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Subject: BB goes to a Peace Conspiracy event
From: Butterfly Bill <farfallabillMYAPPENDIX.isp.com>
Date: 6 Sep 2006 12:13:11 -0700
This last Labor Day weekend I finally went to an event offered by the Peace Conspiracy, an aggregation of people in Missouri who are similar to the Rainbow Family in their culture and anarchistic, ad hoc organization, but different in the way they tolerate some behaviors that are generally considered taboo at Rainbow gatherings. This has made them controversial to more traditionally minded Rainbow gatherers and the subject of many sometimes vehement arguments on alt.gathering.rainbow. But I have also read some defenders of the P.C., so I decided to finally go to one of their events and see for myself.
The webpage for the event said:
Incidental Saturday Night Groove
Labor Day Weekend - All Weekend!!!!!
The Peace Conspiracy Tribe will be gathering along the Niangua River at Bird Island Campatheater on September 1st through the 3rd, 2006 (Labor Day Weekend) for a weekend of fun, swimming, live music, drumming, chilling and general good times. We invite you and yours to come and celebrate this Spirit of harmony and blessings.
Gate passes are $15.00 per person for the weekend and help cover the costs of entertainment and to offset the cost of use to the venue owners. This is a family event and kids are always welcome for free. Bring your camping gear, a kind blanket, lawn chairs, swimming gear, libations, drums, guitars and all other good things to share. Help support the free kitchen, bring fresh wholesome food and let's eat healthy!
Impromptu Gathering - Open Stage - Bands Welcomed!
At about 2 in the afternoon I was finally on a gravel road that descended thru forest to some farmland and meadows, and finally thru a gate in a wire fence to a pair of house trailers close together. A sign mounted on top of a stack of auto wheel rims said "Registered guests only beyond this point". But there was no arrow pointing to an office, nor box with a slot and stack little envelopes nearby, nor person out there greeting me, so I just continued driving in.
I drove around a vehicle path that looped past a stage and found a place to park next to some shading trees nearby. As I was getting out, there came a small white compact pickup around on the same road I had just taken. It turned around to present its driver side window to me as it stopped, and the man inside said, "What's going on?"
I said, I'm here for the...", and I ducked my head back in the van to read the printout I had by the driver's seat and then came out again, "...Incidental Saturday Night Groove." Then he said, "OK... It's 15 dollars" I replied, "sure" and got out my guat purse and asked him if he could change a 20. "Yeah", he said, "You're supposed to stop at the house and register." Then I said I was sorry, I didn't know, and he said there was nothing to be sorry about, and he finally drove off.
There were no musicians on the stage at this time, or any other evidence of activity other than occasional glimpses of people walking between tents and cars in the distance. I saw seven men sitting in a circle of canvas chairs not far from the stage, with cans of Bud Light in their hands. Someone said "Hello" as soon as I got close, and asked me my name and introduced me to a few of the others, and I was told a string of names that I later forgot as usual. Somebody else asked if I wanted a beer, and I told him the doctor doesn't want me to drink.
I asked if anything had stated yet, and they said no. "Hopefully we'll get some bands show up tonight." "We had a pretty good drum circle here last night, but it only went for a few hours. There weren't that many people here." "Mostly it's just people kicking back and having a good time." I stayed a little while, but not very long. I went back to my van and got what was still on the bed up into the cabinet, then shut the doors and set off exploring.
The campground was a slightly kidney shaped meadow, about two football fields long and half of one wide, with trees all around its edges except in the middle. Along the west side was the river, more like a wide stream, with slow moving water and lots of meanders with sandy and gravelly beaches. There were vans and cars parked all up and down at the edge of the trees, and dome tents nearby, pretty spread out. There seemed to be about 20 or 30 people on the whole site at that time. In the middle of the east side the trees opened toward the trailers and the gate, and to the southeast was a pasture that had cattle walking around in it, separated from the camp meadow by a wire fence and a band of trees.
At the south end was the stage with a sloped roof high over it, with a framework of pressure treated 4x4s and decking of what looked like very weathered oak planks, perhaps salvaged from an old barn. Everything was weathered enough to have been standing there a few years. The stage floor was elevated about waist high from the ground, and a wheelchair ramp on the left side led up to it. Tacked to the front were flat metal panels painted white, and in multicolored hand lettering were "Peace is a conspiracy" to the left, "Turn up the light" in the middle, and "Give peace a chance" to the right - amid peace symbols and other Rainbowesque decorations.
There was an electric service box and Romex wires snaking out from it, and stage lights in the roof frame above. It would have flunked a code inspection for an outside installation, with blue plastic interior switch boxes, non-GFCI outlets, and no evidence that anybody had paid any attention to waterproofing. There were two sets of several speakers set up on each side of the stage. In front of the stage about twenty feet away was a screened bug tent, and inside was a folding cafeteria table upon which was a mixer board with 20 sets of knobs, and a laptop computer to its side. A thick snake cable lying on the ground connected it to the box on stage that the mike cords plugged into.
