During the 1965 Mime Troupe arrest: from left to right: Bill Graham, Ron Davis, Luis Valdez, Paul Jacobs.
“Bill Graham’s rise to fame coincided with (and is partly owed to) the heyday of late 60s counterculture movement and its music scene in San Francisco. Greg Gaar, a native San Franciscan photojournalist, describes the Haight-Ashbury of 1967 as an environment where musicians were free of pretension and concerns of commercial success. In large contrast to the famous artists of today, artists back then lived with (and lived just like) the people they performed for. In Gaar’s words, ‘The Grateful Dead would be sitting on the front steps of 710 Ashbury, where they lived. On hot days, they would be squirting cars with a water hose as the car went by …. You’d see Janis Joplin shopping on Haight Street.’ The ideology of the hippie counterculture was also largely present in the music performance scene. In his essay When Music Mattered, Mat Callahan talks about how many concerts of the time were open to the public, free of charge and performed in open air on the streets. The concerts weren’t all about music; they provided a social platform for like-minded individuals. The Grateful Dead, who appeared quite frequently under Graham over the years, were known for making music that was hard to commercialize. Even the recordings of the band had a grassroots, anti-capitalist feeling to them; they set up a ‘tapers section’ at their concerts so people would be able to directly record them. Callahan describes the importance of music to the hippie counterculture: ‘Music mattered because it consciously and directly challenged the state. It did this by granting permission to do things the state prohibited or restricted. Dancing, drug taking, and sexual adventure were all encouraged by music in defiance of laws regulating such activities.’ Another important part of the scene at the time was the activist theatre group called the San Francisco Mime Troupe. The group, famous for their commedia dell’arte performances, often performed in the parks of San Francisco with adapted plays addressing issues such as gender and sexuality. …”