A lot of people who might have gone to the Fillmore that night went out to San Francisco State College instead, where Stewart Brand was putting on something called variously the Awareness Festival or Whatever It Is. It showed itself to be a sort of rerun of the Trips Festival without central events: all Side Trips, in effect. Brand was everywhere, running around in an orange jumpsuit and hard hat: out on the lawn tossing around a giant balloon painted like a world globe representing the Whole Earth, for instance.
The Congress of Wonders performed their John Lennon readings in one gallery, the Dead and a band called the Universal Parking Lot played in another where there was an exhibit of electronic art from the Museum of Modern Art. Bill Ham did a light show in the women's gym; in the men's gym there was a novelty called a Sensory Awareness Seminar, conducted by a member of the psychiatric research group in Big Sur calling itself the Esalen Foundation. Ron Boise had assembled probably the largest public display ever of his Thunder Machines. Meanwhile, at the flea market outside, conga drummers played nonstop for fifteen hours.
Around midnight, Brand staged an atomic apocalypse with Don Buchla, the sound synthesizer. They announced to the crowd in the auditorium that Russian missiles, presumably carrying nuclear warheads, had been detected on their way to the West Coast; they had evaded our antiballistic missile defenses; they were now two and one half minutes away; two minutes; one minute; fifteen seconds; ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one__and all at once hundreds of flashbulbs went off as the house lights were cut. All good fun among acidheads.
On Saturday, while the Artists' Liberation Front was trying out its first street fair in the mostly Latin mission District and a hardy few were braving the Fillmore war zone to see Muddy Waters, the Awareness Festival had, unannounced, the biggest star in town. Kesey.
Ken Kesey had returned from Mexico as a wanted fugitive a few days before, holing up in Palo Alto. But he was telling people he'd decided that hiding out was playing the game according to the cops' rules. So instead he was walking around the festival, accompanied by a contingent of Pranksters and a defense squad of Hell's Angles. Probably the police were not terribly concerned about the State College campus, with a riot blazing away in several quarters of the city, but there he was: walking around in his buckskin jacket while the Prankster bus squatted brazenly next to the searchlights that were plumbing the evening to give the festival a little supermarket-opening panache.
The plan was for Kesey to broadcast on the campus radio station to the trippers in the women's gym where the Grateful Dead were playing. In the end it wasn't until around four in the morning that his performance finally got organized , with a Hell's Angel named Freewheelin' Frank on harmonica and Kesey's cousin Dale on violin, stretching and doodling while Kesey rapped tales of his nine-month flight in Mexico and crooned an eerie song of his,"Let's Send Me to the Moon."
No matter that hardly anybody heard them; the work was out that Kesey was back. And to the astonishment of the State College sponsors, this particular arts festival, unlike any other they had ever put on, hardly lost any money at all. pp94-95