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David Middlecamp: SLO’s acid trip seemed a bit mild

December 3, 1966

Memo to hipster wannabees:

Chances are if you only get style updates from a newspaper you will be several months behind the cutting edge. While newspapers have a voracious appetite for content, by the time they find out about short-lived trends the true hipster has already moved on. This story was an exception.

Acid rock had staying power and while Wikipedia gives the first documented references to psychedelic and acid rock in 1964-65, there was still a lot of upside to the trend.

The Beatles brought the 12-string guitar and sitar to the fore with the album Rubber Soul released in December 1965.

San Francisco bands including the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and others began to draw widespread attention in the mid-1960s, transforming concerts into mind-altering events with light shows and long improvisational jams. The Byrds launched the hit single “Eight Miles High” in March 1966. When questioned by authorities, the band claimed it was about an airline trip; fans had a different trip in mind.

In San Luis Obispo, the scene outside The Establishment looked like a Beach Boys album, with hot rods and Ye Olde Surf Shop. On the marquee of the Obispo Theater across Monterey Street, “The Swinger” is in a double feature with “The World of Henry Orient.”

Inside the hall the scene was closer to The Byrds and Grateful Dead. In some photos, a what looks like a Fender 12-string guitar is in the hands of the lead singer and liquid light show is splashing on the walls and optic nerves.

The photos were made at two different youth dances at different halls — The Establishment and The Pantry.

I’m not sure what the film strip on the left of the page is about, if they are stills from a movie or if the photographer brought back images from Los Angeles’ Sunset Strip.

The thought skipping — unbylined — copy reads a little like an acid trip. Anyone who has taken an actual acid trip can provide a better analogy if one comes to mind.

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