At the beginning of last summer, I went to a clandestine cannabis dinner in Los Angeles. It featured a musician painted completely purple, a wandering mime, and a joint pairing with each course. It was held outside and the setting and design all referenced the famed Garden of Earthly Delights triptych, by Hieronymus Bosch.
As culty and weird as that all sounds, the event was also buttoned up. Nico Ava, who cooked and designed each course, was an Executive Chef at Thomas Keller Restaurant Group. As we ate, Guitarist Adam Road introduced the crowd to his new-school brand of flamenco. The assembled diners sat in stunned, stoned silence as his fingers raced across the frets, thin ribbons of smoke curling above our tables.
After the meal, there was a musical showcase — spontaneous and loose, but curated with tremendous care. The aforementioned purple songstress, MishCatt, played a moody set that would have fit nicely at the Mos Eisley Cantina. The Vista Kicks — LA’s “it” band of the moment — rattled off a handful of songs unplugged while sitting in plush antique chairs. The evening felt both spontaneous and comfortable.
At The Garden of Earthly Delights, people made friends. They vibed. They chatted in the property’s tree fort and shared languorous conversation while sprawled on throw pillows. It felt very 2018. But it was also very 1967. A night straight out of the Summer of Love, remixed by the Instagram generation. I left sensing that I’d glimpsed a slice of the “next big thing.” A return to the famed “Happenings” of the 60s. People coming together for real-life connection and paradigm-shifting experiences. And I was thrilled to witness it.
The most famous Happening of the 1960s was “The Great Human Be-In” at Golden Gate Park on January 14, 1967 — where the “father of acid” Timothy Leary famously told a generation to “Turn on. Tune in. Drop out.” Thus began “The Summer of Love,” the most radical, new wave incarnation of a generation’s attempt to tear down societal strictures, fight for social justice, oppose an out of touch government, and awaken spiritually in a world where western religions felt increasingly irrelevant. It was led by artists, philosophers, and radicals and existed to give hell to “the man” — a force that the youth found oppressive, regressive, and oblivious to the issues that mattered to them.
In 2018, the young people are once again sick of the system — eager to smash it to pieces and rebuild it from scratch. We see them in the streets, on TV, and across social media. Their discontent is news and anyone who resists the movement ends up seeming older than sarcophagus dust. Just like in the 60s, the change being called for is political, social, societal, and spiritual all at once. From Kaepernick to Parkland to Black Lives Matter to #MeToo to the widespread rejection of Abrahamic religions, this upheaval has had massive, sweeping effects on our culture.
So where do modern Happenings fit into any of these progressive movements? Historically speaking, every massive cultural shift — no matter how lofty its aim — is accompanied by partying (the 60s are a fairly on-the-nose example, but the brewery and tavern scene that emerged during the American Revolution also works). And since being legalized in states around the nation, cannabis has helped push that conversation away from binge drinking and toward something more… genuine.
“I hate to sound too hippy dippy,” says Erin Erin Granat of Six Veils Social Club, who co-produced the event I attended [Granat has occasionally written for Uproxx about non-weed matters], “but the aggression and sloppiness of alcohol aren’t what people are looking for right now. People want to come together and feel a sense of connection.”
That connection was the overarching takeaway from The Garden of Earthly Delights. And the door for these sorts of events is currently being thrown open. States around the country are racing to legalize cannabis, a drug that was still completely counterculture in the 60s and provided a gateway to the psychedelic wave that powered most of the iconography we remember from that time. Psychedelics themselves are having a moment, too — as MDMA, acid, mushrooms, and mescaline are all being studied in therapeutic applications.