Feb 11, 2024

September 30-October 2, 1966: Whatever It Is, San Francisco State College


"Whatever It Is," a 48-hour happening scheduled by the AS for Friday is apparently taking shape, with its organizers - whoever they are - hard at work to ensure its successful production, wherever it is. 
Activities coordinator Bob Flynn described the event as "an attempt to transcend all of the factions on campus in order to involve the entire campus in a mutual experience." 
AS president Jim Nixon, a member of the "Whatever It Is" steering committee, said that plans are firming up, with "final decisions being made as to the location of the various events." 
The event's purpose, according to Nixon, will be to "expose the students to the variety of experiences available to them at SF State, as well as to expose the community at large to what's happening with today's student." 
The happening begins with a "Sunshine Grass Dance" at 3 p.m. Friday on the Women's Polo Field. 
The emphasis, according to Flynn, will be on individual participation in the events rather than on "a classic audience-performer relationship." 
Activities reportedly will include a 48-hour dance in the women's gym, a light show, a sculpture yard, and experimental films. 
It was also reported that individual performers and groups are scheduled, including Mimi Farina, The Grateful Dead, and The Only Alternative and His Other Possibilities. 
The event will apparently be staged over a major portion of the campus, although exact locations for the event are still being negotiated with the Administration. 
Admission will be $1 for SF State students and $2 for non-students with city-wide publicity being planned.

(by Larry Maatz, from the Daily Gater, September 26, 1966)



He was dressed in a white jump suit, black hat, and had three eyes. 
His mission on campus yesterday was to promote a "Whatever It Is" at San Francisco State College tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday. 
The "Whatever It Is" is a three day activity beginning tomorrow at San Francisco State, sponsored jointly by the Associated Students and SF State's Experimental College. 
Entertainment will include Mimi Farina and the Only Alternative, the Wildflower, the Anonymous Artists of America, and the Grateful Dead - all rock and roll groups. 
Other attractions will be Bernie Gunther of the Essalen Institute who does "Sensory awareness things," light shows by Bob Beck and Bill Ham, movies and other entertainments. 
Eight musical sculptures (you play on them and they make noises) by Ron Boise will also be available to play with. The sculptures are the last works of the late Boise, who achieved local prominence through his "Kama Sutra" sculptures. 
"Whatever It Is" will also offer an event called "multifood," probably in the coffee shop. There will also be a flea market. Visitors are invited to bring things to sell. 
No exact time plan of events is being made, but it is expected that the peak hours will be from 9 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday nights. 
The purpose of the "opening" (as opposed to "happening") "has as its entire purpose, learning - an investigation of what happens when all the energies and facilities of a college - students, buildings, time, technical capabilities, space, college faculty expertise - are brought together," according to SF State Student Body President Jim Nixon. 
Admission for the weekend is $2 per person at the door.



"Whatever It Is," the much planned, unplanned happening sponsored by the Experimental College and the Associated Students, will officially begin to happen at 3 p.m. today. 
Spectator-participants will enter through a large archway on the Commons, pay their $2 ($1 for SF State students), have "Enter" stamped on their foreheads - and Happen. 
They will then be free to construct their own program (or non-program) for happening over the next 48 hours from the many activities scattered over the campus. 
Among the available choices will be the Grateful Dead, the Only Alternative and His Other Possibilities with Mimi Farina, the Final Solution, the San Andreas Fault Finders, and a Rock Workshop led by Jack Fronk. 
Sensory Awareness Exercises are planned under the direction of Bernard Gunther, coordinated with dancer Chloe Scott. 
A high point of the event will reportedly be a light show, directed by Bill Ham, and projected on art instructor Jim Baldwin's Tensed Membrane in the women's gym. 
Participating groups include The San Francisco Mime Troupe, the Congress of Wonders, the Committee, the Ann Halprin Dancer's Workshop Annex, and the Straight Theatre. 
Games in the sculpture garden will be conducted by Assistant Professor Mel Henderson, and Sound Sculpture will be presented by Ron Boise. 
Light shows in the swimming pool and a Flea Market are also planned. 
General schedule for the happening is for Friday's activities to be a rehearsal with Saturday [line missing] Farther" 
Sunday will be devoted to "Farther, Clearer - Bringing It In - Cleanup," according to the organizers. 
For those participants suffering an overdose of WII, a non-habit forming reality producing drug will be dispensed at various points on the campus.

