The Gathering of the Vibes, held last weekend in Bridgeport, Connecticut’s Seaside Park, is a celebration of the '60s and the bands that came out of it, especially the Grateful Dead. The Dead’s legacy is a huge and growing jam band subculture. Deadheads with no Dead to follow can trail after Moe, String Cheese Incident, Dispatch, Phish and the like.
Everything from the psychedelic era is iconic now, including the people. In the artists’ tent, I sat next to Woodstock emcee Wavy Gravy, who’s now 78. And, of course, brightly painted Volkswagen Microbuses are back. Not just those — at the Vibes, I ran into a fairly faithful Oregon-registered replica of “Furthur,” a/k/a “Further,” Ken Kesey’s celebrated bus immortalized in “The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test.” As you may recall, you were either on the bus or off the bus.
A look inside the Museum at Bethel Woods, site of the original Woodstock Festival. (Photo: David/Flickr)
It’s totally true that hippies liked VWs, Beetles and Microbuses. The good news is that a retro Microbus — on again and off again in VW planning — is likely to make a comeback as a camper model around 2019.
Old hippie buses like this one are getting hard to find — and they're rising in value. (Photo: Eschultz/Flickr)
Hippies also drove whatever they could get their hands on. I was at the original Woodstock, and photos I took show period cars like Corvairs, Chevy Impalas, British sports cars and vans of every description, including a bunch of VWs. I went up there in a 1962 Chevy Nova convertible, which had to be pulled out of the mud with a tractor. There wasn’t much consciousness about gas guzzlers as polluters back then, so even the most dedicated back-to-the-lander might have driven a smoke-belching pickup.
Lovely painting on this old bus, wouldn't you say? (Photo: Jim Motavalli)
I was there to talk to the crowd about electric cars, and they seemed fairly attentive. Abbie Hoffman wrote a how-to manual back then called “Steal This Book,” and my point at the Vibes is that electric cars are a way to legally get something for nothing. Three manufacturers — BMW, Nissan and Tesla — are all offering free charging (some of it fast, taking only half an hour) across America.
That’s in line with the guru I quoted at the Vibes, Jeremy Rifkin. In his new book, "The Zero Marginal Cost Society," he argues that we’re heading “to an era of nearly free goods and services,” everything from the Internet and computer memory to, well, EV charging.
Hippies Credence Sandstorm and Crystal Bliss, with their VW ride, all out of Legos! (Photo: Iain Heath/Flickr)
So revisiting the past is great, but let’s update it too. VW showed its Bulli concept bus in 2011 with an electric drivetrain, and why not? Peace symbols can be painted on EVs, too. If we love the planet, we have to go beyond just the appearance of being close to the earth.
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