On April 19th, folks will be converging on San Francisco, California, for one of the largest Bicycle Day celebrations in the world. The festivities will be presented by Euphonic Conceptions, Legion of Bloom Music, and Higher Vision, and this year’s psychedelic celebration, which is expanding to a new venue, The Midway, is slated to be better than ever with a stacked line-up of musicians and visual artists. Leading the charge will be Bureau of Sabotage, an all-star supergroup consisting of Oteil Burbridge (Dead & Co, Allman Brothers), Aron Magner (Disco Biscuits), Jeff Franca (Thievery Corporation), and John Kadlecik (Furthur, DSO), who will be putting on a show that inevitably taps into the acid-drenched roots of the holiday. (Purchase tickets here.)
For those unfamiliar, Bicycle Day is an annual celebration of Swiss scientist Albert Hoffman’s first intentional ingestion of the chemical compound LSD-25 on April 19th, 1943, following his discovery of the compound’s mind-altering properties three days earlier. Bicycle Day takes its name from Hoffman’s trippy bike ride home, a fateful trip (in both senses of the word) whose impact still permeates both mainstream and counter culture today.
Bureau of Sabotage is a perfect headliner for the San Francisco Bicycle Day celebration, with the act connecting the dots between Hoffman’s discovery, the city itself, the Grateful Dead and the band’s psychedelic roots, and where we are today. Bassist Oteil Burbridge and guitarist John Kadlecik are both integral players in keeping the music of the Dead alive, with Burbridge touring with Dead & Co and Kadlecik formerly a member of Furthur and founding member of Dark Star Orchestra. But how did Hoffman’s 1943 discovery make its way to the United States and ultimately shape the formation of the first beloved jam band?
After Hoffman’s discovery, psychologists clinically researched the drug throughout 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s, with the Swiss company Sandoz Pharmaceuticals distributing free samples of the chemical for free for research purposes. Alfred Hubbard read a report discussing the hallucinogenic effects of the then-obscure drug and tried it in 1951. He became known as the first true proponent for LSD outside of the research world after realizing that it could be used to explore the depths of the human psyche. He began researching and distributing the compound, eventually swapping his LSD for the psilocybin, the psychoactive chemical in certain mushrooms, being studied by a Harvard psychologist, Dr. Timothy Leary.
Leary went on to become the most high-profile researcher of the drug, eventually losing his position at Harvard for the controversial nature of his advocacy. He published The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead with Richard Alpert in 1964, a work that compared the nature of tripping to the spiritual experience of birth and rebirth detailed in the Tibetan tome. He advocated for students to “Turn on, tune in, and drop out,” a message that was picked up by the counterculture and perpetuated with the rising prevalence of acid parties.
Ken Kesey served as a medical guinea pig testing LSD and other psychoactive drugs in the late 1950’s. After publishing One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest in 1962, a book detailing his experiences during the research project, the financial success of the book allowed him to move to California, where he began hosting a series of “Acid Tests” in San Francisco along with his gang of Merry Pranksters. Enter the Grateful Dead, then The Warlocks, who served as the house band for these tests, during which attendees drop acid and explore LSD’s mind-altering effects. After LSD was made illegal in 1968, there were few chemists who could successfully create the illegal compound. Owsley Stanley was one such chemist who nailed down how to synthesize the drug, serving as the supplier for Kesey’s acid tests as well as the sound technician for the Grateful Dead.
From there, the rest is history, with LSD and the Grateful Dead at the helm of counter-culture and weaving their way into the fabric of American society. On April 19th, these San Franciscan roots will be honored, as Bureau of Sabotage, the supergroup born from the benefit “Anti-Ball” opposing the inauguration of Donald Trump, will take to the The Golden City to celebrate Bicycle Day and the legacy the discovery of LSD has left in its wake, both musically and culturally. Bureau of Sabotage will be joined by other musical acts Ott, Papadosio, Phaelah, Govinda, Templo. and Eliot Lipp and prolific visionary painters Alex and Alyson Grey as well as live visual artists Android Jones and Johnathan Singer. This event will not be one you want to miss, as these talented artists come together to create a celebratory and multi-sensory extravaganza for attendees. You can check out more information about the event here and purchase tickets here.