The entire Detroit rock and roll/cultural/political community united behind the issues of dope-smoking and John Sinclair last weekend, generating total high energy, fantastic vibes, a newly strong sense of community and $8,000 for the John Sinclair Defense Fund. The two day event came on two historically important dates for the Detroit community --- January 24, 1967 saw the bust of 54 of the city's original dope fiends. And January 25th was the six-month anniversary of those raids (actually, it was the anniversary of John's conviction! - webmaster). In the future, one more historic event can be added to those dates; the day the hip community of Detroit came to a realization of its own power.
The two day event was the initial production of the STP Coalition (Serve The People), a unique group of radical and cultural organizations in the Detroit/Ann Arbor area. The coalition is a result of some of Sinclair's ideas while in prison. And as its first effort, the coalition threw what is probably the most successful benefit concert ever held anywhere, a veritable energy orgy that eclipsed past records in terms of attendance and proceeds. Never before had people been turned away from a benefit because there simply wasn't enough room to hold them.
Significantly, the area united around the twin issues of marijuana and rock and roll. Marijuana and rock are probably the most dangerous combination on the planet, and John Sinclair is the killer embodiment of reefer-rock energy. But beyond even that, the STP Coalition has shown that Detroit can and will come together over individual issues it deems important to its struggle to survive.
The freak festival began Saturday afternoon at 2 P.M.. when crazed Midwestern maniacs from all over Michigan and the Detroit/Ann Arbor axis began pouring into the Grande Ballroom; by 8 P.M., 1,600 stompdown brothers and sisters had caused the hall to be closed to further admission. In the planning stages for well over a month, the show came off without a hitch. The Grande celebrants were watched over by MC Dan Carlisle and Jesse Crawford as they viewed performances by a largely local bill, featuring groups that haven't yet recorded or made a name for themselves. The sets were highlighted by the bizarre Shiva, who base their tunes on their Druid sex rituals, and the high-energy Up, based at Sinclair's former home, Trans-Love Energies in Ann Arbor.
The Hare Krishna people chanted and revolutionary movies were shown by Detroit's branch of Newsreel in a total media assault. Crawford read an hour long message from Sinclair, in his own inimitable style (which is available for public consumption on the MC5 first album). The nineteen page epistle emphasized the historical and political rationale for the benefit. The crowd received it with respectful silence for the most part, bursting into cries of "Right on!" and "Off the pig --- Seize the time!" at particularly stirring passages. 900 more people showed up at the Ballroom on Sunday for a set that featured more of the "Big Name" bands (SRC, Amboy Dukes, Brownsville Station) and very few surprises. Ken Cockrel, revolutionary lawyer on the Central Committee of the National Black Economic Development Conference, came to the Ballroom from Chicago in order to rap, but, despite Cockrel's usual high energy delivery, the brevity of that visit was a severe disappointment.
Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, YIP leaders presently on trial for conspiracy to breathe in Chicago, couldn't come in, though they had been billed as speakers; the trial goes on on Saturday and they simply had too much work to do to travel. Nor did Ed Sanders (Fug poet) show up --- no one seemed to know just why. But any gap that might have existed was more than ably filled by the White Panther Party Minister of Education, Skip Taube, and a special surprise appearance by the beautiful Genie Plamondon, wife of the exiled Pun.
Genie, who hasn't been around the Motor City scene since Pun split, read a special message from Plamondon, a portion of which summed up the benefit perfectly: "The newest prison in the world cannot hold Brother John if the people won't let it. And we are the people, we are a people. We are the people of Woodstock Nation. We have a new culture, a new time, a new beat, a new outlook on the world. We are the new people of the Twenty-first Century. But we have to get our shit together ... We have to really start working now to enjoy the Golden Age we know is possible for every man, woman and child on the face of this planet Earth."
Sunday, the festivities also were carried on at the Eastown Theatre. The biggest "name" bands in the city appeared there. Mitch Ryder and The Detroit Wheels and MC5 both drew standing ovations, though there was some hostility and bitterness apparent between the audience and the Five due to their split from the Sinclair/Trans-Love organization.
Nearly a thousand people were at the Eastown to hear Genie Plamondon read her husband's message, the jiving and rapping of MC J.C. Crawford and sets by the Frut (who may or may not be the real Sha-Na-Na), Wilson Mower Pursuit, a guest set by the infamous Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen and the astounding Rationals. Leni Sinclair, John's wife, appeared along with the couple's two children; the youngest, Celia Sanchez Mao Sinclair, had been born only eight days before.
As Bob Rudnick, who had flown in from Chicago for the event, commented afterwards, "This is the culmination of everything John ever worked for." And the beginning of something new. Jesse was "just overwhelmed by it" and, in general, those who had been around the area for some time took it as one of the most hopeful signs in the community in recent months.
Dave Sinclair, John's brother, discussing the event told us, "I think it's a really good sign of the drawing together and coming together of the community." Dave also ran down what the proceeds are earmarked for --- "Chuck Ravitz, John's lawyer in the appeal on the dope case ... a Milwaukee attorney we're bringing in to help with that case ... a lawyer in the conspiracy case (in which Sinclair, along with Pun and Jack Forest, is charged with conspiring to bomb the Ann Arbor CIA office) ... and other ways in which to assault the laws.
If Woodstock Nation has holidays, January 24th should be its first, a symbolic gathering together of the killer community forces necessary for its survival. January 24th, 1970 was many things --- Sinclair's mother's birthday and the rebirth of a sense of community in Detroit. A model for other revolutionary communities, a pattern to follow as we forge the beginnings of realizing our own strength.
Pun's right: We are a people, and the spirit of the people has always been stronger than any repression any pig could put upon us. We have learned that much. Hopefully, we can build from that to the realization that only from such a strong sense of community can our battles be won; that's the lesson January 24th imposes upon us. The people must and can and will do, as the MC5 once said, "Build to a rising/build to a gathering", achieve exactly what needs to be achieved and really can build a nation. And the cry in Woodstock Nation on January 24th and every day until he is released will be --- FREE JOHN SINCLAIR AND ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS!