Out of all the counterculture holidays, April 20 might be the biggest. Even your grandma knows that the smelly billows of smoke rising over every park in the country at 4:20 PM aren’t indicators of any fire or skunk mating season. What you may not know, though, is that April 19 marks the anniversary of the discovery of LSD, and last weekend, Euphonic Conceptions brought it to San Francisco’s attention with a two-day mini festival called Bicycle Day that was packed with psychedelic art, costumes, and music.
Bicycle Day took place at the Regency Ballroom–a gothic, 105-year-old building set up in such a labyrinthine way that even a cartographer would have trouble navigating its halls. Thankfully, a crowd of this type knows that getting lost is an essential part of the experience, so the MC Escher-designed floor plan didn’t seem to phase them. The beauty of the looming pillars, red velvet carpets, and stained glass encouraged you to wander, and to stumble upon a hidden room with sound healers, interactive installations, or an obscure visionary artist table was more of a joy than any Easter egg hunt could have brought.
Psychedelic art community icon Alex Grey headlined the show, spending all weekend amidst the music on the main stage, painting with his wife and giving talks about the power of visionary states. The main ballroom is also where most of the superstars spent their time. Opiuo brought his likable and punchy glitch hop to the stage on the first night. When he broke from the groove for a full-on drum solo, some of the audience appeared confused, but if you were a musician or a drummer, you would’ve formed new dimples watching somebody show so much respect for a time when people swung their arms rather than clicked keys to produce sound.
MiM0SA used the size of the ballroom to revel in his star power, leaving his DJ pedestal as if it were a throne and dancing around the stage like a football team mascot. He was completely single-minded in his goal of getting his fans pumped, stopping the set several times to notify everyone that he couldn’t hear them. They responded like wild yet faithful servants.
The bottom floor was where things got weird. On the first night, Kalya Scintilla (pictured above) and Love & Light turned the dancefloor into a sea of noodly limbs with their warped breakbeat rhythms and highly detailed wobble-collages. Andreilien came on after and finished the job of turning the crowd’s collective brain into mush with a g-funk set, bending laser sounds until they crumpled up into paper and skittering rhythms like a malfunctioning machine gun. The second night was devoted to decompressing, with Insightful bringing the hazy future-soul beats and Random Rab delivering introspective, hypnotic trip hop.
You would expect an event celebrating a drug to be a total sh*tshow. But at the end of the weekend, when asked how hard it was to manage this crowd on a scale of one to ten, most guards gave it a one. At the beginning the first night, security was very clearly prepared for the worst, treating concertgoers like military students and uttering commands with all the intensity of the drill instructor from Full Metal Jacket. But enter through the doors the second night and you would’ve found many of the guards acting as low-key and relaxed as the spaced-out hippies they were ushering in.
I overheard one guard talk about a natural salve that one of the vendors gave her for free and that miraculously stopped the horrible pains in her neck. That struck me as a drastically different experience from the security guards of Miami’s Ultra Music Festival, who found themselves scrambling after a mob crushed one of their squad under a gate. It might just be the different kinds of drugs at these events, but it’s still good to see that festival culture can be nonviolent with the right intention.