Hog Farm's Wayward Bus

Pilgrims & Profiteers on A Cross-Country Crusade

Unfortunately, on this particular bus trip even the most sophisticated and genuinely holy people along seem to have trapped themselves into playing a very defensive game usually spoken as "how we've really co-opted them even though everyone thinks they've co-opted us."

If there were no Warner Brothers money involved, if the caravan people were making the movie themselves, the movie could be exactly what they wanted. As with most bus trips, they could allow a pattern to emerge and edit the footage accordingly. But to shape a movie that someone else, someone different, will edit, they have to try to shape the total footage so completely as it is filmed, that it will be impossible for a director-editor to impose any different pattern on it. What this means is they have spent a lot of time fending off the pre-conceived movie the cameras want to get out of them. It means they have to stick to their script—even if it's a counter-script—rather than experiment and improvise.

Over-reacting, maybe to guilt over the Hollywood financing, many of the caravan went overboard persuading themselves and others that the movie game was a holy crusade with the consciousness of the '70s at stake. Time and time again I would have people on the caravan assure me that "we've won; it's our movie now," or "we've put them through some heavy changes, and we've co-opted them," or "this is no rip-off. We've ripped them off more than they're know until it's too late."

The caravaneers best equipped to play the game were the Hog Farmers. They've lived together, they're used to being themselves in front of cameras, they're both picturesque and holy, and they've got a good line. They seem to be the stylistic conscience of the caravan. They respond approvingly with a murmured "far out" to whatever—however hostile—is said to them. They are incredibly competent at being nice. Their idea of politics is staying high as possible all the time (which means playing high as possible sometimes) and bringing other people up with their energy.

The Hog Farm has been spending most of is time lately at mass political actions and rock festivals, playing the same role at each, cooling out bad vibes, calming down crowds that are divided or explosive, soothing people on bad trips, playing that role so often they seem to be more like a sedative than a hallucinogen. There is an all-encompassing jello-like homogeneity to their collective consciousness, a bland harmlessness to their public stunts. (One of the most revealing Hog Farm stunts at the caravan concert stops is to bring a huge six-foot-wide bowl of jello up to the stage steaming from some dry ice chunks inside and ask someone to jump in. Join the jello, what fun if we were all suspended in the same flavor jello—that's the Hog Farm message.)

Wavy Gravy (formerly Hugh Romney), the Farm's leader, has been on an Earth People's Park kick, and at every concert he gives a little talk about it. He becomes a country preacher talking about the rustic pleasures of life in heaven. When he talks about these reservations for hippies, Wavy is an incredibly charming evangelist. His public charm lies in his playing the clown so amiably and gracefully you want to protect him. Up close, his power lies in his refusal to ever use an incredible reserve of personal charisma on you. Somehow you make up for this by voluntarily putting yourself in his power as if he had actively exercised it.

When the STP family threatened to rip up the concert in Boulder, Wavy and the Farm cooled things off by asking everyone to focus their energy on saving the life of a well-liked biker who was hanging between life and death at that moment. Everyone joined hands, joined in the Farm's communal hyperventilation, and forgot about tearing up and being torn. Wavy knows how to deal with energy.

But the greatest source of energy within the caravan was the caravan's "house band," a large group which plays some of the best rock'n'roll I have ever heard. The group hadn't played together before they all joined the caravan, and they've only a tentative name now—Stone Ground—but they're good and powerful in that chilling West Texas style, and so genuinely theatrical in their performance that footage of their performances may turn out to have stolen the movie away from everyone. The only reason they may not have it to themselves is that the studio insisted on flying out big rock stars (many on their own label) to appear with the caravan, and they can't permit them to be upstaged by unknowns.

The journey was not supposed to have stars, but it has been plagued with a star syndrome. The film will undoubtedly open with a striking shot of the caravan heading across the Golden Gate Bridge, led by a long flowing-haired youth riding a huge Harley chopper. The chopper was later stored away in a U-Haul truck for future dramatic entrances and exits, but the chopper rider had become an instant star. He played the role of caravan leader and spokesman, announcing travel plans, giving little pep talks around the campfire, and straightening out problems. Cameras began following him religiously. He became the first to fuck before the cameras and his partner became a leading lady in the process.

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