(by Larry Maatz, from the Daily Gater, September 30, 1966)

(The issue also has an accompanying article, "Guiding Lights Explain Aims," with vague comments from organizers Jim Nixon & Stewart Brand that don't explain much. 
Jim Nixon: "It would be a mistake to assume that an event like this will be of interest to a majority of the student body. But you must remember that interesting things are always put on by an interested minority." 
Stewart Brand: "We are providing a collection of creative materials that are very rare in an atmosphere very unlike most atmospheres."
A page 2 editorial, "'Whatever it is' will be, will be..." fears that the event could be a financial disaster: little planning, not enough off-campus publicity, too big a budget, and a threat to future campus events. 
"The planning, which snatched up $7800 of the $21,000 Activities budget for the year, has been, at best, questionable... Publicity spending - $250 for a professional PR firm - has resulted in no more newspaper space or broadcast time than the college's own public information department could have procured.
"A press release announces expected attendance of up to 8000. With tickets at $1 for SF State students and $2 for others, a profit may be expected only if many participants are from off campus. 
"There has been no explanation of how a 48-hour dance was allowed through the administration, which last year spent untold hours wagging cautioning fingers at groups wanting to sponsor 4-hour open dances... 
"A group spending nearly $8000 - more than all the income from five traditional Activities events last year - on a three-day festival, is taking quite a risk.")



There was a lot of sunshine and a lot of grass but very little dancing as the Sunshine Grass Dance began Whatever It Is, SF State's weekend happening, on the Women's Polo Field Thursday. 
The Wildflower and the Demon Five, two rock bands, provided the music along with a strolling bagpipe player complete in Scottish regalia. 
Most of the audience, which numbered as high as 300, just lay on the grass and were accosted by the hot sun. However, about 20 quick-thinking grassdancers cavorted around the sprinkling system at the far end of the field. 
As the music rocked on, many male members of the gathering peeled off their shirts while girls soaked by the sprinklers danced around the audience with or without partners. 
To provide the traditional psychedelic atmosphere, three whatever-they-were sculptures were placed on the grass and a light show was provided by a naked light bulb glowing behind the impromptu stage. 
The program was delayed about a half hour due to difficulties with an elaborate sound system. During the wait the microphones were shrouded in off-white sweat socks and entertainment was provided solely by the sprinkler system. 
As the difficulty was corrected the leader of the Wildflower, adorned in a hat covered with gigantic paper flowers, welcomed the audience to "distortion land." 
As the distortion began, students supplied the crowd with a large number of balloons branded "Whatever It Is - SF State College," some of which were carried faithfully into classrooms by the grassdancers. 
Although "Whatever It Is" didn't officially begin until Friday night, a band called the Universal Parking Lot unloaded sounds in the Sculpture Yard at 3 p.m. Friday. 

(by Dave Richmond, from the Daily Gater, October 3, 1966)



