The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum

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San Francisco Music Scene

The city of San Francisco served as a magnet for musicians, artists and social rebels in the mid-to-late Sixties. They created a counterculture bound by leftist politics, hallucinogenic drugs, tribal spirit and music. San Francisco had long been a literary bohemia, attracting nonconformists like the Beat Generation writers of the Fifties. It was logical that a city as free-thinking as San Francisco would give birth to a radical new movement in rock and roll. "There was a community in need of music, and music in need of a community," explained Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart.

The word "psychedelic" was applied to the scene, implying a colorful alteration of the senses. The most innovative and popular groups - the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Moby Grape, Country Joe and the Fish, Santana - changed the way music was performed and experienced. Songs were no longer confined to two or three minutes; they could go on upward of twenty. Sweeping changes in concert promotion and FM radio fueled the movement. Dusky old ballrooms and rented halls were converted into live-music spaces. Light shows provided throbbing visual accompaniment. Audiences became active participants as concerts evolved into multimedia events. Underground radio was born here, as local stations KSAN and KMPX embraced the daring new music. Rock journalism found a literate voice in such San Francisco-based publications as Rolling Stone. 

The cauldron for this creativity was Haight-Ashbury, a neighborhood bordering Golden Gate Park, where Victorian houses were rented cheaply and inhabited communally. "In the Haight," wrote scene chronicler Charles Perry, "life was cheap, life was aesthetic, life was stoned, and LSD was the great tool of transformation."