"NEW WORLDS" DRUG SYMPOSIUM (LeMar) , Friday 28 February 1969

Alain Dister
Buffalo. New York state. One to two hundred thousand inhabitants. When it is quiet, we can hear the roaring of the Niagara falls. The University is quite large. All around has been settled a student environment, with its bars, its communities, its pubs and its book stores. It deeply feels like order, calm and middle-class comfort. That's why we're really wondering why students, these jerks, took up their university and changed the green studious campus into a manifestation field with its banderoles strike pickets, graffiti over the walls...
The whole central building has been left to pop culture; In a room, Timothy Leary acts as chair and replies back to questions, sometimes aggressions, everlasting smile on his thin mouth, silent between words, irritating, fascinating, hypnotic. Elsewhere, Abbie Hofmann throws joints away, bringing dialectics to more instant properties. The biggest room has been turned into a concert hall. The first day was made of violent verbal fights. On a stage, symbolic coatings of new culture, neo-pontiffs questioned by the public: Leary, Ginsberg, Krassner and... Archie Shepp (for the sake of African-American). In the classroom, the Motherfuckers mocked the figureheads "hey what the fuck are you doin' up on those chairs".
New values down to what they are: cultural alibis we're totally assimilating, making them official, strengthening them in their rôle to better defuse their energy. The scene takes place in a restaurant, where only cheesy tag holders have access, like in a common representative congress. The Motherfuckers will force guys like Ginsberg, Leary and other Shepp to get down from their pedestal and will pass round small identical badges with the same names on them.
Fred Sonic Smith photo by A. DisterThe Motherfuckers deserve a whole book about them. Not something to put away on a library shelf, but some kind of handbook to daredevils and culturally disturbing people. They compelled Bill Graham to open the Fillmore East at least once a week for street kids – his public, actually – so they can play music and keep warm together. They also organized the survival of East Village and saved it from sinking into violence and the sadly reknown delirium from other ghettos. With the MC5, they found who to get buddy with.
The 5 plays in Buffalo the last evening of these eventful days, at first organized for LEMAR, movement to legalize marijuana, but soon implied in student fight. Their concert hall: a sport place stuffed with a very young audience.
First chords, everybody's up and, soon, as in every MC5 show whether in New York, London or Paris, the crowd is on stage with them, touching Fred Smith's guitar flashes, shouting with Rob Tyner, singing along with Wayne Kramer. Total blow-out. Fists are raising easily, sparks shining in the heads... To light up fires outside in the night?
A month earlier, the MC5 gave its first show at the Fillmore East, David Peel as an opening act, to celebrate the release of their first album. Counting the Motherfuckers in the place, it sure would be a great party. The curtain rose above the red lights, as they walked straight to the audience, totally sci-fi. The kids shouted, climbed on the stage, fought the bouncers and raised their fists. As the 5 exited, three long Cadillacs were waiting to take them to Max's. Kids were waiting too. Seeing their own revolutionary icons get into those of capitalism, suddenly they got hostile. Beer and cola cans scraped the shiny paint and the car doors got kicked a few times. The label thought it was good and necessary to give the young favourites a ride.
At Max's, Fred, Rob and Wayne were looking sullen facing their lobster... The cultural revolution is full of contradictions. We could prefer the poor but fluo-shirted MC5 kids to the West Coast millionaires dwelling on the sordid side of life.
ROCK&FOLK n°121, FEVRIER 1977           ©1977 BY ALAIN DISTER
I wish to acknowledge the help given me by Betty Biederman who translated this article.
Fred Sonic Smith - Photo by Alain Dister