The college may never see the likes of it again - but the chances are better that it will. 
"Whatever It Is," the weekend-long happening put on by the Experimental College and the Activities Office, littered the campus with archways, "sound sculptures," scaffolding, and fugitive author Ken Kesey's florescent bus. 
In addition, the events organizers had opened its dances, art shows, light shows, and "sensory-awareness" exercise sessions to the general public, and security officers shook in the motorcycle saddles. 
But things turned out all right, according to committee member Jim Nixon, AS President, who labeled "Whatever" as the "most impressive" AS event ever as well as the "best entertainment bargain" ever offered students. 
For the admission price of $1 ($2 for general admission), participants were rubber-stamped and allowed to wander all over campus, where "happenings" took place in the Main Gym, the Women's Gym, International Room, Gallery Lounge, Speaker's Platform, and Sculpture Yard.
At last count Nixon said "between six and 8,000" persons attended, pushing income close to the subsidized $7,800 from the Activities Budget. 
The $8,099.41 taken in, with addition revenue due from vendors' commissions, made "Whatever It Is" the first AS Activities event that came close to even, according to Nixon. 
At a finance committee meeting Monday afternoon the loss was estimated at $1,056.67, compared to $4,000 deficits that have been tagged to other activities. 
Security for what turned out to be 30 hours was no problem, Nixon said, with four walkie-talkies linking a total of 150 volunteer watchdogs. 
Other than a stolen ladder and two microphones and a rubber stamp, "Whatever It Is" suffered little. 
The advertised marathon began at 3 p.m. Friday, with action beginning in the Commons at 8 p.m. The dance there lasted until 3:30 a.m. Saturday morning and resumed at noon. It then continued through 6 a.m. Sunday, when "Whatever" finally began packing and cleaning up, with the help of 30 hardcore happeners.



The "Whatever It Is" dance and light show held last weekend here transcended its chaotic planning and utter disorganization to become probably the most successful event ever staged by the Associated Students. 
As a commercial venture, it garnered a $8,000 return for a $9,500 outlay, easily qualifying it as by far the most profitable undertaking ever connected with the AS here. 
But it was more than just an attempt to capitalize on the hippie subculture thriving at SF State. 
By commercializing what the "Whatever" promoters described as a "spontaneous happening," the AS offered to the entire campus an opportunity to observe and participate in an example of the style that is approaching the very ramparts of mass America. 
And, of course, it was more than just a dance and light show, with its hyperactive musicians tossing their manes and abusing electrified instruments while bathed in pulsating, multicolored, swirling palettes of light, the rhythm so pronounced that the spectator's body and teeth vibrate as if he were operating a jackhammer. 
There was more. 
In the main gym a seminar was being offered in Sensory Awakening; kids huddling together in the center of the room with their eyes closed while a caller gave such instructions as: 
"Hold your partner's hand and try to discover what he's really like," or 
"Mold your partner's face with your fingers and then see if his face has changed."
In the Gallery Lounge, more musicians plied their trade amid an electric exhibit from the New York Museum of Modern Art. 

Despite the final success of the happening, it appeared for awhile that "Whatever It Is" trembled on the brink of calamity. 
It was a risky operation all around, not only fiscally, but in terms of the many possible disasters tempted by an event that encouraged "spontaneity." 
Instead, there was not one incident of violence or disorder, except for a few drunken fraternity men misbehaving themselves unimaginatively. 
Even the presence of the fabled Hell's Angels Saturday night didn't stir a hair on the heads of the "Whatever" staff because, according to planner Dick Rosenblatt, "the word was out in the underground" to leave SF State alone. 
The Hell's Angels, casual dressers anyway, said they felt at ease among the throng of hippies that crowded the campus over the weekend. 
Pete Page, who identified himself at the president of the Daly City chapter of the Angels, said he liked the SF State students he saw Saturday night because "they looked like they were on trips all the time." 

Another well-known visitor to SF State Saturday night was Ken Kesey, author of the best seller describing life in a mental institution, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo Nest." 
Incognito as hell, Kesey reportedly did a tape for FM station KPFA while on campus. 
Kesey is being sought by police on charges of possession of marijuana after he jumped bail and escaped to Mexico. 
One rumor being bruited about by very coy student inside dopesters was that the Hell's Angels were on campus to protect fugitive Kesey from arrest. 
Not only was Kesey present, but his psychedelically painted bus was parked in front of the Commons, inside of which members of the Greatful Dead endangered their flowing locks, and hence their musical careers, by huddling around a burning taper. 
Next to Kesey's bus a huge searchlight, such as the ones used in supermarket openings, contributed to the carny spirit by beaming a shaft of light into the foggy night. 
It was moot whether this example of the moth theory of crowd attracting had effect, but it did manage to captivate a gaggle of reclining students whose bloodstreams were undoubtedly charged with all sorts of spectacular chemicals. 

