The band's changing permutations and relentless output anticipated the working methods of collective groups such as Acid Mothers Temple and Sunburned Hand of Man.
Can one enjoy the art without being a kind of spiritual tourist? It's a difficult question, but one worth asking in light of the Source Family's reemergence amid major excavations of the Age of Aquarius (see: freak folk, hippie chic). It goes without saying, but the various sponsors of this week's Source events are impeccably hip: Other Cinema, Aquarius Records, and the locus of much of the current Aquarian fever, Arthur magazine.
What distinguishes today's backtracking from the brief vogue for peace signs and psychedelic guitar washes in the early '90s is the depth of the fascination. Seekers aren't contenting themselves with the usual icons; they're hungrier than that. How else to explain reissues of everything from Terry Riley to Karen Dalton, the popularity of Arthur, and the crowds when Alejandro Jodorowsky's fantasias (El Topo, The Holy Mountain) played at the Castro Theatre some months ago? A week before the Source Family gathering at ATA, the same venue hosted another convergence of '60s esoterica: Ira Cohen (the publisher and filmmaker behind the mirror- and mind-warping Invasion of the Thunderbolt Pagoda) introducing Julian Beck's documentary Paradise Now: The Living Theatre in Amerika.
As the cultivation of influences matures, younger artists and musicians begin to reshape the past in more interesting, nuanced ways. One such avatar is the LA-by-way-of-Baltimore blues banshee Entrance (né Guy Blakeslee). Booking him as the opener for the Ya Ho Wa 13 reunion is a brilliant stroke, since it properly asserts the bill as a cross-generational dialogue. Did Devendra Banhart consult the Source Family group shots before convening his own family portrait for the cover of Cripple Crow (XL Recordings)? Might there be something of Father Yod's TEN (the eternal now) teachings locked in White Rainbow's recent bliss-minimalism opus, The Prism of the Eternal Now (Kranky/Marriage)? I'm inclined to think so, especially after having learned that certain taste-making record producers love to gab about the Source Family. It would seem that the sons of Father Yod have become elders in their own right.
Elements of Aquarian culture will always be at best ridiculous and at worst morally vacuous. As Father Yod could pass megalomania off as free-spiritedness, so too is the current crop of (mostly white) aficionados sometimes guilty of confusing creativity with fetish: for surface, ornament, texture, and, inevitably, Native American signifiers. And yet, now as it was then, much of the work being produced is vividly realized and buoyantly energetic. Flipping through The Source, one does indeed experience a kind of timelessness quite apart from the star gates, comets, and prophecies. Forty years later, the book's disarming photographs do not seem to represent individuals so much as an ideal, a vision of beauty that endures.