The other day I was speaking to an old friend who, like me, comes from out of state. We had been discussing our experiences of living in the Bay Area and came to the (not unexpected) conclusion that, to the rest of the nation, San Francisco brings to mind a blooming image of liberal, bohemian, wealthy happiness.
“So, basically, fabulous gays, upwardly mobile eco-yuppies…and really fucking stoned hippies,” my amigo pondered as we poked at our organic quinoa-arugula salads and sipped Fair Trade-certified, aged Earl Grey tea.
And so, as I walked up the dirt slope to the hallowed grounds of Frost Amphitheater–also known as Frost Admit Weekend Only Theatre–alongside a gaggle of barefoot, daisy-chained sorority girls, it came as no surprise that my vision started to blur and my mind began to conjure up hazy, ecstatic fantasies of Woodstock.
(In hindsight, it was probably just all that Purple Haze hanging in the air.)
Never mind that said historic music festival happened on the other side of America–Stanford’s own Frost Revival certainly felt like a Californian reincarnation of the 1969 psychedelic extravaganza.
And why not? The same student-run music festival that brought Modest Mouse to the Farm a year ago took on a decidedly trippy air this year, replete with fluttering foil streamers, art installations and amorous, nigh-naked couples rolling about on their tie-dye picnic blankets.
Fitting enough, then, that the festival’s opening act was named after the time machine in “Back to the Future”–Delorean’s electronic synth music certainly recalled the spanky electric guitar notes of Joe Cocker and his high-as-sky performance at Woodstock (albeit with a contemporary alternative dance edge). Georgia-based band Kuroma’s, too, daubed their set with effervescent anthems that recalled the shimmering music scene of the ‘70s that San Francisco played such a huge role in influencing.
If the atmosphere and the opening acts weren’t quite enough to precipitate a full-blown psychedelic trip, then surely the festival’s headliner, MGMT, was. The last stop of their nationwide tour, Frost Amphitheater witnessed the band cranking out a spectacularly surreal set–one that involved both new and familiar pop-psych/liquid-synth/indie-electro beats, alien LED graphics and a hovercam casually hanging out in the air above the audience.
As I picked my way through the press area, staring up the glorious nostrils of lead singer Andrew VanWyngarden, it suddenly struck me: For music lovers like us at The Daily, this was like how Famous Amos is to Cookie Monster. There were, in short, more feel-good vibes than a San Francisco adult toy store.
Disclaimer: While I would happily argue that Frost Revival was an altogether brilliant event, my unwavering journalistic integrity prompts me to report that not everyone liked it. On the way out after the concert–trapped in a crush of starving people anxious to reach Arrillaga before it closed–I overheard one overweight, middle-aged woman saying to another, “For God’s sake, Martha*, why the hell did we come here?” I figured this was in reference to the fact that MGMT didn’t perform their hit single “Kids,” but then her companion spat back, “Well, I did tell you that we should have opened that handle of Jose Cuervo.” Anyway, this in my opinion only goes to confirm that old adage, “Adults are to good taste what Math 53 is to joy.”
I suppose, at the end of the day, the only question that remains really is: Did Frost Revival properly live up to San Francisco’s reputation? I think it did, and I’m sure my old friend would agree, too. As the crowds twirled along to the molten synth beats, the amphitheater transformed into an electric field of liberal, bohemian, wealthy happiness, a spectacle that surely would have made Janis Joplin & Co. proud.
And if not, I guess there certainly were a lot of really fucking stoned hippies.
*Name changed to protect privacy.