THE STAGE IS UP FEARFULLY FEW FEET, more a poor platform than proper proscenium. That's because the musicians will all day encounter their own unimportance. Ego and exoticism have no place at the passage of spirits into a dark, new ambience. Any who consider themselves exceptional will be punished.
When the music begins, its not only the sound system that is just a little bit off. Santana sees the promise of a coming day and plays a little edgier than usual, expecting the sky to open at every crescendo or dissonant chord. It upsets curly-headed Carlos a little to come to a finish without consummating any climax, not for conceit or confounded solipsism, but because to have escaped the invocation of "Black Magic Woman" the eventual exegesis will be heady indeed. The band beats a jackrabbit's broken path from frightful stage and fermenting festival.
"Hey, what you got there?" a plainclothesman asks the Brotherhood missionary, fist free of ten thousand more mics of sacrament he's just let fly. It's obvious who's a cop but no one saw this one coming. Heavies and hippies gather around expecting a bust, ready to help out the charitable chemist. But it passes like a hallucination when the boy in the blue bonnet flashes a crooked grin, bright as a badge, and the straight man makes out of there like he never saw a thing. Blue boy misses not a beat and picks up where he left off hawking: "Who'll have some shine from the sun? Swallow a little sunbeam!" There must be a magic mark to this day, the way that pig squealed away!
Now we find ourselves in comparative calm, the Burritos twanging out a soothing tonic that might indicate a change in the energy of the day, the sudden deviation of an approaching torrent. Gram gives a generous helping of that ingenuousness that has so far protected him, gone so far as absolved him of the potential ill effects of all the dread herb and Mafia-clean cocaine. But fuck him. It ends up just a slight ebb that provides the condemned with a moment of respite, an intermezzo for the demons to retune their instruments before the torture returns to refreshed senses.
Here we find ourselves up a key. The Airplane have no clue. Grace Slick is giving it her cow-punching whole, and Marty Balin and the band scream into her swath with axes and mallets marauding the audience. Not to say that music inspires violence, it just pleases the violence inherent and allows it to find swift outlet. Marty obviously didn't understand this when he thought his descent from the already-inconsequential stage would be enough to astound into calm the seething, full-steam sequence of inhuman undoing. Instead he got decked. Grace, typically, believed it would be possible to belie From-Bad-To-Worse by making a martyr, in this case Marty. Over the audio: "Our guitarist just got knocked out by an Angel." But Sonny Barger and the Angels were quick to set the record straight . . . there would be no reprieve and, as a matter of fact, violence would likely amplify: "Let me tell YOU what's happening here. . . ."
"Daddy, is this bird asleep like I sleep or asleep like grandma?" Son, nearer to the exigency of earth, has found and touches a dirty thing, no longer its own life but the birth of a hundred million others, rigid, a mitten stuffed with sticks. Remission, illness, sleep.
CSN mount the pitiful platform with missionary zeal, prepared to show the masses just what kind of kindness can be kindled from saccharine harmonies and lacy, lilting lyrics. Their objective, to mellow out the surly snake pit for the night, or at least for the duration of their act. Didn't Gram calmed them down before the Airplane got all hyper? Every even act a sedative. . . .
No such luck. The violence that erupts toward the end of their twilight set leaves the choirboys of rock cynical and ashen, even exhibiting a little animosity toward their cohorts and the crowd. Like peevish kids they cry the complaint of many in attendance who sowed a different scene just four months before: "Why wasn't it as cool as Woodstock?"
It's all down hill from the Rolling Stones.
The people will return to their lives hapless, harried, oblivious to the destruction which seemed just a wrinkle in their collective soul, but which renders them--and the whole race by association--worse than hypocrites every time they mutter, "Honey, I'm home": sentient marionettes.
We can't imagine the sadness of the war veteran. Except to project our own consciousness to the last minute of life, and protract that experience of emptying all over the world-battlefield into a captivating afterwards, nothing to do but grieve, nowhere to go but insipid life. Perpetual.