PDX Scene

Find posts by keyword
Find posts by date



by David Krough


Posted on September 16, 2010 at 6:27 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 30 at 7:14 AM

Although this is pretty far from any PDX Scenesters as you can probably get -- it represents an Oregon cultural watershed that's touched generations.

I don't think we'd have the traditions of our music venues, hipsters and even our beloved street life, thanks to the 1960s counterculture. I'm going back in time.

To remember a piece of history in Oregon that is a touchstone for the Beat counterculture and is a personal cornerstone for me. This Thursday and Friday in Eugene, Further is rolling in to town - the band and the bus.

The band features Grateful Dead members Bob Weir and Phil Lesh and people are saying it's the best sounding incarnation since Jerry Garcia's death in 1995. Now hippy jam bands in Oregon - and especially Eugene - are generally nothing to write about. (If you enjoy that scene fine, I just mean there's no need for me to write about it around these parts)

As is well-known in American music, folk and lit-lore, Ken Kesey and his merry Pranksters hosted the Dead for their acid tests in the mid-60s, then took their bus "Further" on the road to bring the rest of the country some psychedelic adventure.

And ever since Ken and his brother from their Pleasant Hill dairy farm got their far out friends from San Francisco to come play a benefit in Duck country several decades ago, there's been a special connection, the story goes.

The Dead also came to Eugene and played the Oregon Country Fair in the early 70s, while building their following across the nation. A tight knit community of pranksters and family grew up there and is generally the underlying, dominant force in that town.

The rest is rock and roll history.

That's partially what led me to land in Eugene many years ago after seeing a lot of road around the country with the Dead. (There I said it!) Still very much alive was the touring culture of Deadheads, seemingly many of them camped out in Eugene.

Back when people took journalism classes, I was under assignment and attempted to contact Mr. Kesey for a project. Unfortunately, the woman at his home informed me that he was "in seclusion" working on his latest project. This was just after Sailor's Song came out, I think it may have been a children's book he was working on, or perhaps his Prankster Wizard of Oz adaptation "Twister." Not long after arriving there though, I left that scene with a growing dissatisfaction. I don't know how else to sum up that sentiment, wish I could write a book about that time. I did manage to catch a couple shows at Autzen, courtesy of Cracker, the opening band on the 1994 summer tour. (Thank you, Mr. Jackson Haring)

At that time, the Grateful Dead tour was very obviously and quickly becoming a scene out of control and not long for existence. Too many ticketless people and hangers on following a rock and roll legacy not for the music but for the party. That soon led to bad things for the band and its fans, followed not long after by Jerry's death in August of 1995.

I left the Emerald of the Valley soon after that, and upon doing so, left behind those young days of carefree living and chasing my own version of a hippy Utopia.

I took along, however, and have since rediscovered, the musical and literary legacies in the culture of Jerry and Kesey, respectively, the true beats whose works stand the test of time. I am finding great joy in re-listening to much of this music, among the greatest of folklore in American tradition.

The rest of the band in the late 90s and since went on to form different incarnations and toured, but I am told on good authority, that the addition of Dark Star Orchestra guitarist John Kadlicek is the added pop the band needed for their sound to really nail the sound of the beloved, Jerry Garcia-led Grateful Dead.

Friday marks Ken Kesey's 75th birthday, he died in 2001.