Back on the dance floor in the Commons, more of the hippie elite were arriving. Jefferson Poland, head of the Sexual Freedom League, for instance, came in a very chic silk mini-skirt. 
The only people at the happening who seemed like they were miserable were the promoters. 
Although the Whatever budget provided for an elaborate walkie-talkie communications system, the AS officials using it at times were harried and distraught. 
The top Whatever officials were distinguished from rank and file happeners by gold cords worn either around the arm or head. 
Looking elfin in his gold headband and walkie-talkie antenna, "Whatever" Security Chief Mike Vozick ranged the campus reporting on possible spots to his boss, AS president Jim Nixon, in Communications Central. 
There were also about 400 "AIDS," the lower echelon Whatever staffers, who wore badges of identity permitting them to happen any place on campus without fee.

The startling thing about Whatever It Was is that over 5000 volatile students plunged into a weekend of somewhat nightmarish activity without serious damage to themselves or the campus. 
After all, this is the college at which dances last semester had to be banned because of fighting and vandalism. 
Happening and tasting, apparently, are now more in vogue among a good segment of SF State students than fighting and drinking.

(by Phil Garlington, from the Daily Gater, October 5, 1966)

(The issue also includes two pages of photos: "5000 'entered' for three days of 'whatever'") 



Aftermathematics (or reflections on whatever it was): No matter what else may be said about them, the planners of the 3-day soiree couldn't have timed it better. With the "disturbed conditions," as the downtown papers chose to tag 'em, around Fillmore, weekend tripsters stayed away from the usual concert halls in droves... Even with Muddy Waters, the Airplane, and the Butterfield Blues Band, forinstance, the Fillmore Aud. Fri. night drew an awe-time low - 400... Meanwhile, among the concrete Nabisco boxes at 19th & Holloway, things (and people) were happening. 

Like any good newspaper, variety show, or brothel, "Whatever It Is" had something for everybody. Some of the people at the Friday dance in the Commons looked like they were dragged over from the 2nd floor of the Library - out of the microfilm room. Others seemed fully satisfied locked among the machines in the Redroom Rm. Those known as "hippies" had a field day-night-day-night-morning, some dancing, some listening, (acid rock, jazz, poetry, and walkie-talkies were the main attractions), and some going goggle-eyed at Bill Hamm's light show in the Women's Gym under a not-so-tense membrane. Rumors - compounded by his neon-like, 5-bunk bus parked in front of the Commons - had it that Ken Kesey was alive and happening. And then there was that single coed, among the stretched out bodies facing the light show screens, who checked out the action - in her wheelchair. 
Try as we may, we can't forget the SF Stater back in the Commons-turned-psychedelicatessen who danced up a storm (of protest and stares), although her antics make journalistic justice a task. Looking much like the stereotype of a plain-Jane (such as you see in "Gidget"), with short kinky blonde hair, thick glasses, pale complexion, frail body - she was either crazy or on a too-good trip. When the Greatful Dead's song was slow, she resembled a burglar prancing on tiptoes around a house, a belly dancer with an upset stomach, and a limbo dancer whose pole was everything around her. Even a coed tight in the clinches of her partner broke away to stare, once she saw Jane... 
Then the music accelerated and the anonymous coed went crazy. Now she resembled just one thing: a trackster warming up for a broad jump, taking the first steps, then coming to a halt just before leaping. Lord knows what would've happened if she decided to go for distance... 
Outside, schoolkids wandered around and inside "sound sculptures"; an audience surrounded the Platform to hear an impromptu quartet of congas and bongos (who performed 15 hours), and the steering committee was hard at work, with fancy walkie-talkies, barking important commands to ensure keeping of the peace - even when nothing was going on. Chaplinesque chief of Experimental Policing was Mike Vozick who, forehead secured by a symbolic gold band, kept abreast of things from action central, Hut C. Checking with all points for "crises," he finally heard of one in the Gallery Lounge. "Vozick to John, Vozick to John," he cried. "Yes?" "There's a crisis in the Lounge." "Oh? What is it?" Vozick: "I don't know, but whatever it is - take care of it"... 
And Saturday, despite the Commitee, Mime Troupe, an innovative San Andreas Fault Finders performance, and swimming (more prude than nude), things were quiet. It was too early for light-showing or dancing, so the 100 in the Commons watched four tots frugging 3 feet from the speakers. A Woody Allen-type read poetry in the Lounge, and a security officer outside the Commons grumbled to a colleague, "Okay, but I'll have to call my wife first, probably." Action returned that night, with Bernie Gunther's "sensory awareness" tricks keeping the Gym packed. I strode by in time to catch the preliminaries, which had the masses tapping their own heads, reminding of one of our sessions in Broadcast Communications last yr. Only difference was we didn't have "Whatever It Is" balloons tied to our fingers and bounding up and down with the tempo... 

