The Mantra-Rock Dance poster by Harvey W. Cohen (created December 1966)
“The Mantra-Rock Dance was a counterculture music event held on January 29, 1967, at the Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco. It was organized by followers of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) as an opportunity for its founder, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, to address a wider public. It was also a promotional and fundraising effort for their first center on the West Coast of the United States. The Mantra-Rock Dance featured some of the most prominent Californian rock groups of the time, such as the Grateful Dead and Big Brother and the Holding Company with Janis Joplin, as well as the then relatively unknown Moby Grape. The bands agreed to appear with Prabhupada and to perform for free; the proceeds were donated to the local Hare Krishna temple. The participation of countercultural leaders considerably boosted the event’s popularity; among them were the poet Allen Ginsberg, who led the singing of the Hare Krishna mantra onstage along with Prabhupada, and LSD promoters Timothy Leary and Augustus Owsley Stanley III. The Mantra-Rock Dance concert was later called ‘the ultimate high’ and ‘the major spiritual event of the San Francisco hippie era.’ … Strobe lights and a psychedelic liquid light show, along with pictures of Krishna and the words of the Hare Krishna mantra, were projected onto the walls. A few Hells Angels were positioned in the back of the stage as the event’s security guards. Prabhupada’s biographer Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami thus describes the Mantra-Rock Dance audience:
Almost everyone who came wore bright or unusual costumes: tribal robes, Mexican ponchos, Indian kurtas, ‘God’s-eyes,’ feathers, and beads. Some hippies brought their own flutes, lutes, gourds, drums, rattles, horns, and guitars. The Hell’s Angels, dirty-haired, wearing jeans, boots, and denim jackets and accompanied by their women, made their entrance, carrying chains, smoking cigarettes, and displaying their regalia of German helmets, emblazoned emblems, and so on – everything but their motorcycles, which they had parked outside.
The evening opened with Prabhupada’s followers – men in ‘Merlin gowns’ and women in saris – chanting Hare Krishna to an Indian tune, followed by Moby Grape. …”
W – Mantra-Rock Dance
W – Avalon Ballroom