levitation, and it does not rise up. In fact, it just sinks to the floor like it was spat there, sad moon eyes glooming up in the acid stare. Sayanora, God. And yet....And yet...
   THREE NIGHTS THE HUGE WILD CARNIVAL WENT ON. IT WAS A big thing on every level. For one thing the Trips Festival  grossed $12,500 in three days, with almost no overhead, and a new night-club and dance-hall genre was born. Two weeks later Bill Graham was in business at the Fillmore auditorium with the Trips Festival going every weekened and packing them in. For the acid heads themselves, the Trips Festival was like the first national convention of an underground movement that had existed on a hush-hush cell-by-cell basis. The heads were amazed at how big their own ranks had become--and euphoric over the fact that they could come out in the open, high as baboons, and the sky, and the law, wouldn't fall down on them. The press went along with the notion that this had been an LSD experince without LSD. Nobody in the hip world of San Francisco had any such delusion, and the Haight-Ashbury era began that weekend." -- Electric Kool Aid Acid Test - Tom Wolfe - Pages 258-63

   "Upon our return from Portland, all the scuttlebutt was ablaze with the plans for the "Big One"; the Trips Festival, to take place in San Francisco's Longshoreman's Hall. It was to be a three-day multimedia festival planned by several of the counterculture artistic entities that were beginning to surface. The Tape Music Center on Divisadero Street was loosely associated with both the Mime Troup and Mills College; one of it's founders, Ramon Sender, together with Stewart Brand and some Pranksters, formed the Steering Committee. The event featured participants from the Open Theatre; Dancers' Workshop; and the Congress of Wonders, an improvisatory acid comedy troupe; Michael McClure read; Bruce Conner showed films; and countless unsung freaks added their costumes, movements, and general good vibes to the mix.
   We play our set on Saturday, the second night. Big Brother and the Holding Company is playing a short set -- their first gig? I'm not certain. Janis Joplin hasn't yet arrived on the scene. I'm puddled on the floor with my new girlfriend, Rosie, tripping out behind all the sound and color. After Big Brother leaves the stage, quantum probability takes full control, and about time, too. Babbs voice, looped like a hundred snakes" OK, the Acid Test is taken' over now." Mountain Girl ascends the platform; no, the scaffolding; no the tower that has suddenly spouted Pranksters from it's every point. I crawl over to my instrument and haul myself shakily to my feet. The Ouroboros of sound has manifested onstage in the form of hundreds of wires and cables presumably connecting every electronic entity in known space. The energy generated by three to five thousand linked and synched minds is playing havoc with our conventional electronic gear; the amps are fizzling and frying, sometimes emitting piercing ultrasonic shrieks like the beacon in 2001: A Space Oddysey. but curiously, it's almost benign; no one is being shocked. The stage is very high; I can see all around the hall, which is literally filled from floor to roof's peak with light, color, and movement. At first, my mind attempts to find patterns -- am I seeing this or looking through it? But then shapes emerge, always in motion, extending further through time than normally, motions leaving rainbow trails. "So cool, let's play." "What a trip, huh?" "Wait a minute, my amp stopped working" -- and I turn around just in time to see a plug leap out of it's socket and scurry across the stage like an arachnoid rubber band. And then another! And another! "It's a conspiracy!" The electrons are freaked out in the presence of the higher energy -- that's like God to them." "We must propitiate the local hiararchy. Let us pray." "Oh Mighty Electron, hear our vow; we will entrain our Metatronic  essences in purest eleven-tenths harmony. Let us commingle together." Ahem. The amps are working now; no one knows why. I look out over the people, and they are an ocean, oily swells moving on the vast deep; even though we're not playing yet, there's plenty of rhythm -- audible, tactile, visible, with waves of light connecting the dancers as they move. We play -- what else? "In the Midnight Hour," our signature rave-up jam-out lost-in-the-stars tune; and just how did that R & B standard love-call turn into some kind of cosmic anthem, anyhow? Pigpen is in fine form as i've ever seen him -- cajoling, exhorting, crooooning, rapping (in the sense of laying down a rap); the band is howling around him, now flashing a shy grin, now tiptoeing carefully past the window of the father of the girl Pigs rappin' his story about. And then Pig's finished his story for a while, and we go off on those two chords as if they are Jacobs ladder, with sound rising up on one side and drifting down on the other. We are showing serious respect to the power of these relationships: D-G-D-G-D-G. Hang on! The only pattern better for playing than two chords is one chord! So away we charge to ring the neck of some poor hepless tonic (D, in this case) and ravage all it's sniveling overtones until the very air screams for mercy -- it feels so good, why should we stop, or even slow up? But wait! The skies are opening! The Old Ones are returning! No, we've merely reached the eye of the storm, and suddenly the music broadens out into an almost hymnlike character; we're back to the two chords now, rich and glowing as they marched endlessly into infinity, mirroring the waves of dancers. The form moves on, the particles remain." -- Searching for the Sound - Phil Lesh - Pages 73-75

