Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The 1960s Revisited: A 50th Anniversary Celebration

Since the mid-20th century, San Francisco has been a beacon supporting underground movements, a vibrant arts and culture scene, and being one of the top music destinations in the world. Its dedication to preserving a singular voice – often independent of national trends – sets it apart from other highly sought-after international destinations. With the current influx of a stunning number of technology companies occupying the regional landscape, it’s essential to take a step back and reexamine pivotal historical moments that helped shape San Francisco into the tech hub and arts mecca it is today.

The 1960s Revisited kicks off on the exact 50th anniversary of one of the most celebrated events of the 1960s counterculture: The Trips Festival. Considered a watershed event in the history of San Francisco’s underground arts scene, the launch of the psychedelic 1960s era, and a pivotal event in the growth of the region’s technology industry, The Trips Festival was the first large convention (essentially a widely attended and publicized Acid Test) bringing together all the major Bay Area figures in rock ‘n roll, beat poetry, technology, experimental theater, dance, indie films, light show production, overhead visual projections, costume design, and of course Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters distributing LSD throughout the crowd. Virtually the entire local avant-garde was involved: Committee TheaterSan Francisco Mime TroupeOpen Theater, and San Francisco Tape Music CenterAnna Halprin and the San Francisco Dancers’ Workshop participated in the Trips Festival.

Stewart Brand emerged from The Trips Festival as a countercultural entrepreneur, and it set forth Bill Graham’s legacy at the Fillmore (Brand conceived The Trips Festival, while Graham organized it with Kesey and Ramon Sender). The festival itself, which had an attendance of 6,000 people, was as Walter Isaacson says in his book Innovators, “a quintessential display of the fusion that shaped the personal computer era: technology, counterculture, entrepreneurship, gadgets, music, art and engineering…. From Stewart Brand to Steve Jobs, those ingredients fashioned a wave of Bay Area innovators who were comfortable at the interface of Silicon Valley and Haight-Ashbury….”

“The Trips Festival flared of individual expression and collective communion under the spell of its incredible arts production,” says Michael Kramer (author of The Republic of Rock: Music and Citizenship in the Sixties Counterculture). “It set the stage for many experiments and innovations to come, from rock festivals to performance art to flash mobs to Burning Man to the Internet itself.”

The Trips Festival documented the emerging social movement that would soon culminate in 1967 with thousands of youth from around the country migrating to Haight-Ashbury, the Human Be-In, and the Summer of Love. The Trips Festival was an all-inclusive affair, bringing the brightest minds across diverse fields together for what’s now considered the birth of the Haight-Ashbury era. The festival served as one of the first official Grateful Dead concerts. Post-modern dance pioneer Anna Halprin (Founder, Dancers’ Workshop) engaged as a self-described movement “catalyst,” giving audience members ideas for dancing.

The California Historical Society is proud to host a 3-Day Arts Festival featuring renowned scholars in conversation regarding the monumental cultural impact of several 1966 happenings. The 1960s Revisited: A 50th Anniversary Celebration includes four events:

January 22, 2016: The Music, Technology & Significance of The Trips FestivalJanuary 22, 2016: Looking Back: The Dawn of the Grateful DeadJanuary 22, 2016: VIP Reception with Stewart BrandJanuary 23, 2016: Independent Psychedelic Film Festival

The Music, Technology & Significance of The Trips Festival
January 22, 2016, 1:00 - 4:00 PM
The Contemporary Jewish Museum
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As Andrew Kirk notes in his most recent book, Counterculture Green: The Whole Earth Catalog and American Environmentalism, “The Trips Festival was not the first event of the era to unite commerce and technology with the cultural trends of the sixties, but it captured an important convergence of interests better than any previous single happening.” The technology symposium spotlights the influence of The Trips Festival and San Francisco’s mid-1960s counterculture movement on the emerging personal computer era. A keynote speech from author/historian Michael Kramer will set the stage for an intriguing panel of authors and historians, including Greg CastilloDavid Bernstein, and Andrew Kirk. Film Director Eric Christensen will also make a special introduction prior to the screening of his famed documentary, The Trips Festival Movie.

