SONIC REDUCER As the summer squeezes out its last warmish days, we can safely say that we're glad for one thing: that with the end of the season comes those last nagging reminders of the Summer of Love, all that was great and good about hippie Frisky, the perpetually remarketable, oh-so-remarkable boomer musical legacy, and how radical it was that so many acolytes drifted here four decades ago to gobble acid and find themselves. Yet are we in the clear to say that we're all a bit weary of the free-floating miasma of hype? By Jerry's beard, it happens only every five to 10 years, when the once anti-establishment boomer establishment turns on, tunes in, and pats itself on the back yet again as the 25th, 30th, or 45th anniversaries roll around. I know an overweening sense of self-importance seems to be an intrinsic part of one's duty as an American citizen, but has there ever been a more self-congratulatory generation than the one that birthed the Summer of Love? Can we now unofficially rename it the Summer of Self-Love? Can I be excused from the creaky, walker-bound group grope that will accompany the big five-oh?
Yep, hippie-bashing, at this queasy, war-wracked juncture, is a tired, predictable, oft-rightie-instigated contact sport that's far too easy to indulge in. Still, has there ever been a wave of so-called progressives so determined to look back, so intent in repackaging their relics for resale? You can stuff mewling protests against ageism in your tie-dyed Depends. Boomer rockers have been so busy crowing from the rooftops about their accomplishments for so many years that they've failed to notice how incredibly bored youngsters -- and even not-so-young 'uns -- have become with Grandpappy's zillionth sing-along to "Love Me Do." Indeedy, nothing can ever compare to your old-time rock 'n' roll, your first trip, orgy, no-nukes protest, Jell-O wrasslin' bout, ad infinitum. But must we still hear about it? This from the same gen, captains helming a capsizing music industry, that turned the phrase "classic rock," that has insisted on recognizing every anniversary of '60s-era recording classics, from the Beatles to Sly Stone to Jefferson Airplane to brrrzzzzzzz ...
Grrrzzzdhoooh-ha! Oh, were you saying? By the way, when the music's over -- turn off the light, OK? I know hippies weren't the ones to self-aggrandizingly dub themselves the Greatest Generation. And perhaps we've all come to expect far too much from our self-promoting, self-obsessed, yet always self-critical forebears. Yet when word of bickering between competing SF Summer of Love events in August began drifting hither -- rumors that Summer of Love 40th Anniversary producer Boots Hughston tells me are simply that: rumors ("We'd been promoting Summer of Love for a year and a half. They had been working on the Hope and Beyond AIDS project in other countries, but this year they decided to change the name of the event -- we have a lot of respect for them") -- it seemed like a little peace was in order. After all, the entire purpose behind the Sept. 2 event, Hughston explains, is to "remind people there are other things rather than taking over other countries and going to war over oil -- like compassion and understanding. Why not remind people where it all began in 1967?" That's why Hughston says Country Joe McDonald, Taj Mahal, Canned Heat, New Riders of the Purple Sage, and others are performing free, in between the spiritual and political speakers.
Good intentions go far with even crankaholics like yours truly. But how did the event -- which could have used some younger, relevant artists indebted to the San Francisco Sound in its lineup (look for a sampling at this weekend's Ben Lomond Indian Summer Music Festival) -- come to fall on the very day most of its younger demographic might be burning elsewhere? "There is a strong synergy between us and Burning Man, you're right," Hughston says.