cultural choreography: the overkill festival

by Art Chantry (

back in them olden daze of yore, when men were men and women were scared, folks still had internal fortitude (aka- “guts.”) or maybe they were just incredibly stoned. no matter.

i’m talking about back in the late 60′s and into the early 70′s. it was revolution and the young of america (in all their wealthy pampered baby boomer selfish glory) decided they didn’t like the world as it was. so, they just went and made a new one. it’s sorta like woody allen’s famous definition: “neurotics build dream castles. psychotics move in.” well, this generation took up full time residence. and as worf would say, “it was glooooorious!”

AC: the only band on this roster thatw as worth a shit was 'mojo hand'. 'bad' brad sinsel (formerly a whiz kid) was on guitar and he was a real rocker dude. but the real attraction was their weirdo lead singer. i saw them play back in around 1973 in a tiny little basement club. the singer was faggy and swishy with a shaved bald head (a couple decades before it was cool) and even sported an earring (nobody had earrings except keith richards). he wore tight pegged black pants (this was at the height of bellbottoms) and a huge billowing frilly pink satin shirt with ruffles and no buttons. it hung open down to his beltline (tucked in) revealing a slightly fatted hairless chest and belly. frankly, he disgusted me back then. later, we would have recognized him as 'punk'. a couple of longhair stoner assholes in the crowd also found him disgusting, so they started to hackle him, shouting "FAG!" and stuff like that. the singer, without missing a beat, sashayed up to the table and yanked the cigarette out of the assholes heckler's mouth and then blew on the coal sending a shower of sparks into the long hippie hair at the table. it was beautifully choreographed. the asshole heckler hippies pulled up stakes and stormed out of the club, while the band played on ignoring them. the lead singer continued smoking the stolen ciggy and the show was friggin' great. mojo hand was a very cool band to do something like that in tacoma in 1973 - and not be shot or stabbed. real guts.

the very first outdoor rock festivals ever held in the entire world were held in washington state – the Sky River Rock Festival & Lighter Than Air Fair. it pre-dated the accepted ‘initial outdoor rock festival’ (monterey pop) by almost a year. in fact, i believe we had TWO outdoor rock festival (including the seattle pop festival) held before the accepted narrative of monterey as the ‘first rock festival.”

the hippy crew in washington state responded to this misdirected credit by holding a “piano drop” in duvall, washington. a clan of hippies somehow got a grand piano and (in a stoned commiseration) decided they wanted to hear what sort of noise a grand piano would make if dropped from the sky onto a pile of rocks.

they invited country joe & the fish to supply musical entertainment. at the height of the afternoon, a helicopter (where did they get that?) flew into view with the grand piano dangling from a cable below it. it hovered above the rock pile, all the locals had their tape recorders in position to record it for posterity. the piano was dropped and it hit the rocks with a resounding….. “thud.” pretty dull. no lost chord.

so, everybody got even more high and boogie down to country joe for the rest of the night. a perfect event. these kids were pretty clever. i think.

of course, that was back in the era of extreme repression of all things interesting. rock festivals were absolutely no exception. they got banned by state law.

so, these crazy young hippies, they just decided to skirt the law by forming a political party and holding the state convention. so was born the infamous “buffalo party” (named in honor of ‘buffalo’ don murphy, notorious cranky crackpot rancher who raised bison on his farm.) and the ‘convention’ (‘party”, aka -rock festival) was held on his ranch and admission was ‘joining’ the political party ($10 at the gate). so, it was all perfectly legal. these hippies are so clever!

of course that got stopped as well. by this time, the wheels were turning in those stoned heads. a meeting was held at ‘judge roy bean’s (the law west of the pecos)’, which was

g nightclub bar in the tiny speed trap town of roy, washington. the sheriff in this town was so notorious that people with long hair avoided passing through the town in daylight, because this sheriff would actually arrest you and throw you in jail until he could cut off your long hair with a sheep shears. it actually happened to a few of my friends.

so, these crazy guys built this huge crazy rock and roll nightclub in the (literal) one horse town. it was owned and operated by ken kinnear, who met up and then managed a local band at judge roy beans called “white heart”. they later became famous as “heart’. the sheriff harassed the clientele, pulling them over for drunk driving’ and checking for ID, etc, until the club had to close down.

the ensuing 9-year lawsuit was finally won by the club owner and the city had to pay a huge settlement. strangely, i happened to be at albatross productions – ken kinnear’s management and promotion company – when the announcement of their victory came over the phone. to say it was an ‘anti-climax’ would generous. nobody even knew how to react after all that time.

anyway, so this weird ass rock club became the defacto headquarters of the backwoods hippie elite up here. on may 31st, 1972, this group of regulars decided to begin a “fraternal club”, sort of like the masons. they called themselves the “dinosaur club”. they had a credo and a home office and a branch office in seattle. their stated goal was to put on rock festivals. they were called “meetings.”

these meeting were held on a privately owned ranch near tenino. their first official ‘meeting’ was now referred to as ‘the tenino rock festival’. to find the place you needed a privately secured map. the local police did everything to turn away the crowds, but since they had no legal standing, they had to allow you through the road blocks and let you pass. it was crazy.