Michael J. Kramer is a historian, writer, teacher, dramaturg, editor, and author of The Republic of Rock: Music and Citizenship in the Sixties Counterculture (Oxford University Press, 2013). His latest book-in-progress, This Machine Kills Fascists: Technology and Culture in the US Folk Music Revival, revises understandings of the folk revival as an anti-modernist movement, arguing instead that it offers a hidden history of people grappling with how to live more humanely in an increasingly technological society. With a related multimedia project, he focuses on the Berkeley Folk Music Festival, which ran on the University of California, Berkeley campus from 1958 - 1970. Kramer’s also at work on a set of essays about intellectuals and the counterculture. He has served as an editor at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and the New York Times, and currently teaches various courses (history, American studies, digital humanities, and civic engagement) at Northwestern University.

Greg Castillo, an Associate Professor in the Department of Architecture at University of California, Berkeley, has investigated the Bay Area’s counterculture design legacy through a U.C. Berkeley Arts Research Center Fellowship (2014) and an Associate Professor Fellowship from the Townsend Center for the Humanities. His research informed a 2014 exhibition, Design Radicals: Creativity and Protest in Wurster Hall, reviewing “outlaw design” enterprises undertaken by faculty and students in the late-1960s and early-1970s at U.C. Berkeley. For the catalogue of the Walker Art Center exhibition on counterculture design, Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for UtopiaCastillo contributed the essay “Counterculture Terroir: California’s Hippie Enterprise Zone” and delivered a public lecture at the exhibition’s opening symposium. Castillo will serve as Guest Curator for the expanded Hippie Modernism exhibition when it travels to the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive in February 2017.

David W. Bernstein is Professor of Music and Head of the Music Department at Mills College. His various publications include The San Francisco Tape Music Center: 1960s Counterculture and the Avant-GardeWritings through John Cage’s Music, Poetry, and Art (co-edited with Christopher Hatch), Cage (Re)Considereda special double issue of Contemporary Music Review, and essays for Cage & Consequences, ed. Julia Schr√∂der and Volker Straebel; The New York Schools of Music and the Visual Arts, ed., Steven Johnson; the Cambridge History of Western Music Theory, ed., Thomas Christensen; TheoriaJournal of the Arnold Schoenberg Center, Music Theory SpectrumContemporary Music Review, and Current Musicology. Bernstein is presently writing a book on Pauline Oliveros for the University of Illinois Press and Experiments in the Fault Zonea history of experimental music at Mills College. He is also editor of Music Theory Spectrum, the flagship journal of the Society for Music Theory.

Director Eric Christensen’s independent documentary, The Trips Festival Movie, offers an in-depth look inside the famed Trips Festival. Due to the lack of footage taken at the actual festival, the film relies on fascinating photos, interviews with some of The Trips Festival’s organizers such as Stewart BrandKen Kesey and Bill Graham, and a wild and bizarre short of the festival shot by experimental filmmaker Ben Van Meter. The Trips Festival is said to have birthed the entire hippie scene and the revolution of the late 1960s. Influences of The Trips Festival can be seen in present day festivals such as Bonnaroo and Burning Man. Actor Peter Coyote narrates the film.

The 1960s Revisited
January 22, 2016

Obscura Digital
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The 1960s Revisited kicks off on the exact 50th anniversary of one of the most celebrated events of the 1960s counterculture: The Trips Festival. Considered a watershed event in the history of San Francisco’s underground arts scene, the launch of the psychedelic 1960s era, and a pivotal event in the growth of the region’s technology industry, The Trips Festival was the first large convention (essentially a widely attended and publicized Acid Test) bringing together all the major Bay Area figures in rock ‘n roll, beat poetry, technology, experimental theater, dance, indie films, light show production, overhead visual projections, costume design, and of course Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters distributing LSD throughout the crowd. Virtually the entire local avant-garde was involved: Committee Theater, San Francisco Mime Troupe, Open Theater, and San Francisco Tape Music Center. Anna Halprin and the San Francisco Dancers’ Workshop participated in the Trips Festival.