Further back from the soundman's tent was camp fire circle that had still smoldering white ashes in it, with empty lawn chairs surrounding. Over to the right was a long picnic table, one end of which was covered with a pile of cans, jars, boxes, and bags. There was a propane stove at the very end, and a clean pot and lid sitting on it. Nobody was preparing or serving food at the time, but somebody obviously had been, either that morning or the previous night.
I slowly walked all the way over to the other end of the meadow. In most places I could hear from somewhere speakers playing recorded music, and most of it sounded like Indie Rock, that kind that has just the guitars, singers, and drum set, with no lush synths or strings. The volumes were mostly low; there was only one place where the guy had it anything approaching unignorably loud, at the farthest end to the north.
Scattered about the meadow were white or grey portapotties. They were all painted over in a solid color with no commercial markings on them. Most had rolls that still had paper on them, and they weren't spic and span, but not terribly dirty either. But it looked like they hadn't been emptied in a while and there was an outhouse smell when you got inside.
There was almost no trash on the ground, there were just single items scattered far and wide that you could see at a distance. Back near where the beer circle was sitting I had seen a blue tarp spread on the ground with trash piled on it, indicating that somebody was going around picking it up
While walking back I passed a group of young women who said hi, and then asked me if I had any acid or knew where they could get some. Then they asked me if I had any weed. I said I had brought some to smoke with others, but not for sale. After some talk about "Man, there was this dude who was here last night..." they went on looking.
A little later I saw some of them sitting in a circle with a bunch of other young people, and one of them called over to me, "Hey, we're having a gathering over here." There was a ceramic pipe being passed around, and I was asked to sit down with them.
Here I was reminded of one of the best features of Rainbow gatherings, and Grateful Dead and Phish shows, and many other places in the psychedelic substance enjoying hippie world -- the openness of everyone to complete strangers. At a gathering you can just walk up to any campfire and sit down and join into ongoing conversations just like you were an old acquaintance. Not like at the city or state park in Babylon where if you aren't a member of the family group there or an invited friend, you will be looked at very distressedly if you sit down at their picnic table. Here were a bunch of people on the cusp of teenage and twenties letting a gray bearded man into their midst to laugh at their stories.
After about a half an hour this gathering broke up and I went walking again. Then I heard someone holler. "Bill!", and I walked over to someone that I took a little bit to recognize, Lookingheart. He was with a woman he was hanging out with regularly and a male friend and his girlfriend. He asked me how my drive in was, and I told him lousy.
Then he answered some of my questions about the site. The portapotties had the usual tanks in the bottom, and weren't over pits. The whole area was subject to flooding from the river, and at the end of the summer the owner removes them entirely. They were "real easy to clean, all you have to do is pull out this drawer in the back and empty it." But they probably hadn't been emptied since the last event here on Solstice Day in June.
"And we keep the cows out of the stream. They got an electric fence around them, and every once in a while when one of them still gets loose, we get after them right away."
He asked me to go down to his tent that he had set up next to the river (at a distance which would have been way too close for the forest rangers at a RFOLL event), and have a seat. There ensued for the next few hours a conversation that ranged from the best ways to skin a deer to stories about marijuana use in the Army (his friend was recently discharged) to transmissions (Lookingheart owns and runs a repair shop) to how to deal with creepy crawlies in the woods and all sorts of other stuff. LH started up some charcoal on a hibachi grill and cooked up some steaks, and his woman made some rotini pasta with parmesan cheese.
Later on that evening I saw him in the bug tent at the controls of the sound system, which was his own personal property. That is the only place where I saw him in any kind of leadership role. The event seemed to have several people focalizing certain things, like the kitchen table and the centralization of the trash, and the owner of the campground had made some rules, but it didn't look like anybody, including Lookingheart, was bossing the whole thing. LH was usually found sitting in his camp when he wasn't in the bug tent.
I bid good bye and thank you and went to move my van to a place further from the stage than the place I had first parked it, and then to lie down for a bit. About an hour before sunset sound started to come out of the speakers: mp3 files of rock music on the laptop feeding into the mixer. The sound was crisp and clean, and not at head banger volume.
The sun was down and darkness was descending when I finally heard a live bassist start to tune up. He was later joined by a solid body electric guitarist, an man with an acoustic guitar with a pickup, and a man sitting at a drum set. They introduced themselves as C-3, and they were a skilled cover band that played in a lot of styles, including some country songs.
All the chairs around the fire filled with people, and there were more beer cans going around, but there was no agro drunken energy. During the whole evening I never heard anybody even raising their voices in anger. There were other people standing in groups, and pipes being passed around. There were about 60 to 80 people there at the most populous part of the evening. The crowd was overwhelmingly young, I was quite possibly the oldest person there, and there weren't too many others who looked over 30.There was one man doing deadhead dancing, and I joined him for a while, but most of the time he was the only one, except when there were a few little kids out there really getting into it. A woman had cooked up some kind of stew in the pot on the stove, but it smelled strongly of celery and I didn't have any of it. A cake also showed up, but I didn't discover it until there was just frosting left on the paper tray it came on, but there was still plenty for me to get a sugar fix. There were bags of chip standing open and jars of dip, but none that I could eat myself because of salt.