Outside, a man stood on an island waiting for a trolley car - with a Confederate flag at his side. And, too, there was the rugged-looking blonde at 19th & Holloway drunkedly decrying the "punks in school." And yet, it seems that they were symbolic of the turmoil in the outside world, while "the punks" showed how sober and how tolerant, as well as happy, they could be.
Alexander Pope said it all, in 1733, when he wrote: "All discord, harmony not understood / All partial evil, universal good / And spite of pride, in erring reasons spite / One truth is clear - whatever is, is right."

(by Ben Fong-Torres, from the Daily Gater, October 5, 1966) 



It doesn't matter that a microphone, along with other less expensive things, were stolen. 
It doesn't concern us that many of the 6000 persons at "Whatever It Is" were straights and never really fitted into the climate of "sensory awareness," "environmental gadgetry," and "energy focuses" set up for the almost-three-day event. 
And it doesn't annoy us, on reflection, that many of the most involved people planning and participating in "Whatever" were overreaching, searching for an emotion or atmosphere they will never be comfortable with. 
For the basic product of the unique project was total success, for which its organizers deserve congratulations. 

The final tallies are in: Security problems were negligible; all contracted performers - and then some - performed; and, most important in terms of future activities on campus, cash registers rang often enough to mark this event as the first one sanctioned by the Activities Office that didn't saddle it, in the end, with huge losses. 
In an editorial Friday, we questioned the planning of this venturous marathon, striking a sour note of pessimism while wishing its instigators good luck. 
Their response - with 4/4 beats of free-wheeling optimism and grass-roots pluck to front whatever luck was available - was gratifyingly satisfactory. 
We only wish that more than 6000 showed up and that publicity, before and after, could have been fuller. The world at large deserves - and some of it needs - to realize what's going on here. 

(from the Daily Gater, October 5, 1966)



Quite a weekend, weekend-wise. October, the month of Libras and Scorpios, is ushered in by kids doing their thing in Hunter's Point, et cetera. An amazing number of fires started last week in San Francisco. The full moon, and You Know Who is (supposed to be and probably is) back in town. 
You Know Who gave a two-hour "acid test" at San Francisco State from 4 to 6 a.m. Sunday. The cops showed but he didn't show for them. The bus has a new paint job. But that's all. The Merry Pranksters are back, too, seems they have nothing else to do. "Whatever It Is" at State was excellent, although hardly a "trip." There should continue to be things like this, a whole campus where people can swim, dance, freak on the lawns, and listen to rock and roll. Light shows, planning, and execution of this one were excellent. 
These things shouldn't be 'coming with a date' affairs. Creates too much hassle about meeting at the car. Come single and find someone. Dick Alpert says Kesey's Acid Test and so-called 'trips festivals' are "the most trivial aspects of LSD." D'accord. Further, why does it have to have any connection at all with LSD?
The dancing is nice; the music certainly is a gas. The Grateful Dead were marvelous. Jerry Garcia pulls some excellent runs out of his guitar when he stops playing around. The San Andreas Fault Finders don't seem to be anything special. The Wildflower hasn't changed much, which is too bad. A new and stronger drummer, but little else. Their "original material" is imitative and undistinguished, and their talent is insufficient to make other material either new, interesting, or well done. 
These weekend festivals always have their highpoints. Unfortunately there is never enough to completely fill them up, and they must turn to the mediocre. This weekend the worst of the mediocre was Mimi Farina with "The Only Possibility and His Other Alternatives." You can spot a bad rock band by their reliance on pleasing but out of place Spanish rhythms. This group has nothing and Mimi Farina. You want to say something nice about her, after all....but she is bad, and worse when compared with Nancy Sinatra. 
[ . . . ]