   "Brand had fallen in with the Pranksters around the time of the Big Beat Acid Test and before long was organizing an even larger version, which became known as the Trips Festival.
   .....another individual who helped organize the Trips Festival was Bill Graham. Graham had some experience organizing concerts, having set up the benefits for the Mime Troups, and his talents were utilized to run the business end of things. Mountain Girl remembered, "Bill Graham had control of the door at this event. He was a maniac. He sold tickets and insisted people have tickets. He was like the antagonist for the free trip, but at the same time he was on our side, working for us."
   The Trips Festival was where Garcia met Graham. "Here's this guy running around with a clipboard...in the midst of total insanity. I mean total wall to wall gonzo lunacy. Everybody in the place is high but Bill. And I was having the greatest time in the world...It was a great, incredible scene, and I was wandering around. I had some sense that the Grateful Dead was supposed to play sometime maybe. But it really didn't matter. We were used to Acid Tests where sometimes we'd play and sometimes we wouldn't...Anyway, I was out there wandering around and my attention was drawn to this opaque projector projecting onto one of the many screens in the place. And the screen said, 'JERRY GARCIA, PLUG IN!'"
   Garcia headed to the stage where the Grateful Dead's equipment was set up and discovered that somebody had knocked over his guitar and broke the bridge off. Strings were sticking out everywhere. Graham appeared and told him to start playing, but Garcia was just sitting on the floor, looking down at his guitar and holding it like a baby. "I gesture to the guitar and I say, 'It broke. Broke, you know?' And Bill looks down onto the ground and starts picking up the pieces. He fumbles around with them trying to fix it for me. I thought, 'What a nice guy." Despite Grahams best efforts, neither Garcia nor the Grateful Dead played again that night" -- Captain Trips - Sandy Troy - Page 77-78

   "Stewart Brand got the idea to hire Longshorman's Hall and maybe do a series of Trips Festivals, even at S.F. State, using Bill Ham's light show. The Longshoreman's Hall was big, and Count Basie had filled the joint three weeks before.
   Somehow, Bill Graham got the deal set, and the Trips Festival began, with the Acid Test scheduled as a small intramural event, not to be viewed at the exclusion of all of the other events.
   The blue tanks of laughing gas were rigged with octopus hoses and with wiring, and somebody remembered to bring balloon to fill. NITROUS-OXIDE TO TAKE OUT.
Hoowwhooo hahaha.
   Infinite-- it's infinite. The thunder machine donged, and closed circuit TV showed Big Brother and the Holding Company with the new singer, Janis Joplin, and whooo - everybody stopped dead, even the freakish Pranksters, and listened to the unearthly voice, the Gravel Gertie, Southern Comfort voice that Janis wanted to sing with as long as she could -- nobody guessed how short it would be. Still, everybody wondered how long her throat could last.
   Two weeks before, Chet Helms had split to Port Arthur to retrieve Janis, who had decided that home and Cajun was sweeter than North Beach and beatnik. She was sick of the Fox and Hound, sick of Coffee and Confusion, sick of the Van Damme and Gate Six. At least Port Arthur had a cool breeze and clean-air-values tradition, just about a half-day's hitch from New Orleans up the bayou. Johnny Winter was from there, and Taj Majal, and Sun House, so Janis had some people to jam with, and other heavies we never heard of right there in the drillshack oil town.
   Chet had to tell her lies to get her to come back. The scene wasn't really ecstatic, but there was a lot of electricity around, and Janis fell for it like a quart of fried ice cream, started jammin' with Pete Albin and Jim Gurley. The acid test trips festivals sent everybody wild, looking for places to throw other gigs. Chet got the Avalon, and the Family Dog became known as a 'people's' rock and roll company, with the logo of Indian Joe saying:

   May the baby Jesus open your mind and shut your mouth!