I found a bucket chair next to the picnic table, and I sat there doing something I don't do to often, actually enjoy listing to rock music. They laid off the heavy metal distortion, and the lead guitarist liked his wah-wah pedal. I have always thought that classic rock songs sound best when they are played on an acoustic guitar by a Rainbow minstrel, and second best on electric instruments played by amateurs (defined as people who do not make a full time job of it, even tho they may gig occasionally for money). Either way it is better live better than on the radio and the CD.
The whole event was an example of how it is possible to have alcohol being drunk without A-Camp agro energy arising. There were enough people there on weed and LSD that stoned energy prevailed over and transformed any drunk energy. The laughing was mostly over jokes of pure incongruity, or stories of being confused or embarrassed or both things one did while ones mind was altered by substances -- in contrast to alcoholic humor which is usually about winning in some act of aggression and putting someone else down. People were saying hi and asking you to join them rather than looking for things they can jeer at you about. And there was as much hugging going on as at a Rainbow gathering.
The band stopped playing at about 12:30 in the morning, and the computer continued at a subdued volume until almost 5. A thick fog descended and everything was blurry at sunrise. Everything was soaked in dew, but I survived taking a crap in one of the portapotties.
The sky cleared and the sun was shining about an hour later. There were wisps of smoke rising from the ends of partially burned logs in the white ashes of the campfire, and the table in the bug tent had been cleared of all electronics, the snake and the mikes were gone, and all the speakers were on the right side of the stage covered by a tightly tucked blue tarp.
A woman came and told me she was leaving a pot of coffee for anyone who wants it. Nothing else was cooked and served there that morning. I had some cereal and milk in my van. People started to trickle in and sit in the chairs around the campfire around 10. I started to pick up some of the bottles and cans leftover from last night and take them to the tarp. Two other people, upon seeing me doing it, started doing it themselves, without me or anyone else asking them to.
I had brought my harp and 5 gallon drum, preparing for any jamming that might arise, but I wound up not using them. I saw some people walking and carrying guitars, but I never found any campfire or such where there were more than one player and some listeners. When I was with Lookingheart I heard two drummers in the distance trying to get it on with each other, but neither of them seemed to have much sense of rhythm or pattern. They just kind of randomly banged on them. Almost all the music was passive at that event, coming from car stereo speakers or the stage.
The loud van that had been at the far north end came down and parked not far from the stage, and his speakers were nowhere near as good as LH's sound system. It didn't look like anything else was going to be happening later that day, other than more of the people just hanging out, and there was another part of my excursion that had not yet been completed: seeing in person a name I had been reading on a.g.r. for years on end: spiritrising, who lived only 70 miles away. I left at about two in the afternoon.
From this sample, I can say that the Peace Conspiracy is very similar to the Rainbow Family of Living Light in culture, and indeed there are people who partake in both. The principal differences are these:
The PC has nothing against money and sometimes charges admission to their events, altho there are ways one can get in for free with their permission, while the RFOLL never charges admission and calls their events "completely free and non-commercial, altho they solicit voluntary contributions of money to buy supplies with one big and several little Magic Hats. Altho I did not observe this directly at this event, I was told that vendors may sell food, goods, and services at PC events, while the RFOLL insists on only barter at its Trading Circle, altho I have observed isolated instances of money being exchanged there.
The PC allows alcoholic beverages to be drunk freely anywhere at its events, while the RFOLL tries with varying degrees of success not to allow it, except in an area called "A-Camp.
The PC allows participants to drive motor vehicles inside its events, and to sleep in them or park them near their tents, while the RFOLL restricts them to parking lots and Bus Villages, from which one must hike into the main event area.
At PC events you will be hearing music coming out of electronically driven speakers almost everywhere you go, while the RFOLL allows live acoustic music only. Sometimes you hear drums beneath hands at a PC event, at an RFOLL event you hear them constantly, at least in the background.
These differences have caused some RFOLL participants to look down upon the PC, equating them with the fans of the late Grateful Dead and other jam bands like Phish, and directing your attention to their equivalents of drainbows. And indeed, I think it would be more accurate to describe a PC event as a Rainbow flavored Dead show than a Deadhead flavored Rainbow gathering.
But if you would like an afternoon and evening of psychedelic appreciating camaraderie in an environment free of aggression and any hint of violence, the PC can supply it. There won't be any councils or circles, except to pass pipes or drum. There won't be anybody calling you a bliss ninny or trying to shame you into working. The entertainment will be mostly passive: listening to music rather than making it, and sitting around conversing.
I don't see the Peace Conspiracy as any more a threat to the Rainbow Family than a Dead show was or any other commercial concert is, and I see how they can compliment and even enhance each other. It is an oligarchy of interested and committed people, just like the RFOLL actually is in spite of its "no leader" claims, and they also welcome new energy and make it possible for new people to bloom just as the RFOLL does.
– Butterfly Bill
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