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Tom Wolfe, THE ELECTRIC KOOL-AID ACID TEST, Farrar Straus and Giroux, Inc., 1968, Copyright 1968 by Tom Wolfe. excerpts ( JH picked out all passages describing sound or sound equipment ) Typed by Barb Golden, Aug. 17, 1994. 1307w

It was actually Stewart Brand who thought up the great Trips Festival of January 1966. Brand and a San Francisco artist, Ramon Sender. ...The Trips Festival was set for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights, january 21-23, at the Longshoremen's Hall in San Francisco. The Trips Festival was billed as a big celebration that was going to simulate an LSD experience, minus the LSD, using light effects and music, mainly.

The big night, Saturday night, was going to be called The Acid Test, featuring Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters. Kesey and the Pranksters were primed for the Festival. Even Mountain Girl was on hand. She had wrestled the thing out in her mind and was back on the bus. The Pranksters had just held an Acid Test at the Fillmore Auditorium, a big ballroom in the middle of one of San Francisco's big Negro slums, the Fillmore district. It was a wild night. Hundreds of heads and bohos from all over the Bay area turned out, zonked to the eyeballs. Paul Krassner was back in town, and he heard the word that was out on ... The Scene. Everybody would be "dropping acid" about 5 or 6 P.M. to get ready for the Acid Test to begin that night at nine o'clock at the Fillmore Auditorium. Krassner arrives and__shit!__he sees:

...a ballroom surrealistically seethng with a couple of thousand bodies stoned out of their everlovin' bruces in crazy costumes and obscene makeup with a raucous rock 'n' roll band and stroboscopic lights and a thunder machine and balloons and heads and streamers and electronic equipment and the back of a guy's coat proclaiming Please don't believe in magic to a girl dancing with 4-inch eyelashes so that even the goddamn Pinkerton Guards were contact high.

Kesey asks him to take the microphone and contribute to a running commentary on the scene. "All I know," he announces into the din, "is that if I were a cop and I came in here, I wouldn't know where to begin."

Well, the cops came in , and they didn't know where to begin. They came in to close the Test down at 2 A.M. in keeping with a local ordinance and the whole thing was at its maddest height. Mountain Girl had hold of a microphone and was shrieking encouragement to the flailing dancers. Babbs was beaming spotlights at heads who were veering around bombed and asking them spectral questions over another microphone__Say there, what's your trouble__have you l-o-s-t y-o-u-r mi-i-i-i-i-i-i-nd! Page Browning was grinning Zea-lot. The cops started shouting for them to close down but couldn't make themselves heard and started pulling plugs out, microphone plugs, loudspeaker plugs, strobe plugs, amplifier plugs__but there were so many goddamn plugs, the most monumental snake pit of wires and plugs in history, and as fast as they would pull eight plugs out, Mountain Girl would put ten plugs back in , and finally Mountain Girl had a microphone up on the balcony somewhere and was screaming instructions to the dancers and the cops__louder music, more wine__and they couldn't find her.

Finally they ordered the Pranksters to start clearing the place out, which they did except for Babbs, who sat down in a chair and wouldn't budge. We said get busy, said the cops. "I don't have to," said Babbs. "I'm the boss here. They're working for me." pp224-226

Kesey left Municipal Court in San Francisco on January 20 with Mountain Girl and Stewart Brand and onto the whole bus full of Pranksters to roll through San Francisco advertising the Trips Festival. They got out at Union Square, Kesey wore a pair of white Levi's with the backsides emblazoned with HOT on the left side and COLD on the right and TIBET in the middle,__and a pair of sky-blue boots. They all played Ron Boise's Thunder Machine for loon vibrations in Union Square in the fibrillating heart of San Francisco.

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 the 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__an absurd thought to Norman Hartweg__and we've got a promoter__all absurd, but the thousands pour into Longshoremen'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 in 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 open for the first time. It is like the time the Pranksters went to the Beatles concert in full costume, looking so bizarre and so totally smashed that no one 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. pp230-31

...and the press, vibrating under Ron Boise's thunder machine. A great rout in progress, you understand.

And in the center of the hall__the Pranksters 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 mammoth size on the walls. p.232

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... p.233


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