Hippie Bureaucracy

We know from Drum Circles.

For several years, in a number of capacities, we were involved with the Oregon Country Fair, a three-day summer crafts and music event that (during our time) drew 30,000 visitors to the woods outside Eugene.

Founded in 1969, it was already a multigenerational hippiefest by the time we messed around in the late ’80s. Over time, we worked security, helped in the front office, even played trumpet in the Fighting Instruments of Karma Marching Band/Orchestra, which, after two daily parades featuring “Teddy Bears Picnic”, would sit in as the house band for the juggling Flying Karamazov Brothers.

It was very, very, very fun. Especially the night we dropped acid and kept the camp awake singing Gilligan’s Island.

Oh, right. Night. You see, after the paying customers went home at sundown, that left about three thousand people on site, and everybody had camps or treehouses. Some gaslit food booths – no electricity allowed – would stay open, so if you simply needed a stoner-satisfying cheesecake at 2 a.m., it was available.

And twenty-four hours a day, the pulse never stopped at the Drum Tower. You quickly learned to set up camp far away from there. Yes, it’s Tradition, but still.

What impresses us to this day is not only that the Country Fair worked, but how it worked.

For example, they owned the land. Bought it, paid it off, burned the mortgage.

And as a landowner, the Country Fair found itself part of The System. They had to follow rules. All those food booths? Licensed. All those treehouses? Inspected. The medical stations? Coordinated. The shitters? Cleaned. That highway project that threatened to cut the property in half? Diverted.

They may have been hippies – and trust us, they were the originals, accept no arrivistes – but they were responsible.

They had to be. You couldn’t pull off an event of that scale otherwise. Year after year after year after mind-blowing year.

We called it Hippie Bureaucracy. And we saw it in action, repeatedly, on site and at the year-round office, in a small house near campus. This was the most anti-authoritarian crew you could imagine, but somebody had to step up, and tell others what to do. There was a Board overseeing the whole thing, and votes taken on appropriate issues at appropriate moments, but you can’t be democratic about every fleeting decision. At some level, not far from the top, somebody has to give orders, somebody has to follow them, and somebody has to take responsibility. Or nothing gets done.

This wasn’t universally understood. You had your share of Floaters, young Free Spirits for whom everything magically just happened. These folks were welcomed as innocent entertainment, and they were only scorned by Hippie Bureaucracy when they got in the way. Yes, yes, this beautiful happening is just for you. Now please stand aside so somebody can stock up the toilet paper.

The Country Fair came to mind last night as we were reading a very familiar account of the Drum Circle Standoff at Occupy Wall Street:

“They’re imposing a structure on the natural flow of music,” said Seth Harper, an 18-year-old from Georgia. “The GA [OWS General Assembly] decided to do it… they suppressed people’s opinions. I wanted to introduce a different proposal, but a big black organizer chick with an Afro said I couldn’t.”

We know that scene. We’ve seen it institutionalized.

And we know this: Soon after our Country Fair time had ended, the Drum Tower went quiet during the wee hours.

There had been a vote. Even hippies gotta sleep.

The Organizers vs. the Organized in Zuccotti Park [New York, via Sully]

What a sweet story. When you were working security were you wearing some kind of cop-like uniform? Do you have any pictures?

Sounds like any summer Saturday in Woodstock. And yes, we DO have a ‘Film’ festival, thank you for asking.

I suspect that that the self righteous shrieking “OMG, you’re part of the SYSTEM” young oblivious hippie types end up to be Libertarians. Sigh.

A great Japanese samurai/philosopher once wrote “Duty is heavy as a mountain but Death is lighter than a feather. “

Group drumming with precision and ferocity.

Sepelturea with Tambours du Bronx at Rock in Rio 2011

Having grown up amongst the Hippie, I was always amused as their numbers would dwindle as they became realtors, lawyers, business people, or developers.

Drumming with someone who actually knows about Afro-Cuban and Latin music is a treat. It’s far more intricate than you would expect. One guy could have schooled my ass at a party last year but instead taught me some stuff as we played our asses of with congas and bongos.

JNOV’s new boyfriend Peter Gabriel has a new record out featuring his classic tunes backed with an orchestra. My buddy and I thought about going to Denver last summer but it was $75 a seat. Big bands are expensive to keep on the road.

I’ve been a cog in some similar machines – the most extreme example being two days on potable water duty at a Rainbow Festival.

The two most common challenges seem to be the magical thinking people and having a core of competent people. Even if everyone is trying, it helps if someone knows how to get it done. Sounds like the OCF did and still does from all reports.

BTW, the Dead did show up in 1972 and 1982.

@Benedick: Didn’t you turn 50 the year Woodstock happened? Important milestone for you.

Photo Essay: Hillary’s Angels

“The number of women on the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Protective Detail team is increasing – there are currently 13 with about a fifth of the force guarding Clinton. This is in part because three of the past four secretaries of state have been women.”

The rest of the copy is fairly sexist, but it’s an interesting feature.


@Benedick: Hippie Security was truly a thing to behold, and would require another post to explain the delightful details. There was a huge banner at Security Basecamp: “Kill Them All, Let God Sort Them Out”.

First time I had seen that phrase. Old-School Hippies have a wicked sense of humor.

But, to the question: the “uniform” consisted of a very coveted staff t-shirt.

@nojo: My brother has a “Goon” shirt from a poetry festival he ushered.

@Walking Still: Thus the Annual Dead Rumor.

Saturday night in the main meadow, after the visitors had long left, there was an hours-long “Midnight Show”, where the OCF musical and New Vaudeville acts would perform for everyone who spent the days working. That’s when everyone thought the Dead would sneak in and perform a set.

@nojo: In a somewhat similar vein, whenever Big Name Acts would come through Austin, it was assumed that they would end up playing an after hours set at Antone’s (on Guadalupe – I wasn’t there for the original). I caught Stevie playing with his brother and the Thunderbirds, but usually had to make do with a couple of late hours of Lou Ann Barton – which was hardly a chore.

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