(by Jann Wenner, from the "Doin' the Thing" column, Daily Californian, October 5, 1966)



San Francisco State's "Whatever It Is," presented at that campus last weekend, seems best represented by the officious little men, the self-selected organizers, seen scurrying here and there in the dank halls. Through some gross oversight they were equipped with crackling walkie-talkies which they found copious opportunity to use for no discernible purpose. It seemed they were trying to contact their similarly equipped fellows, but like the "happening" and its potential recipients, they were never able to communicate. 
Visitors often searched in vain for directions to exhibits - and when they finally came upon a cluster of people it would turn out to be a queue for a bathroom. 
A main attraction would seem to have been the Grateful Dead, the Only Alternative (with Mimi Farina), and a three-side light show, all crammed into one perspiring room. A stage had been erected in the approximate center with some rectangular screens set at various angles around the stage for the light display. Unfortunately this division of the stage area also interrupted the flow of sound from the band's amps as well as effectively blocking some musicians from the audience's view. The sound system was one step removed from a wind-up victrola. 
Jerry Garcia, the Dead's lead guitarist, took the group through some rambunctious rock numbers, and his solos often rivaled the masterful Mike Bloomfield of the Paul Butterfield band. Mimi Farina's petite voice also fell victim to the hopeless sound system, but the audience enjoyed their "soft-sell" folk rock. 
About 30 depressing hallways away the Wildflower held forth with their traditionally banal lyrics, trite arrangements, and amateurish vocals. Luckily the group generates a certain amount of inter-person excitement during a set, but the onlookers weren't overly moved by the whole presentation. 
Let us hope the SF State organizers will spend a few weekends at the Fillmore or Avalon where they can see a "happening" that really happens.
[ . . . ]

(by Michael Chechik, from the Daily Californian, October 7, 1966)



When fugitive author Ken Kesey was on campus last weekend for "Whatever It Is," he didn't relegate himself to hiding from narcotics agents, various sources have revealed.
Besides decorating the campus by parking his psychedelicately-painted bus in front of the Commons, as reported Wednesday in the Gater, he performed his Acid Test in the studios of campus station KRTG, according to program director Steve Newman. 
With the Greatful Dead backing him, the well-known and well-hunted (for possession of marijuana) author read his previously-recorded poetry for more than an hour from Studio B in the CA building. 
His lyrical performance was aired to listeners in the Commons, the Redwood Room, outdoor speakers, and KRTG's regular audience in the dormitories. 
Kesey, who fled the US to Mexico last January, also reportedly spoke briefly to a crowd before returning to safer grounds, behind a cordon of Hell's Angels who bodyguarded his visit to SF State. 
And if the planners of "Whatever It Is" think their three-day happening was big, Kesey has a surprise in store (providing the police don't surprise him first). 
He's planning, he said, a "graduation ceremony" for users of psychedelic drugs late this month, with 7500 tripsters expected to celebrate - and, incidentally, to help hide Kesey.