Stewart Brand emerged from The Trips Festival as a countercultural entrepreneur, and it set forth Bill Graham’s legacy at the Fillmore (Brand conceived The Trips Festival, while Graham organized it with Kesey and Ramon Sender). The festival itself, which had an attendance of 6,000 people, was as Walter Isaacson says in his book Innovators, “a quintessential display of the fusion that shaped the personal computer era: technology, counterculture, entrepreneurship, gadgets, music, art and engineering…. From Stewart Brand to Steve Jobs, those ingredients fashioned a wave of Bay Area innovators who were comfortable at the interface of Silicon Valley and Haight-Ashbury….”
Schedule:

6:00 PM - Looking Back: The Dawn of the Grateful Dead 
Featuring Peter Richardson, Dennis McNally and Nicholas Meriwether
Many of the initial Grateful Dead performances were as the primary band for the Acid Tests, including at The Trips Festival. It’s well documented that the Dead went on to become one of the century’s most influential groups in rock history. With their shows operating more like social laboratories, fans and the band alike were on a collective musical and psychological crusade. The beginning days of the Dead will be the focus of this panel discussion featuring Peter Richardson, Dennis McNally and Nicholas Meriwether.

7:00 PM - Reception with special guests Stewart BrandJoin Peter Richardson, Dennis McNally, Nicholas Meriwether, Stewart Brand, and many others at a special reception celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Trips Festival and the dawn of the 1960s. Enjoy craft cocktails, hors d'oeuvres, and the incredible creations of Obscura Digital. 

Independent Psychedelic Film Festival
January 23, 2016, 12:00 - 6:00 PM
Hobart Building
Get Tickets

The California Historical Society completes its 3-Day Arts Festival with the public screenings of three period films: The Trips Festival Movie, Magic Trip: Ken Kesey’s Search for a Kool Place, Rockin’ at the Red Dog: The Dawn of Psychedelic Rock.

Films:

Magic Trip: Ken Key’s Search for a Kool Place is a freewheeling portrait of Ken Kesey and the Merry Band of Prankesters’ legendary cross-country road trip to the New York World’s Fair in 1964. Until the film’s release date in August 2011, the footage of the road trip had never been seen before. The footage serves as a rare and extraordinary piece of American history that most have no understanding of. The film was directed by OSCAR-winning director Alex Gibney and Alison Ellwood.

Rockin’ At The Red Dog: The Dawn of Psychedelic Rock documentary chronicles the history behind the wild times at the Red Dog Saloon in Virginia City, Nevada. It is said that the psychedelic sixties were partially conceived there. The film stars The CharlatansBig Brother and the Holding CompanyDon & Roz Works, and Lynne Hughes. The film is directed by Mary Works. It was originally released in 1996 under the title The Life and Times of the Red Dog Saloon, but in 2005 when it was re-released on DVD, the title changed to Rockin’ At The Red Dog: The Dawn of Psychedelic Rock.

Director Eric Christensen’s independent documentary, The Trips Festival Movie, offers an in-depth look inside the famed Trips Festival. Due to the lack of footage taken at the actual festival, the film relies on fascinating photos, interviews with some of The Trips Festival’s organizers such as Stewart Brand, Ken Kesey and Bill Graham, and a wild and bizarre short of the festival shot by experimental filmmaker Ben Van Meter. The Trips Festival is said to have birthed the entire hippie scene and the revolution of the late 1960s. Influences of The Trips Festival can be seen in present day festivals such as Bonnaroo and Burning Man. Actor Peter Coyote narrates the film.
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