In 1973 Woodstock co-founder Michael Lang proposed the idea of a national festival to highlight technological advances. In 1974, which Lang called “The Year of the Psychedelic, 1960s and the 70s,” was born. The festival expanded throughout the country; the events in America’s capital, where the politicians had ceded the Ground Zero Plaza site to a group of young organisers called the National Alternative Festival committee, became one of the country’s largest festivals.
With the arrivals of a new audience of psychedelic music fanatics, psychedelic music in the halls of political power had become an increasingly comfortable forum for protest. As they had in Woodstock, the young musicians found their way to the president’s temporary asylum. In 1970 the Vietnam war was still drawing mass protest, though the protests had taken a different shape than in the 60s. Now ’60s iconography, which historically was used to advocate an aggressive war response, was now used to promote peace. Although The National Alternative Festival committee created an environment of progressive change, by the mid-70s Woodstock was becoming increasingly crowded, with former hippies and college students putting on alternative shows.
It was already clear to many that the Woodstock Festival was cracking under the weight of fame and drugs. Blimp Jake and friends began a regular touring show in the US, at Woodstock and other similar festivals. In the UK, the Sunset Strip rock club Thatchland offered drugs to all students and eventually phased out drugs completely. In 1981 the Wonder Farm in California became a police administrated, drug free, trippily drugged-out area, a boom that would be replicated in various forms through the decade.
In recent decades the hippy movement has traditionally dwelt in an electoral bubble. The movement was an important part of the nascent Left, but its rules largely remained enforced by those on the Left, who by their very nature strove to maintain discipline and order. That discipline worked to keep cultish interest groups under control. But the endless cankles of cocaine for the upper classes, the drive to excess, the metastasised dangers of old drugs, and the onward march of technology have all challenged the sanctity of the one-party system. In many ways our post-60s founding ideals remain as relevant today as they did 40 years ago. A kind of unease has spread amongst youth that still values individuality and of separateness. Whether on drugs or the coasts or at “psych camps”, this shift within the hippy-outward ethos has demonstrated the importance of psychoactive substances, which once discouraged youth from looking inward or upward. In many ways the key to longevity of the hippy movement lies in the very elements that are undermining it, changing us.
Sarah Davis : edit, and podcast