   Bill Graham got the old rhythm and blues Fillmore Auditorium, and the summer of '66 was done home". --

   "At the Longshoreman's Trips Festivals, Laird Grant had aquired a handful of white lightning
tablets from obvious sources and was going arond popping 'em in everybody's mouth, especially his own. he went raving around amuck watching Bill Graham renta cops play with slinkies and toy airplanes. Somebody dosed the renta cops, too, and Laird went around behind a cop shouting to eveybody with a completely loco face, teeth seemingly filed to points:

   Hey, looka that! The cops are high too.
   Can ya believe that?
   What d'ya think of dat?

   Then the real heat came in, and Laird saved the day. He came on with the same rap, made the City police wait on the steps and then ran back inside and locked the glass doors. Just lock out the cops, that's all. Nobody gave a shit anyway. He blew a big rasberry their way and then melted into the crowd with his levis, grease glistening. and dangling the little fix-it wrench off the belt buckle and poppin' white tabs like popcorn. I suspect he'll be very tired in the next two lifetimes". -- The Grateful Dead - Hank Harrison - Vanguard of a New Generation - Pages 132, 133, 136

   "The Trips Festival was a continuation of what was happening at other events, but in a much bigger dose," says Steve Brown, who was managing a local band called the Friendly Stranger at the time. "Our thing was we did a liquid light show, a fog machine and projected cartoons. We had all that environment thing going already. What this added to it was a more chaotic, unpredictable type of edge: tying everybody together with a string, turning off the lights, and throwing thousand of marshmallows down on everybody. Weird stuff that was sort of like performance art and got everybody participating. You'de be going along doing whatever you were doing and all of a sudden you'd find yourself in the middle of some other completely weired scene that somebody else was doing, so you did that until it ended or until something more interesting came along. And if a band happened to be playing and was good, that was an added bonus. The place was packed. There were people inside and outside, and people who didn't know if they were inside or outside. There were all these people just kind of bumping around Fisherman's Wharf scaring the tourists; it was great! What it really was, was a public drug event. Everyone was completely aghast that this many young people would want to do this. They couldn't believe it!" -- Garcia: American Life - Blair Jackson - Page 97

   "The most significant part of the whole weekend was that I had been there Friday night and all day Saturday and the Merry Pranksters came in to begin setting up. They set up their scaffolding thing in the middle of the floor, which was going to block some of the people in the back, and I didn't like it. "Well," they said, "You gotta talk to Ken."
   I said, "Where's Ken?"
   "He's not here right now" they said.
   About fifteen minutes before we were supposed to open, I was making sure that all the garbage had been put in the dumpsters. Garbage cans should be here. Concession stand should be there. Lights at a certain level. I wanted eveybody out of the hall because the first people who paid to come in, it should be theirs. I didn't want nineteen workers in front of the stage. When I said these things to them, they all looked at me like I was from Mars.
   Just before the show started, I was standing in the hall when I saw bikers coming in for free through the back door. There was a guy standing there in a space suit. A full body space suit with a helmet on top and this big silver arm that was moving people around. I ran to him and I looked at him and I said, "Why are you letting these people in?  Are they working here?"
   This space helmet turned toward me with the visor up. Two eyes looked at me and then he turned back again without a word. I said, "Excuse me, excuse me." He looked at me again and he just kept on letting people in. I tried to get the door shut but I couldn't because people kept pushing through, all strangers coming in with no tickets. Then I started yelling.
   Even as I was talking to this guy, he was still letting bikers in. I had nothing against bikers at that point but they weren't working there. They were coming to see the show. Finally I said, Are you Ken?" I had seen his picture before. Inside the helmet, it was Kesey's face.
   "Do you mind telling me what the hell you think you are doing?
   His way of setting the rules for the night was to finally turn to me. Without saying a single word, he flipped the visor of his space helmet down. That's how we met. To this day, my ongoing vision when someone says Trips Festival is click, visor down! Off. Gone. Next? -- Bill Graham - Bill Graham Presents - Page 138-39
   "I didn't even have to touch it. It was one of those balanced up helmets. I just nodded and it went plop. " - Ken Kesey - Bill Graham Presents - Page 139