When the freewheeling '60s and '70s surrendered to the '80s, a breed of human went into remission. Reagan came in and the hippies went into hiding. What ever happened to good ol' fashioned hippie love in San Diego? Some would say it was never here.
'San Diego is a conservative town,' says Joan Beachum, a 48-year-old Encinitas resident. 'People are active in their own way; you just don't see it very often anymore because sometimes 'hippie' turns into a derogatory term these days.'
If 'hippie' has turned into a bad word, people like Ocean Beach resident Brett Donalson will have something to say about it. Donalson says he's tired of people assuming that being a hippie means you have to be a vegetarian Democrat that smokes too much pot.
'For a while it was easy for folks to categorize and box up a 'hippie' as a jobless pothead who goes to concerts and dances to the Grateful Dead and all that,' says Donalson. 'San Diego is good at pushing these people to the outskirts too, being the town that we are. I think it's just important to ask good questions and to not assume that every hippie fits in that box. What are the ideals involved? Does using drugs make you a hippie? Does dancing? If you asked a lot of kids these days, that's what they would say.'
In 1999, concert organizers produced a Woodstock sequel in honor of the original love-in's 30th anniversary and what they hoped would be a third weekend of peace, love and music. Organizers hoped that the seduction of another heyday would draw the peaceful 60-year-old veterans of the first festival, or at least their direct offspring. What they got instead was torrential rains, poor planning, violence, sexual assault and riots. Hippies had officially lost control of the mark of their generation, their namesake.
'San Diego is pretty removed from hippie culture, especially Woodstock,' says Donalson, 'but after the whole '99 debacle, I think a lot of people were really sad that it came to that.'
Fast-forward three years to the backwoods of central Tennessee. Sam McCallister, owner of a 600-acre farm in Manchester, Tenn., lent his property to New Orleans-based Superfly Productions for use as a concert venue and camping grounds in early June of 2002. The Bonnaroo Music Festival, which has subsequently become one of the most hippie-defined musical movements, was born.
Organizers of Bonnaroo wanted a musical event that wasn't just that. They wanted activism, a grassroots promotional campaign, non-impact environmental initiatives and, of course, musical diversity. Bringing together 65 artists-including DJs (Kid Koala, DJ Z-Trip), no-wave rock (Sonic Youth), popular radio acts (Jack Johnson) and hip-hop (The Roots), in addition to headliners The Dead, The Allman Brothers Band, Neil Young and Widespread Panic-the festival also served as host to a music-sharing village, a recycling management firm called Clean Vibes, yoga classes, a brewery, karaoke, a market district, a cinema, an arcade, a charity wing, a playground, its own radio station and a 30-foot fountain shaped like a mushroom.
More than 80,000 tickets sold out in 18 days with no major advertising campaign. This was hippie heaven.
For the weekend of June 13-15, music fans from across the globe camped out to listen to the tunes. Some San Diego fans and artists even made the trip. One-time local Jason Mraz played a Friday set and native Nickel Creek toe-tapped through their set on Saturday. Self-proclaimed San Diego hippie Josh Binks, a 28-year-old from Ocean Beach, says Bonnaroo provides an atmosphere that you can't find in San Diego.
'I came here because I love the music, but I was really pumped to find all these people that are our age and are interested in the same things. I've never been part of something like this and sure it's hot and muddy and it's a long drive back home to O.B., but I would never be able to buy 'shrooms at a corner vender in Diego. Hell, maybe I could and I'm just not looking hard enough!'
By the end of the Bonnaroo weekend in Tennessee, the self-contained community used 6,441,000 watts of electrical power, 20,000 gallons of fuel, 1 million pounds of ice, 1,050 Port-A-Potties and a lot of drugs. One glance at that list and 'a lot of drugs' stands out more than anything. Maybe that's why our San Diego hippies are retreating to Tennessee; to let the good things stand out for a little while and give hippies their good name back.