the tenino rock festival was as important to the local history of rock festivals as sky river or the buffalo convention. it was the first widely publicized and totally crazy overkill festival. at one point, while captain beefheart and his magic band were playing on stage, a frustrated local farmer (who was selling watermelons off his truck) got so tired of the hippies just stealing the melons, that he rammed his truck into the crowd aiming at the stage. the hells angels and the bandidos and the gypsy jokers in attendance made quick work of him. so, it got violent. not the exact idea that the peace-nik dinosaurs wanted to have.

so, after that the official meetings became much more low key affairs. notice was passed through word of mouth until things calmed down.

by 1976, they were advertising small scale hippy-dippy affairs like the one posted on this little flyer. the bands are all local legends, but not national names. at that point in the northwest, the only local band of any fame was Heart. that was pretty much it (it was avery dull time on rock history).

these bands were nowhere near the caliber of Heart, but some of them were pretty good and some were pretty damned strange. punk didn’t hit the northwest for another couple of years, although the earliest seattle punk events were happening right about the same time as this flyer. so, this really WAS a “dinosaur” event in all it’s worst connotations. this was an advert for a dying subculture.

note their official logo. that sort of sums up everything you really needed to know about this event. bring the kids!

so, this large group was still around and still meeting and still espousing their philosophical ideas. also keep in mind that there was the jesus freak movement happening in spades all over the backwaters of america in the early 70′s. this event was no different. people claiming to be the messiah were everywhere and were trying to compete for converts. you needed a great song and dance (and some great trance-drugs) to really pull it off. in comes a guy who decided to call himself ‘Love Israel”

the “love family” was born of the dinosaur club. relatively quickly love israel had gown into an extended family, even attracting celebrity converts like (infamously) steve allen’s son. steve allen even made a highly publicized trip to the rainbow ranch compound (as the festival sight was now called) to try to free his son from the grip of “this notorious cult scourge.’ it famously flopped and he left with his tail between his legs..

part of the (typical) credo of this cult group was that the members disowned all material possessions and lived communally. all the wealth was shared by the group (which was run dictaorially by love israel). all the members even adopted new names and utilized the surname ‘israel” ( just like the ramones!)

they purchased a number of huge rundown mansion-like family homes on the top of queen anne hill in downtown seattle and renovated them into hippy backwoods compounds with little cell-like sleeping rooms and meeting halls for their extended orgiastic rituals. the street fronts became whole foods stores, day cares and even a small restaurant (veggies only).

the love family was generally accepted in the city as a harmless bunch of weirdoes. at least they contributed to community cohesion and even re-built small sections of the then run-down (now grossly high end) part of the city. they even got praising decrees from the city of seattle for their work. never mind their crazy poverty enslavement and huge consumption of mind-altering chemicals they purchased by the drum from chemical supply houses.

well, all good things must come to an end. while the family lived in rags, sending shoeless kids into the snow to attend their own ‘love family’ schools. they even became frighteningly thin as a group. seems there was a shortage of food and the money needed to actually feed everybody. people began to complain – inside the cult as well as outside.

finally a raid was made and love israel was found to be living the high life – vegas party time, beachfront mansions in glamorous parts of the world, expensive luxury cars, massive narcotics habit – stuff like that. all the while, the cult family was ignored by his masterful grace and was starving to death, all their financial resources blown up love israel’s nose.

the newspapers had a field day attacking and exposing the scandal. people left the cult in droves. people started to sue each other. legal action was pressed by the city. the whole love family cult collapsed in flames. sounds familiar, doesn’t it? never trust a true believer. they always have a higher allegiance than you.

true to the form, a few die-hard believers refused to give it all up and removed themselves to the barricaded rainbow ranch, where to this day they may still live in teepees and worship the love doctrine of mr. israel. so it goes.

in retrospect, you have to admire these old crazy hippy folks. they really believed in a new world. i grew up hating hippies as phony stupid faddish ignoramuses. but, i now see them as the adventurous daring and pioneering ignoramuses they actually were – and that we ALL wish we were. they actually took a silly notion of “PAR-TAY” and made it into a religious cult. we should all be so brave.



AC:’GRONK!” was the official greeting/motto/code word of the dinosaur club (it’s even printed on this flyer in a few discreet places). it was very common back in the northwest 70′s to see a “hippiemobile” with assorted anti-war bumperstickers – and a sticker with a big GRONK! nestled among them. it was ubiquitous for a decade.

whenever you met another dinosaur, the official greeting was “gronk!”.

these hippies are so cute…

Related Posts

This entry was posted in Feature Article, Ideas/Opinion, Marketing/Advertising/Media, Music/Composition/Performance and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to cultural choreography: the overkill festival

  1. Smoke Pfeiffer says:

    I remember occasional lucid moments from the Buffalo Party festival near Eatonville in 1970. Just a couple months out of the service. Was part of the cleanup crew that got busted about a week or so after the festival and spent a lovely 76 days in the Pierce County jail. After I got out, worked for Murphy for a month at the ranch building and repairing buffalo stock fences, then for another couple of months at his house demolition and salvage business. Went to a few parties on Queen Anne Hill. :-) GRONK

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>