See also: 
https://diva.sfsu.edu/collections/sfbatv/bundles/209388 (news video from 9/30 afternoon grass dance with the band Daemon Lover)
The Deadhead's Taping Compendium, pp.101-110: 10/2/66 (by Nick Meriwether)


  1. I was looking for mentions of the Dead playing the "Whatever It Is" festival, but while I was at it, decided I might as well include all the reporting on the festival from the Daily Gater (SF State) and the Daily Cal (UC Berkeley). Haven't checked other papers.

    The Dead make only brief appearances (the "Greatful Dead," as the Gater prefers to call them) - hanging out in Kesey's bus, playing in the Commons while a 'crazy coed' dances, blasting out some "rambunctious rock numbers" over a crappy PA in a sweaty room (with special praise for Garcia's solos), joining Kesey for his short & secretive acid test. (Actually, they didn't play in his performance.)
    The Dead performed in different places each day of the festival; these articles are quite vague on exactly when & where they played. The Gater was more concerned with their long hair and loud noise.

    Kesey had just returned from his Mexico getaway, but was still a fugitive in hiding from the law, so the Acid Test here was more furtive than previous Tests had been (Kesey himself keeping out of sight). LSD would be outlawed a week later, so Kesey took this opportunity to announce an upcoming Acid Test Graduation. The cops would catch up with him in the meantime; but it's interesting that here he was accompanied (and shielded) by a flock of Hell's Angels who mingled peacefully with the crowd.
    One of the Angels, Freewheelin' Frank, wrote a memoir the following year with an account of this festival, which I don't have, but he mentioned that the Dead played Midnight Hour.

    One article mentions "disturbed conditions" around the Fillmore, keeping an audience away from the Muddy Waters/Butterfield/Airplane performance there on Friday 9/30. The cops had shot a black kid on Sept 27, causing some riots, so a curfew was declared in the Fillmore district from Sep 29-Oct 1, with the National Guard patrolling the streets, and "the cops shut down the show early." (The Daily Gater protested about mass arrests in Haight-Ashbury on Thursday night, with many SF State students getting snatched up.)
    But meanwhile, amidst the background of riots & police violence, students and hippies could dance the night away at the SF college festival.

  2. I've seen a copy of Freewheelin' Frank's 1967 memoir, courtesy of runonguinness, and he devotes a few pages to the San Francisco State College acid test. A sampler:

    "The date is 10/1/66... An acid test is mainly made up of students, teachers, writers, poets, artists, critics, and whatever else one might find in the circle of creativeness outside the teenyboppers that have shown up also. This is on the Saturday night and all the college buildings are lit up and left open. One building - the gymnasium - is used for the acid test. In the center of the gymnasium floor there is a bandstand, open on two sides. Scaffolds are built throughout the gymnasium, where people stand working projectors that play technicolor films against the ceiling in all beauty of violets and purples and reddest of ruby reds. And on the bandstand this night taking turns were the Grateful Dead and Mimi Farina. It is very dark in here because the only lights are technicolored film projections and the oscillating lights and the tangos of color that blow across the ceiling...
    "The Grateful Dead, their hair hanging below their shoulders, all five of them twanging and twonging on their guitars amplified into the pitch darkness of this night, singing of the midnight hour. The audience swirled and milled about. My mind was ripping on LSD as many minds were, for this was an acid test..."

    Frank goes on to describe the various acid hallucinations he had while the Dead and Mimi Farina played (apparently he stopped Midnight Hour by pointing at the ceiling, to the Dead's confusion). After the Dead played, "there would be a hush before the swirling autoharps would break the silence and Mimi Farina would again sing her lovely ballads..."
    Then he took a stroll around the campus, handing out acid, until he came to the college radio station, where he encountered Ken Kesey, "sitting on a stool with an electric guitar plugged into a large amplifier with wires running all over the floor...with a pair of earphones across his neck, twanging away at a guitar and quoting weird poetry into the night..." At which point Frank ascended into the heavens.
    (See also the Taping Compendium p.104-105)